Thursday, February 18, 2010

Fighting water levels at Medinet Habu


With photos. Medinet Habu is a fabulous site with a lot of the original colours still in tact.

The matching Indiana Jones fedoras on two leading archeologists as they entered the ancient Temple Rameses III of Medinet Habu were necessary shields for working in the 104-degree Egyptian desert in October.

Egyptian excavators emerged from among ancient pillars to greet Egyptologists Raymond Johnson, director of the Epigraphic Survey based at Chicago House in Luxor, and Gerry Scott, director of the American Research Center in Egypt, who are working to save their national history.

Medinet Habu lies miles away from the more famous Luxor and Karnak Temples but, unlike these two World Heritage Sites on the Nile’s East Bank where a USAID-funded dewatering project has slowed the rate of deterioration, the West Bank temple continues to decay due to groundwater intrusion. Building structures become porous and cracked by rising groundwater levels. The wall surfaces where hieroglyphics and drawings are etched have begun falling away.

“The surface is sloughed off the stone, like skin,” Johnson said.

Though some buildings have stood since 2000 B.C., neighboring sugarcane irrigation has caused water levels to rise and bring salt into the base of the ancient buildings, Johnson said.

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