Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Temple update: new capitals

We have continued to work on the mortuary temple that we think was devoted to the cult of a dead king (or maybe all the dead kings and queens in the cemetery). It’s a large building, and we have now nearly excavated the entire outer room with 26 columns. Stay tuned for a photo within the next week.

The temple has a series of underground chambers cut into the rock. You enter this network of rooms through doorways into two rooms that were decorated with stone columns. Each of those rooms has three further doorways (one pair of doorways seems to lead to a passage that connects the two rooms), so we have a network of at least 6 rooms and a passageway. The outer rooms are carved on a nice scale—it’s easy for us to stand up in them, with plenty of head room (I don’t think I could reach the ceiling).

The eastern room is especially fancy—its columns have two different types of capitals. The photo above shows one pair of capitals, which are in the form of palm tree branches. You can also see in that photo what looks like a bite taken out of the lower part of the column. There was a significant erosion event in the rooms at some point later in their history in which the columns and walls were heavily worn at a single level.

You can just see the front pair behind our architect Nacho in this photo—they have five spirals. The column that Nacho is working on was worn so heavily that it broke and slumped down, and one of the stone beams on top cracked. Nacho is working to remove the beams so that they will not contribute to further collapse of the column.

The outermost rooms were essentially empty of objects. We are still hoping for more clues as to the function of this complex of underground rooms…


  1. Hi Geoff,
    My kids and I are having a blast following your excavations. We really look forward to these posts. Thank you for the updates; I hope it keeps going well!

  2. You guys are doing a real good job, and your hard work is much appreciated.

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  4. Hi Geoff, This is so interesting, and it sounds like you have a great team there. I enjoyed looking at your posts on the National Geographic website, and then I looked back over all your posts on the Kelsey Museum blog from last year. I would love to be able to see it all in person - thank you for making it available online.

  5. Thanks Martin (and others)--glad to share some of the fun.

  6. Our students would like to know if you've discovered any tombs or coffins yet? (Mr. Wiens's 6th grade social studies class at Clague Middle School)

    What prompted you to become an archaeologist? (6th grade social studies at Clague Middle School)

    Have you discovered what is causing the columns to collapse?

    What's your favorite part of being an archaeologist?

  7. Quick response to Mr. Wiens's class...I became an archaeologist because of a museum exhibit I saw when I was 13--the King Tut exhibit that travelled around the United States in the late 1970s. I went on my first dig (an Anglo-Saxon and Viking cemetery in England) when I was in high school. That was it for me!

    I have two favorite parts of being an archaeologist...I love the process of discovery--both the moments of finding something and the process of understanding. I also love working with people from other places--in this case, a small village in Sudan.

    Finally, we are pretty sure the columns are collapsing because of erosion that started when there was a flood into the inner rooms.

  8. What happened to the photos of temple?

  9. Thank you for sharing Geoff, and i hope you continue this blog next year.