Archaeology’s Dirty Little Secrets by Sue Alcock Part 2 (Malkata Site Management)

This was my second homework

Option #1: Local site assessment

One of our most active Discussion Forum threads to date has been Sites Near Where You Live. If you haven’t visited and looked already, check it out! A truly astonishing and global range on display.

For this exercise, pick a site (and I would include in that category historic buildings and monuments). Ideally, it will be something near where you live (perhaps the one you posted in the thread, if you did so!) If you don’t have a site nearby, not to worry, just find a place that interests you.

Now imagine — the local authorities, having heard about your sterling performance to date in Archaeology’s Dirty Little Secrets 2014, are asking you for help. They would like a short report on the current condition and future prospects of your site. They would like to know:

  1. What formation processes, cultural and natural, are at work here?
  2. What are the local environmental conditions, and what is their positive or negative impact on the site?
  3. What other actors or factors might be threatening the site?
  4. Can and should any steps be taken to assist in its preservation?

Write a brief report (approximately 400-750 words) explaining your site assessment. Please begin with a very brief description of just what and where it is. If you wish, take a picture of the site you chose, and upload it with your assignment.

This exercise should take no more than two hours.

Malkata is the palace of Amenhotep III and is located on the west side of the Nile at Luxor. The entire area, including the place pleasure lake is several km sq.  It is probable where Tutankhamen lived as a young boy. It is a very large site which has only been partially excavated. It is covered with pottery shards, ‘Malkata ware’ which is painted blue and very decorative. The main site has mud brick walls that are approximately 60 cms high, stone column bases, occasional lintel.

The site is current being affected by several things

1)      Windblown sand is covering the exposed parts of the site

2)      Local farmers are encroaching on the site and trying to use it for agricultural purposes. They are pumping water into the area and raising the water table.

3)      Unauthorised and uncontrolled tourists are visiting, leaving debris and damaging the site and removing objects.

4)      Occasional rain storms or flash flooding

5)      Camel thorn and other plant growths

6)      A variety of archaeologists working there over a long period since 1888 with different skills sets. The palace ruins were “rediscovered” several times: in 1888 by Daressy; by the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1910-1920; by University Museum of Pennsylvania in the 1970s; and since 1985, they have been the site of excavations by the Archaeological Mission of Waseda University.

The site is on the edge of the desert landscape, half in the cultivated are and half in the desert. There is also an archaeological dig house with a garden in the middle of the site.

The rising water table is damaging the site as the water is rising through the fragile mud brick and causing it to crumble and for decoration to separate from the underlying structure. There is no protection of the wall decoration part from pieces of cardboard that the guardians put in front of the decorated wall.  The site must be protected in a similar way the Karnak and Luxor temple and have a huge water pipe placed around it (similar to a coffer dam) that allows water to drain into the pipe and then to be pumped into a nearby canal.

The government must prevent the farmers encroaching on the site.

Access to the site must be prevented by unauthorised visitors. A wall built around and security staff to patrol and make sure no one is breeching the wall or entering the site.

Once recording of the site is completed it must be backfilled. This should be an ongoing exercise of excavation, recording and backfill. The site being built of mud brick not stone is too fragile for tourism. Exposure to rain is also too dangerous for the material. Although rain is extremely infrequent it is extremely damaging to mud brick.

Erection of a visitor centre with a model of the site, similar to that at Karnak should be constructed, portable decoration and objects be placed on display in climate controlled environments.

Removal of the dig house and its associated garden. There must be no sentiment about this, although the dig house is historical in itself it is on top of unexcavated parts of the site and its garden which is watered is too risky to the site.

The windblown sand is also doing damage as this erodes the structures, mobile sand paper. Only back filling will protect it, likewise the camel thorn and other plant growth that takes place on the mud brick.

By the way Malkata means in Arabic, the place where things are picked up. So imagine what has gone missing from the site.

The picture shows the minimal conservation that has occurred at the site, bits of cardboard, as well as some camel thorn growing on the wall. As well as the lush garden of the dig house in the background.MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA