EES Theban Harbours and Waterscapes Project RSS

The first season of EES Theban Harbours and Waterscapes Project ( began in January 2011 but was cut short by the Egyptian revolution. The project director, Dr Angus Graham, and co will be returning to Luxor in mid-February 2012 and regular updates on their progress will appear on this page. To help support this project and others like it please visit



From the West Bank to Karnak

Wednesday 30 January

After a long, successful day yesterday we had the luxury of a nice lie in-until 6.15am! Kris and I (Dom here) were off to the west bank to round things up there for this season, whilst the rest of the team established things at Karnak Temple for the rest of the project. The usual brisk trip across the bridge in the Moamen-mobile with Allah and Moamen blew any cobwebs away and we arrived at our West Bank pick up point and collected our MSA Inspector Azab and team member Ahmed. We set up the base station on Reis Ali’s and phoned the rest of the team who were in Luxor ready to use our GPS rover to establish a new station on the roof at Chicago House. Thanks to our American friends for allowing us to do this. This means we can set up our base station at Chicago House every day while we are working at Karnak and from now on we lose the long drives in the mornings and afternoons that we had while we worked on the West Bank.


Sarah setting up a new base station location

Kris, Azab, Moamen, Allah, Ahmed  and I then drove  to the area the ERT team surveyed yesterday, east of the Ramesseum and set out a small grid to do some area GPR survey. We finished the grid in about an hour, packed up and retrieved the base station from Reis Ali’s. We had a quick snack of some very tasty bean soup which was especially welcome on a very blustery, cold and overcast morning. We said goodbye to Azab and Ahmed, we are getting a new MSA Inspector at Karnak and would like to thank Azab for all his help and patience in all his dealings with us and to Ahmed for all his hard work and great sense of humour.

Reis Alaa and Kris Strutt chewing the cud

We scooted back across the bridge and met Sarah at Chicago House where Brett met us and allowed us to set our GPS base station on their roof-apparently right over the head of the director who has a flat below! Another quick jaunt brought us to Karnak Temple-my first visit and to say I was gob-smacked would be an understatement! We met our new Karnak representative Abeer who impressed us all with her energy and enthusiasm. The ERT team (Angus, Ginger, Omar, Youssef and Yasser) were already setting up a west to east profile running outside the north wall of the hypostyle hall. Team GPR (Kris, Sarah, Allah, a kidnapped Youssef and I) set to run the GPR over some of the ERT profiles done in previous seasons. Our first ran north- south from the stone yards in the north, through the forecourt out through the south wall and into the south stone yard and south to pass east of the Temple of Khonsu ending at the main south wall. Sarah followed the sledge team with the GPS providing data we can use to topographically model the GPR profiles. The link with the base station on Chicago House was chugging along nicely!

Dom, Youssef and Yasser glide their way through the Hypostyle Hall

The second profile again ran north to south from near the Ptah gate and through the spectacular Hypostyle Hall, dodging puzzled tourists as we went, out through the south wall and across the stone yards again to end a bit further north than the first profile. Kris got some stunning pictures and video of us as we went through the hall. This profile brought the work to an end for the day and all the GPR and ERT kit was loaded on our cart and we headed for the bus. We collected the GPS from Chicago House and unloaded all the kit in the flat and settled down for the now traditional round of fizzy pop and crisps, our carefully measured response to the rigours of the day!

Youseff taking a break from all that pulling!


Good augers

Tuesday, 29 January 2013 

Well, today may well have been our last day of active field work on the West Bank…and then again, maybe not!  It was a day focused on getting everything done that absolutely needed doing, so it turned into a long one, but satisfyingly successful. Dom and Kris took the GPR and magnetometer (respectively) and surveyed a bare swath of ground just in front of the mud brick first pylon of the temple of Tuthmosis III, while Sarah did some gadding about the necropolis seeking out survey benchmarks.  Angus and I (Ginger here) camped out in the fields just south of the Ramesseum, he doing an auger core—or a bareema in Arabic—and I minding the ERT.

New EES gouge auger put to good use

The ERT run this time was a little different than other efforts thus far, in part because it was positioned to coordinate with an auger core from last year and the new one Angus was working on and in part because we ran the same line multiple times with slight variations in the settings to test potentials in data collection quality.  In the end, mostly it meant sitting on the verge of a dirt track through the sugar cane and wheat fields, listening to the breeze rustle the top leaves of the cane and working into a zen-like state watching little boxes flash red, yellow, green, or blue and making sure nothing tragic happened to the probes.  Angus and the team working on the bareema—Reis Omar, Abdul Hady, Salaah, Yassar, and Ahmad—had the hard work for the day, grinding through Nile sediment to well below the local water table.  

Reis Omar, Ahmed Salah and Abd el-Hardie pulling up the gouge auger

It turns out the coring equipment makes a funny squelching sucking sound when it’s being pulled back up once it’s below the water table level—throoooop, throoooop, throoooop.  Everyone was tired by about 4 metres down, but ultimately happy with the results.

Auger team happy to finish - Inspector Azab, Ahmed, Reis Abd el-Hardie,  Yasser, Reis Omar, Salah and Ginger

Meanwhile, elsewhere on the Theban floodplain, Dom, Kris, Reis Alaa and Youseff were trundling the GPR and magnetometer across what seemed to be a small patch of uncultivated land in front of the mortuary temple of Tuthmosis III, which lies slightly north of the Ramesseum.  By the time they were done, that patch of ground didn’t sound so small, since it took something in the range of 80 passes of the GPR to fully cover the area!  That’s a lot of walking (actually 3.5 km), and without even the distraction of changing landscape.  However, they persisted (insisted), completely surveying the area, and they even finished before the sun set! 

Dom, Youseff, Kris and Reis Alaa doing GPR under the watchful eye of Memnon

Sarah had the challenge of tracking down some of the Survey of Egypt benchmarks in the necropolis and across the West Bank, in the hopes that, with the information, we will be able to better position maps and collected data.  Unfortunately, given that they were installed in the first half of the Twentieth century, it’s turned into something of a game of hide-and-seek, though she’s managed to find and record most of them, which will be very useful for coordinating the data collected this year with that collected in past years, and also for coordinating data with other projects. 

West Bank team

So, a good time was had by all, data was collected, things were checked off the list, and tomorrow we start work at Karnak!  Only eleven and a half hours from departure to return - a short day really!!


Rain Stops Play

Monday 28 January 2013

We got up as usual at 05.30, give or take, and found that it was raining!

Sarah had heard claps of thunder through the night and accompanied by rain that is rare in Luxor. The street outside was starting to fill with rain and it quickly became clear that geophysics in this weather was not possible.

Kris mops up as the rain comes under the balcony door!

So we had an office day working on technicalities of processing survey data and geophysics profiles. All the other teams we heard about either didn’t go out or had to return from site. As the rain continued to fall and the street started to flood, the sewage man arrived to pump the water out the street so the cars and minibuses etc could pass through.

The cavalry arrive

A good day at our desks as well as running errands and the rain stopped in the afternoon.  It hasn’t rained like that in Luxor since the early-mid 90s.


A weekend with Amenhotep III: work starts at Kom el-Hetan

Saturday 26 January 2013

First stop the silted up channel between Banana Island and the floodplain then onto a brick works on the way to Luxor bridge. We then headed to Dra Abu el-Naga for a guided tour of the tomb of Paheri (TT16) by the kind invitation of Project Director Dr Suzanne Onstine (University of Memphis). A tomb with great scenes and a long history of burial – a cracking visit!

Visiting the University of Memphis team at TT16

After setting up the base station we went to Kom el-Hetan where we are collaborating with ‘The Colossi of Memnon and Amenhotep III Temple Conservation Project’ led by Dr Hourig Sourouzian. Today we carried out ERT and GPR in the first court to see if we could understand more about the axis and access to the temple.

GPR in the shadow of the Colossi of Amenhotep III

Kris ironed the ground back and forth in 80m traverses with his GPR at half metre intervals for 2.4 km. It is such a fabulous setting and Hourig has a great team.

Ironing the ground!

Interior of the brickworks 

Sunday 27 January 2013

Today the ERT was in front of the Colossi with a few interested French and Belgian tourists coming to find out what we were up to. Egyptians are holidaying in Luxor so lots of visitors to the Colossi for pictures and a talk from their guide. There were plenty of coaches outside Medinet Habu, which is great to see. Sarah went off finding Survey of Egypt benchmarks around Qurna and Kris finished his GPR in the First Court with a further 4.2 km of ironing! The ERT need lots of watering in as the ground was incredibly dry.

Watering in the ERT probes

Ginger and Angus finished the first ERT profile just after midday and we relocated to about 150m east of the colossi along a field boundary where no watering in was required and the TIGRE collected the data without issue. We up sticks by 2.30 and back in Luxor by 3.45 including a stop by the sugar cane train. A very productive day was had by all. Tonight it’s off to the Mummification Museum for the MSA lecture series.

Sugar cane train coming through!


Everybody’s free…to do admin

Friday 24 January 2013

Office Day!

Today is laptops with a variety of software day. After a planning meeting at 9am going through the next three days of work on the West Bank, we’re all getting on with processing data.

How many laptops?!

Kris and Dom on GPR data, Kris and Sarah on GIS and GPS data. Ginger working on background documentation and text for our reports focussing on the works of Amenhotep III. Me putting together tables of work carried out with aims, locations of the ERT and GPR done this season. Three ERT profiles complete to a depth of c. 19.5m with a total length at ground level of 1.4km is a great start in our first week which included some issues of aridity over the BH mounds. Eleven GPR profiles have been completed with the shortest 63m long and the longest 3.2km. At total of 12km. Hats off to GPR team!!

All is calm and peaceful in Luxor on the second anniversary of the Revolution.


The long walk home: ERT (Electrical Resistivity Tomography) continues

Tuesday 22 January 2013

We set off at 7am with our minibus loaded up as usual with the aim of getting lots done. We were thwarted at the first hurdle. There is a blockage on the west bank of Luxor bridge and we find ourselves stuck there with hundreds of other vehicles for almost 90 mins before we’re on our way again. The GPR team are dropped off and then we call in on our colleagues Peter Lacovara, Diana Craig Patch and Catherine Roehrig at Malkata (the Joint Expedition to Malkata team).


Procession through the streets

Wednesday 23 January 2013

Fortunately, we had a smoother start today than yesterday—the vagaries of commuter traffic the world over! 

With our quick start, Kris and I picked up where we left off yesterday with the ERT line across the mouth of the Birket Habu, while Angus, Sarah, and Dom trekked off with the GPR and GPS to scout out more area in the western half of the Birket.  Because of technical issues, the planned ERT line across the Birket mounds proved unfeasible—too dry, so no conductivity—so we are using the GPR to investigate what we can of the subsurface topography in and around the mounds and across the basin instead (and because it can be faster than the ERT), which is leading to some long walks for Dom, Sarah, Angus, Reis Alaa, and Youssef.  Today’s long walk started near the village of Hajir al-Aqaltah, which is perched on the southwest mounds of the Birket, and continued all the way to the north mounds, 3.2 km away, which is some trek with the equipment they are dragging!  However, they all came back happy, if somewhat hot and tired. 


Kris Strutt and Reis Omar Farouk on ERT

As a luxury, Kris and I managed to spend most of the day in the shade, having learned our lesson to think through exactly where to start the ERT line after ending up in a livestock parking area last time.  We were able to complete a full run across the mouth of the Birket, a distance of roughly 720 m, taken in 75 m chunks, as the equipment allows. 


Step aside for the CAT!

Continuing yesterday’s line meant starting in the approximate center of the distance, where we are hoping to find evidence of whatever channel or outlet led into the basin of the Birket Habu, and moving along to the start of the northern mounds, where the tarmac and concrete of Kom Bai’rat interrupted our ability to get the probes into the ground.  As last time, the households of the villages were curious what we were up to and welcoming as always—cups of tea all around! 


Sarah follows in the wake of the GPR


Second breakfast with the Sheikh

Thursday 24 January 2013

Day off!

Normally Friday is day off and today was planned as an office day processing GPS and geophysics data collected over the last week.

We swapped days and Ginger, Sarah and I headed to Abydos at 7pm for the day. Kris stayed at the flat to get on with other non-THaWS work and Dom had a quiet day in the flat with a delicate stomach devouring his book on Who wrote Shakespeare? Sounds like it may conclude with the notion that it was indeed a man called William!

Dr Matthew Adams (Field Director of Institute of Fine Arts, NYU Abydos Excavations) very generously took time out from the Abydos mission excavations to give us a comprehensive guided tour of the area around the Early Dynastic enclosures. Back at the American dig house Michelle Marlar kindly showed us some of the wonderful painted limestone fragments from the Temple of Osiris. A huge jigsaw puzzle of material! See their work at


The processional wadi at Abydos

After a wander up the processional wadi we returned to take a speedy visit around the Temple of Ramesses II and then the Temple of Seti I – stunning! Back in the car by 3pm to hit the desert road back to Luxor.

Today is Milad un Nabi (a celebration of Prophet’s birthday) and there are lots of celebrations going on in the streets around the flat this evening.


A day in the life - Ginger, GPS, GPR and ERT!

Sunday, 20 January 2013

The day started with the now-usual 5:30 am wake-up call for a 6:30(-ish) am departure to site, which prospect was much improved by copious amounts of coffee, liberally applied to each team member. 

Kris Strutt and ‘second breakfast’!

We have quickly gotten into the routine of a speedy (death-defying?) commute over the bridge south of Luxor to the west bank, making a couple of stops along the way to pick up various workmen and our inspector and to set up the base station for the GPS, before setting out into the villages and fields in the Birket Habu to get down to business. 

Sarah and Dom setting up base station

Today, specific business included completing an ERT line in the southwest corner of the Birket, which Kris and I did with the help of Rafat and Ahmed, and a couple of GPR runs at points north, which Angus, Sarah, and Dom did with the help of Youssef and Reis Ala.  We have agreed already that, between the GPS, the GPR, and ERT, we are long on potentially confusing abbreviations and increasingly short on extra G’s and R’s. 

Sarah and MSA Inspector Azab on the ERT

The ERT line was situated to collect data about the southern mounds of the Birket Habu, an area that has not historically received much archaeological attention.  We started the run yesterday on what seemed like a reasonably untrafficked pathway along a canal, but we had not really figured in the donkey carts and livestock parking when we chose the starting point, and spent the bulk of this afternoon some distance further up the canal, sitting next to a very nervous, pacing, tethered fat-tailed sheep and staring at the wrong ends of a couple of cows while watching to make sure they did not accidentally eat a part of a tape measure or a length of cable.  Despite the potential animal hazards, the people who live along the canal were positively lovely to us, and the run seemed to go well, so in the end it was definitely worth the effort. 

It sounded like Angus, Sarah, and Dom also had a good and a productive day with the GPR, with fewer dogs to deal with than yesterday. 

GPR underway at Hajir al-Aqaltah, 19 Jan

Because the battery ran out in the GPR at the end of the day yesterday, they had packed up at a somewhat awkward location, in terms of maintaining even distances covered, but were able to pick up today where they had left off, and complete the run they had intended. 

GPR and GPS underway at Raml al-Aqaltah, 20 Jan

The GPR unit is a square, safety-orange coloured box about half a meter to a side attached to a sled, so, in profile, it looks like a coffin and sledge from a tomb scene, which seems fitting, in a way.  When they had completed the line they started yesterday, the GPR crew completed a second, shorter line to compliment an ERT profile taken last year, investigating the location of the mouth of the Birket; talk in the car on the way home made it sound as if they are eager to do more tomorrow! 

I’m off to see what’s for dinner…cheers for now

- Ginger


Back in Luxor, and back in the field

Tuesday 15th January

A day at Luxor Airport!

We took all our paperwork from the UK and from the MSA to the customs at Luxor airport. All smiles as we walked into the customs. It’s the third time we’ve shipped geophysics equipment as cargo direct to Luxor from the UK. Everyone was great. Papers were checked and signed, fees paid, tea drunk, serial numbers checked and finally we took possession of the kit within two hours of arriving. More equipment was being held by Egyptair as hold luggage and after further paperwork and no lunch we emerged with all the kit ready to hit the ground running. Ginger, Sarah and Dom had had a lazy morning and then spent time sussing communications – SIM cards, dongles etc and then time around Luxor Temple.

Our kit leaves Luxor airport

Wednesday 16th January

We’re back in the fields of Luxor!

After completing our paperwork with Dr Mohammed Abd al-Aziz (MSA, Head of the West Bank, Luxor) we met our MSA Inspector for the West Bank Mr Elazab Rageb Ahmed Abd Rabu, who studied a South Valley University. Azab is keen to learn and understand the geophysical survey methods that we are using this season.

We spent the remainder of the day looking at possible locations for our GPS/GNSS base station. We set up over a Survey of Egypt survey point – metal pipe on the mounds of Birket Habu. We also established a new base station on the roof of a colleague’s house near Medinet Habu.


Setting up base station on Malkata mounds

Setting up the rover

Thursday 17th January

Our first Ground Penetrating Radar profile of the season is over the mounds of Birket Habu. Using a 200 mHz antennae a profile can reach depths of up to 7m depending on the material below the ground. Some great results that we have to share with the Ministry of State for Antiquities first and foremost.

GPR trail through the spoil mounds of Birket Habu

Friday 18th January

The morning is spent doing paperwork and other jobs and Sarah, Ginger, Angus and Dom head off after lunch to visit the Temple of Hatshepsut at Deir el-Bahari. We don’t quite have the place to ourselves. Terrible for the local economy, but great for anyone who is visiting Egypt right now! It’s great to be back. 

Temple of Hatshepsut at Deir el-Bahri


Gouge auger arrives and the Team head for Egypt

Tuesday 8 January 2013

Our new gouge auger equipment arrived safely yesterday. Three gouge auger heads and a push-pull handle have been bought to use along with our existing auger kit in Egypt to retrieve continuous cores of sediment from the fields of Luxor and will be used by other EES projects working in the Delta. It’s already had its first outing coming with me when I went to talk to eleven year 3 (7-8 year olds) girls at a school in Newcastle about working as an archaeologist in Egypt. They had studied ancient Egypt before Christmas as part of the curriculum and showed how much they had learned with lots of great questions and answers during our hour long class. 


Saturday 12 January

Up at 5.15 am to finish packing and tie up loose ends before heading to airport at 7.15. Two flights later arrived at Cairo just before 9pm local time with long queues at customs, but it’s good humoured as I chat to an Egyptian businessman with a remote controlled helicopter in his hand for his grandson – one happy boy! Cairo traffic is busy, but moving. Good to get to the Lotus Hotel and pop over to Felfala’s for a chicken shwarmah before bed.

Sunday 13 January

Morning – off to the British Council to visit the Egypt Exploration Society Cairo Representative, Mrs Faten Saleh, to catch up on all the news. On a walk up the corniche (riverside road) you will come across an escape from the hustle and bustle of Cairo. Just upstream and below the Tahrir Bridge young Caireans can be found have a soft drink or tea on the Nile Riviera - a narrow front formed by limestone boulders tipped down the river embankment. Just downstream of the bridge the motor boats are blaring out pop music to attract groups for a spin on the river. 


Beach life in Cairo!

Two hours spent in the Egyptian Museum before closing. It’s incredibly quiet – the perfect visit. Almost covered half of the ground floor

Monday 14th January

Taxi at 8.15 to the British Embassy to collect EES hand auger kit where it is now stored - Jane and Mike were incredibly friendly and helpful. Next stop the British Council to pick up our EES Rep, Faten Saleh, and off to MSA office in Zamalek to sign the contract with Dr Mohammed Ismail. Next we met up with Alban-Brice Pimpaud, who we collaborate with, to catch up with work and discuss our season. Next stop MSA offices in Abbasiya to sign and pick our permit – the office closes at 3pm and after our mad crawl through Cairo traffic and a dash around the corner I arrived at 14.58! In fact Mr Hany knew I was on my way and it was all ready and sorted. Next stop back to the hotel to collect luggage and then straight off to Cairo airport to fly down to Luxor at 18.45.


A day in Cairo Traffic!

Met at Luxor by long-time colleague and friend Reis Omar Farouk. Food and then back to the airport to meet the team off their flights: Kris Strutt (University of Southampton), Dominic Barker (University of Southampton), Sarah Jones (Museum of London) are all on the Egyptair direct flight from Heathrow and half an hour behind them, Ginger Emery (University of Chicago) lands after her 24hr marathon from Chicago. 


The last few days, for now…

Thursday 1st March

The morning was a bit of a lie in and then starting work on processing the geophysics raw data and working through the topographic data. We visited the Theban Mapping Project’s new library and archive centre on the West Bank with Kent Weeks in the afternoon. Their archival material will prove very helpful to our work as it progresses.

Friday 2nd March

A visit to Chicago House to look through their map collection was very productive combined with a great lunch with friends and colleagues in their courtyard.

Saturday 3rd March

Angus took our geophysics kit to Luxor airport to be shipped back to the UK. Smiles all round as our faces and boxes have become very familiar to them from last year and this. The waybill is typed out on a marvellous ageing East German typewriter with great aplomb and everyone is incredibly helpful. Hats off to Egyptair! Done and dusted just after 11am and straight to Luxor Museum for the beginning of the International Research Conference on the Colossi of Memnon and the Mortuary Temple of Amenhotep III. Kris and Sarah hammered away at survey data for much of the day. The day ended with take away pizza in front of a DVD.

Sunday 4th March

Continued work on processing the geophysics data and then to the afternoon session of the Conference. Sorting equipment boxes, packing and off to the airport at 05.10. Augering part of the season will follow very soon!