Dr. Gesink's Image Gallery Page 2


Wall Painting, Ramses VII Tomb, Valley of the Kings (1996)
The tomb of Ramses VII contains some of the most well-preserved wall paintings in Egypt.  In this scene, the falcon-headed god Horus, wearing the double crowns of upper and lower Egypt, leads the Pharaoh Ramses VII by the hand.  (Where he is being led, I cannot tell without seeing more of the tomb paintings.  Tomb paintings may depict scenes from the deceased's life or give instructions for navigating the afterworld.) 
Great Pyramid of Khufu, 1996. This is the largest of the three famous Egyptian pyramids of Giza, which are situated on the edge of the desert outside Cairo.  The "Great Pyramid" was built by the Pharaoh Khufu (Greek name: "Cheops") of the Old Kingdom, circa 2575 BC.  It is 481 ft. tall and 756 ft. at its base.  Like all the Egyptian pyramids, it is a form of mausoleum.  Because most pyramids were burglarized within a few years of being sealed - the rooms and mummies ransacked for objects of value - pyramid designers constructed dummy chambers, stone portcullises, and traps within the pyramids.  Khufu had originally planned to have his mummy interred in a chamber far beneath the pyramid, but in order to foil potential robbers, he moved his burial chamber to the center of the structure, some 200 ft. above the ground.  All Khufu's efforts were in vain, however.  Nothing remains inside the Great Pyramid today but an open stone sarcaphagus.

Pyramids of Khafre and Khufu, 1996.  Daily life continues in the villages on the eastern side of the Giza pyramid plateau.  As one inhabitant told me, though the pyramids and the ancient culture of which they were a product are a source of great national pride for Egyptians, these enormous structures are simply part of the scenery to most people who live near them.  Archeologists are concerned that the actions of people in these villages affect the pyramids themselves - and that their complacency about living at the base of the monuments will prevent them from changing habits that could damage the pyramids.  For example, part of the reason these monuments have endured the centuries so well is that Egypt's climate is extremely dry. The Aswan High Dam, constructed during the Nasser period, caused the levels of ground water to rise throughout Egypt, threatening the stability of ancient, Christian, and Islamic monuments.   Moisture in the bedrock is absorbed into the foundations of these monuments and weakens them, which can cause cracks to form in stone blocks and walls.  When villagers dump of waste water on the ground, it contributes to problems of ground saturation caused by the unnaturally high water table.  The American Research Center in Egypt, in conjunction with the US and Egyptian governments, is currently engaged in projects to drain ground water away from the foundations of endangered monuments and to reconstruct damaged walls and other structural elements.  See ARCE's web site for pictures and details of these reconstruction projects.

The pyramids are also threatened by the thousands of tourists that visit them.  Before 1997, an average of 5,000 tourists visited the Pyramid of Khufu every day.  The moisture from visitors' breath and sweat makes the air inside the pyramids extremely humid.  That moisture also permeates the walls, causing the internal stonework to crack.  Over the last few years, the Egyptian government closed each of the Gizan pyramids to mend cracks, install new ventilation systems, and allow them time to "dry out."  The Pyramid of Khufu was reopened in June, 1999, but the authorities will now only permit 300 visitors inside it each day.


Copyright 1999 Indira Falk Gesink

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