Friday, December 25, 2009

In the field: More re raising pylon in Alexandria (Zahi Hawass)

Last Thursday, I went to Alexandria in order to remove an important artifact from the water of the harbor. This was the tower of the pylon, likely from the Ptolemaic temple of Isis in the area known as Chatby.

I had been convinced since 2002 that we should not take any major artifacts out of the water, but rather leave them there to be placed in the Underwater Museum we are planning. Also, it is difficult to remove these large pieces from the water, and it takes a lot of work and care to remove the salt from artifacts. But recently I was convinced to raise this piece by the head of the Greek mission, Dr. Harry Tzalas, who directed underwater excavations in the area in 1998. His team discovered 400 ancient artifacts and architectural elements. I would also like to acknowledge the work of Abu Saadat, an Egyptian diver who surveyed Chabty in 1960. He was not an archaeologist, so he was not able to recognize many artifacts, but his survey work contributed to the archaeology of the area.

The Greek expedition was able to recognize the artifacts, and they worked in cooperation with the Department of Underwater Antiquities of Alexandria at the coastal area of Chatby. The two most important of the 400 the Greek mission found are the 9-ton pylon tower, and the 15-ton threshold of a door. Both are made of granite and are of great historical importance in reconstructing the great city of ancient Alexandria. Ancient authors such as Plutarch and Strabo write about Cleopatra’s palace being located in this area, with her mausoleum and a temple of Isis right next to it. It seems likely that this pylon tower was for that temple of Isis, since it was the only temple in the area, and the threshold, which was found very near to it, could be for the door of Cleopatra’s tomb.

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