Saturday, October 21, 2017
ARCHAEOLOGISTS AT ANTINOOPOLIS
SET TO DIG OUT MYSTERY STRUCTURE
SET TO DIG OUT MYSTERY STRUCTURE
After a spectacular 2016-17 dig season, archaeologists have returned to ANTINOOPOLIS in Egypt for the 2017-18 season, during which they will dig for an "intentionally buried stone structure" in the heart of the city founded by Hadrian at the spot where Antinous died in the Nile.
Arriving at the site this past week, the experts said they will use the first two weeks of the new dig season to survey the foundations of what they believe to be a Temple of Antinous-Osiris.
Writing in his first 2017-18 report, James B. Heidel, president of the Antinoupolis Foundation, says: "We are very excited to be back at the site for a shortened two-week excavation this autumn." More work will follow a short break.
"In the first week of work we have focused on removing layers above what we believe to be the other half of the rectangular temple we were uncovering last season (in February)," he wrote.
"This is necessary to determine if it is a free-standing rectangular temple in the middle of the much larger court, or if it is connected in some way architecturally with the surrounding peristyle," he added. See the peristyle court illustration below.
"This is the temple we now are able to say with some certainly is part of the complex dedicated to Osiris-Antinous, the titular deity of Antinoupolis, due to an inscribed cornice block (pictured above left) we discovered in February," he pointed out.
The highlight of the 2016-17 season came when archaeologists detected a "deliberately buried" structure with ground-penetrating radar in February and suggested it could be an OSIREION ... symbolic Tomb of Osiris ... raising hopes that this could be the Lost Tomb of Antinous.
But initial excavation failed to yield results ... results which the archaeologists hope to find during the 2017-18 season.
Other spectacular discoveries include column capitals and a cornice stone with the name of Antinous inscribed in hieroglyphs.
The stones apparently come from a shrine to the Egyptian goddess Hathor ... not however the Great Temple of Antinous, as had been suggested initially.
The stones from the shrine are a mixture of Egyptian and Classical styles which enable the archaeologists to come up with an architectural rendering showing what the shrine and its adjacent peristyle colonnade might have looked like.
Work now resumes on these dig sites in October.
The great fear, however, is that local villagers might build houses on top of the site when archaeologists are away ... since law-enforcement is lax in the region.
It is within what possibly was the Great Temple of Antinous and is a rectangular chamber which is subdivided into three sub-chambers ... apparently an antechamber, a middle chamber and an inner sanctum.
Writing in his first 2017 report, James B. Heidel, president of the Antinoupolis Foundation, says: "The clearest part of the results show a large stone structure which is about 12 x 22 meters in the form of a tripartite shrine."
He adds: "This simply means three rooms of the same size lined up at the end of an axis, and it is a common feature of Egyptian temples for thousands of years."
The ground-penetrating radar shows that the structure is covered by soil which was placed on top of it all at one time, not in layers which accumulated over time.
"This indicates that the structure was intentionally buried. This is intriguing," the report continues, "because in ancient Egypt buildings known as Osireons were sometimes constructed (the most famous of which is the Osireion constructed by Seti I as part of his temple at Abydos) and were seen as model tombs of the god Osiris. As model tombs these structures seem to have been intentionally buried," the archaeologists add.
"Since Antinoupolis is the cult city of the new Osiris, Osir-Antinous, an Osireion would make sense as part of the urban ensemble," the archaeologists state. The structure, whatever it may be, is still covered by two meters of intentional fill.
As a final exciting detail, the stone tripartite structure and the arrangement of the surrounding walls indicate an axis which would not only correspond to the grid of the Ramses II temple, but an axis which would enter that temple in the middle of the side of the "hypostyle hall," which is the hall of columns between the back shrines of the temple and the court at the temple's entry.
"This axis is a normal place for the main side entrance into an Egyptian temple precinct," the report goes on.
"And it appears that this structure, if built by Hadrian, was intended by his designers to be an extension of the Ramses II temple complex."
The team also found what appears to be a grand stairway in the center of a large temple dedicated to Antinous-Osiris and a large harborside peristyle court ... waterfront structures which were found in the previous season.
Finding the exact location of the ancient waterfront is important since it may indicate the site at which Antinous died.
We know that Emperor Hadrian commanded that a sacred city be founded at the location where Antinous drowned in the Nile.
We also know from an ancient papyrus that an impressive quayside port facility was constructed at or near that site.
Using ground-penetrating radar (GPR), archaeologists found a large square compound of paving stones bordered by columns ... which could mark the site where Antinous drowned.
Heidel, president of the Antinoupolis Foundation, says the discoveries in the past two years at the site have exceeded all expectations.
Finds include ornate capitals which once adorned colossal columns.
Heidel also says LOOTING has abated somewhat following a return to a semblance of stability in Egypt.
Since the revolution in Egypt, which resulted in runaway lawlessness, the site has been subject to "SYSTEMATIC LOOTING" for three years.
The scope of looting diminished in recent months, although local villagers still search for "trinkets" to sell on the black market, he writes.
Heidel says his archaeologists working at Antinoopolis (also known as Antinoe) say local villagers continue to encroach on the dig site ... ostensibly to create new space for housing and graves.
However, it is an ages-old practice in Egypt for villagers to build houses over places where they can "accidentally" unearth ancient treasures by digging tunnels under their homes. And excavation of new graves can "accidentally" reveal more ancient treasures.