The temple of Ptah - report 2009 (Chr. Thiers, P. Zignani)

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Sca inspectors: Cheïma Abd el-Sattar, Mo’men Sa’ad, Wahid Youssef, Mohamed Abd el-Khalek Amin ;
Epigraphy and archaeology: Mamdouh Abd el-Ghassul (Sca-Cfeetk), Sébastien Biston-Moulin, Cécile Lantrain, Laetitia Maggio (scholarships MAEE), Catherine Bouanich, Maude Erhenfeld, Nina Parisot (Cnrs trainees), Pauline Calassou (Cnrs), Mo’men Sa’ad (Sca), Christophe Thiers (USR 3172) ;
Architectural and topographic survey: Pierre Zignani (USR 3172), Claire Filiaggi (scholarship MAEE), Marion Allier (Cnrs trainee), Antoine Marmousez, Antoine Guillot (MAEE) ;
Photography: Jean-François Gout (USR 3172), Karima Dowi Abd al-Radi, Ahmed Roubi, Mohamed Saïdi (Sca-Cfeetk), Aurore Bagarry (scholarship MAEE), Pauline Batard (Cnrs trainee) ;
Conservation-restoration: Agnès Obousier (USR 3172), Abdou Qoraïm (Sca-Cfeetk), Mohamed Zaki (Sca-Cfeetk), Alice Wallon-Tariel (MAEE), Agnès Asperti (Cnrs), Charlotte Rérolle, Delphine Gillot (Cnrs trainies), Ornella Berges, Aline Blondiaux (MAEE).


The main objective of this first campaign, which runs all year long, was to establish protocols for a whole survey of the temple, that is epigraphy, architecture, archaeology, photography and restoration. Important cleanings were necessary to start this project, involving consolidation of blocks associated with a first general assessment of needs in restoration-preservation.
A heavy investment of time was necessary to evacuate the collapse of the retaining wall built modern north of the temple, against the wall of the domain of Amun-Ra. The release of several tons of cubic meters of mud brick collapsed now makes it possible to walk around the temple. The cleaning of a trench previously dug by H. Chevrier has highlighted, in the foundations of the north wall of the temple, reused limestone blocks with the names of Queen Hatshepsut and Tuthmosis III. Some parts of a private stela dating back to the New Kingdom was also found in this area, as it was also the case for a reused royal stela in the lower course of the Ptolemaic kiosk.
The area between the two first entrance gates was cleaned to remove debris left by H. Chevrier. The beginning of the archaeological survey of the first mud-brick wall allows us to clearly show the presence of a Coptic settlement, with three rooms and ceramic still in situ on the ground. Ceramic and coins were uncovered and will be studied in the future. Some artefacts were also found, e.g. a limestone head of a statue, some osirid bronze artefacts (atef crown).
On the southern area of the temple, several blocks were emerging from the debris. They have certainly been kept near the temple during the work of G. Legrain (or H. Chevrier). In very bad condition, many of them have been completely cleared, restored and surveyed.
The restoration program (see below) mainly concentrated on the scattered blocks and two sandstone stelae. Treatment by Ethyl Silicate (Silres-Wacker OH) was used and the blocks were reinforced by metallic stems. One very damaged limestone block was restored. All the blocks were stored on a mastaba after conservation work.


Before undertaking any archaeological investigation, it was necessary to begin the epigraphic survey of the temple walls which provided the essential elements about the history of the monument. The scenes and texts were numbered from outside to inside. The same numbering is used for photographic records. Two thirds (129) of the 193 numbers of scenes and texts were drawn. The northern chapel, dedicated to Ptah, was fully drawn.
This stage of epigraphic records has led to a better understanding of the various stages of engraving / hammerings / plastering and new engraving related to Amarna and and post-Amarna times. It was also possible to specify the part played by the Ptolemies in the engraving of reliefs in the name of Thutmose III.
Almost all blocks lying around the temple were topographicaly located and numbered using metal plates affixed by Qoraïm Abdou and Mohamed Zaki. Approximately 80 blocks were inventoried and 20 drawn and vectorized. Despite the low number of scattered blocks identified, the first campaign has clarified the origin of several of them, especially from the south side of the temple, which is also the most damaged. Two blocks (2516 + 2625) from the inner southern wall of the court feature an offering of Maat to [Ptah, Hathor and Harsomtous]. One block (2606) with the protocol of Ptolemy IV, located east of the temple, was put back to its original location on the top of the north wall of the court. Besides Ptolemy III and Ptolemy IV being well attested among the scattered blocks, one can note the following kings: Tuthmose III (2626); Hatshepsut (2580, 2584 and 2589), Horemheb (2575), Rameses III (a reused block in gate D and scattered blocks); Nitocris (2639); Nectanebo II (2635). Hatshepsut, Nitocris and Nectanebo II are not documented in the temple.


The research about the architecture of the temple was first focused on a detailed survey. Begun in autumn 2008, the documentation of the stone masonry structures is now achieved according to the following list:
- floor plan,
- roof plan,
- 11 cross sections and elevations,
- 5 longitudinal sections and elevations.
Details of works (capitals, constructions lines or drawings, setting marks) were also surveyed.
It will be completed with the study of the scattered blocs and the future excavations. We hope that if we are able to recover the mud-bricks structures, we will obtain additional information about the temple precinct.

The environment of the vast northern area of the temple of Amun at Karnak is little known. Our survey gave information to cross indices referring to the intentions of the builders in relationship with physical limitations of the construction, but also in terms of spatial solutions, typologies and location. The sanctuary of Ptah is remarkable because it has hosted over thousand years of worship with significant changes in its surroundings. The oldest part consists of the chapels preceded by a portico and courtyard in the name of Tuthmosis III. Surprisingly, the foundations, already excavated by H. Chevrier, were done with reused blocks with a decoration and the names of Hatshepsut and Tuthmosis III. The west side of the Tuthmosis III’s building has disappeared in a subsequent redevelopment of the temple.
During the reign of Tuthmosis III, it is noteworthy to observe that the great enclosure wall of the precinct of Amun was much smaller than the last one still visible today (estimated from Dynasty XXX). The original sanctuary was in connection with a way between the domain of Amun and the northern sanctuaries of Karnak.
The construction of the last enclosure wall was deliberately designed to include the temple of Ptah and avoid the structures of Karnak North. Its tangential location with the northern side of the sanctuary of Tuthmosis III destroyed partly the precinct of the temple and severely hampered its side access for the daily activity. This explains the important Ptolemaic renovation of the western side of the Tuthmosis III’s building which includes a new side access from the south, two smalls rooms and a staircase. The New Kingdom courtyard radically changed. It was heightened, covered and became a room lightened by clerestory windows.


Last update : 10-05-2014
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