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EGYPT | Saturday, 14 March 2009 | Views [834] | Comments [1]

At the south-eastern edge of the Giza plateau, not exactly in the shadow of the pyramids but certainly close enough for the sky to be dominated by their impossibly massive forms, are the remains of the city that once housed the 60,000 odd workers who built the pyramids stone by stone.

The current excavation site is wedged between a modern village and a soccer field, and covers only an estimated 10 percent of the city's original boundaries. This weekend is the 20th anniversary of excavations, years that have seen the removal of thousands of cubic metres of sand and rubbish, and the slow accumulation of information on the physical and administrative functions of the city.

I visited the site on Thursday and Saturday. Will Schenk from AERA conducts a field school to train Egyptian archaeological illustrators and was keen for me to meet his students. They are currently notating the tomb of a king's daughter, tracing the outlines of carvings onto sheets of plastic. These sheets will later be reduced in size and copied with pen and ink or on computer. It may be the ancient world, but technology is never far away.

The tomb was first recorded in the 1930s by a German team. At the end of the project Will intends to compare the two sets of drawings – historical and modern – to show how the standards of illustration have changed over time, and how those standards were first established by pioneers in the field.

The students, Inspectors with the Supreme Council of Antiquities, have come from sites all over Egypt. Their enthusiasm is enormous. It was a pleasure to watch them work and talk about their projects and studies, and also about the overlaps between their practices and mine, about the drawing of things and the precise gathering of information for future use.



A comparison to the slums beside the huge apartment blocks being built in Bombay in Roberts' Shantaram. Only there'll be no remnants of them when the apartment blocks are finished like in Ancient Egypt... just a few rats and scraps of rubbish...

  mim Apr 14, 2009 8:58 PM

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