A Jordanstown archaeologist has returned from an Egyptian dig at Tutankhamun’s palace and the quarry which built Egypt’s greatest monuments.
Dr Sarah Doherty, who has also worked on digs in Sudan, Romania and around the UK, recently returned from Gebel el Silsila, situated 65 kilometres north of Aswan in southern Egypt.
The archaeologist and ceramicist has been working with colleagues from Lund university at the quarry site, and recently uncovered rare treasures including a scene depicting obelisks, a ram-headed sphinx, a scene depicting the moon god Thoth and very early rock art and stone tools from 8,000 years ago.
Sarah told The Times: “When they needed to construct temples the Pharaoh would send a team of personnel like blacksmiths, quarry workers and guards who lived above the quarry in clusters of dry stone huts.
“There is what looks like a wine bar, places for storing food and a structure like a mini Stonehenge where they could sleep between shifts.
“We are almost certain that the stone from the temples at Luxor, Karnak and the Ramesseum came from that quarry.
“In our last season we found an unfinished ram-headed sphinx which was almost identical to those lining the way in Luxor.
“Our sphinx has a big crack in its bottom which is why it was left behind. They tried to fix it with magic.”
While the dig team lived on a victorian sailboat on the Nile during the dig, life for quarry workers was hazardous. Sarah explained: “The quarries were hazardous places with scorpions and cobras and were hot, hostile and dusty. In the rock there are a lot of spells and messages including graffiti from the workers.
Sarah also works on the Gurob harem palace project which is led by Liverpool and Copenhagen Universities. There, the team have gained an insight into the palace life of Tutankhamun’s wives, mother and extended family.
The monuments will be displayed at Egypt’s Kom Ombo museum.