Chris Naunton, Director of the Egypt Exploration Society had the unenviable task of taking the first slot after lunch. However, there was no problem at all as his talk, leading us through the lesser known Oases areas of Egypt, was beautifully presented. Based on a tour taken with passengers from the EES earlier this year, He gave a daily account of the delights waiting if you venture away from the Nile Valley.
Beginning with a look at South Sakkara and the Mastabat Faroun and Abu Sir Pyramids, we moved on to the Faiyum looking at the ancient city of Karanis and the pyramids of Lahun and Hawara. Then, Wadi el Hitan and the Valley of the Whales to look at fossils dating back 40 million years.
Chris talked us through the shots showing stunning landscapes from the Black Desert, the White Desert and the Oases. The group were even filmed and interviewed by an Egyptian film crew in Ain Labekha, a remote settlement close to Kharga.
On arrival in Luxor we heard how places evolve over the years. Just looking at Luxor Temple for instance shows us how successive generations of people have used the Temple for their own place of worship. Travel in the Oases shows how archaeology fits in to the modern environment.
Chris ended by advising us that there was a report on the entire tour on the EES website. It was plain to see that Chris was thrilled by his recent trip.
Wadi el Jarf is not an area well known to many of us so we eagerly awaited the talk from Pierre Tallet of the University of Sorbonne, and Co-Director of the Wadi el-Jarf expedition. Pierre explained that Ain Sukhna (Right) was a harbour complex used during the Old and Middle Kingdoms to reach the mining zones of turquoise and copper in Sinai and trading with Punt.
The site of Wadi el-Jarf some 90 Kms south of Ain Sukhna is only about 50 kms from the western coast of Sinai. Evidence in the form of ceramics found at the four groups of installations at Wadi el-Jarf point to occupation dating back to the 4th Dynasty. Large galleries found about 5 kms from the shore were used for storage and are cut in to the limestone bedrock. The site of the harbour has been confirmed by the discovery of many limestone anchors.
Even more exciting is the find of the Papyri of Khufu – the most ancient found in Egypt. Discovered between 2 limestone block the papyri give accounts of food deliveries including a journal of a working team involved with a big boat building project for Khufu. The papyri can even give us a date for the end of Khufu’s reign stating year 26-27 of Khufu. These fragile documents give us an insight to the workings of the Royal Granary providing the workers with bread, fresh figs and wine with columns stating still expected, received and sent, all evidence that nothing really changes.
Afternoon tea followed before we took our seats to hear Steve Cross talk about Walking the mountain, hidden secrets of the Valley of the Kings. First Steve explained that huts are huts (like sheds) not houses that were lived in. Our journey began at Deir el Medina and we left the worker’s village and climbed the Theban Hills. Steve pointed out some ancient history in the form of fossilised sea urchins and clams and scallop shells (Right). He showed how the workers had cut a stone staircase on the mountain path to make their journey easier and showed the water erosion in many places. Guard huts have doorways but other huts have no entrance way so were obviously just for storage of precious items such as tools and working goods.
There are many signs of stone tool manufacture on the hills, some up to 100 thousand years old, and these sites should be protected and not disturbed. Steve ended his talk by telling us about a particular area in the West Valley of the Kings he is interested in. All the signs point to an unfound tomb: guard huts, an entrance way, graffiti showing that a vizier inspected the area and a wall built to divert water away from the site. So watch this space maybe there will be more news soon. An exciting and very positive way to end a great day of lectures.
There were lively question and answer sessions after each talk and after a few words from Peter we all headed back to St Joseph’s Hall for refreshments. Once again our Volunteers from the Order of Malta had done a fine job. Plenty of nibbles to go with wine and soft drinks while we had a chance to socialise and talk over the various lectures of the day.
A huge thank you to all our speakers who gave such interesting talks and many thanks to the Volunteers and to 'Flat Earth' for the AV and sound equipment. It was a day to remember and hopefully we will be back at this lovely venue next year.