Excavations at the Mut Precinct in Luxor, Egypt

Posted on: 11 March 2024 by Elizabeth Thomas in 2024 blogs

Since 2018, the University of Liverpool in collaboration with the Johns Hopkins University, has been working in the southern part of the Temple of Mut in Luxor, Egypt. PhD student, Liz Thomas has had the amazing opportunity to join the Mut Temple Precinct Project during the 2023/24 season, through the AHRC NWCDTP’s Student Development Fund.

The chance to excavate in Egypt was one I could not miss! From dealing with the extreme heat in June during the summer season to the cold mornings on site in the winter, I was learning something new every day. Although I have experience excavating in other countries, things are done a little differently in Egypt, so my knowledge of this process has expanded tremendously from these two seasons alone.

The morning commute consisted of a delightful stroll on the West Bank at dawn, followed by a relaxing boat ride across the Nile River to the East Bank, where the dogs of the temple would greet us and escort us to the temple entrance every morning. The perfect way to start the day (even if it did begin at 4am in the summer)!

Joel Sams and Dr. Violaine Chauvet being escorted by the temple dogs.

Joel Sams and Dr. Violaine Chauvet being escorted by the temple dogs.

Once we arrived on site it was all hands-on deck for the rest of the day. You never knew what you were going to find so you had to be ready for anything. As trench supervisor, I had to keep track of and document all of the work that was happening and the artefacts coming out of the ground in my designated area. This was easier said than done when my Arabic is extremely limited however, I soon learnt key words that allowed me to work alongside the Guftis (Egyptian excavators). My task for the next year it to greatly improve my Egyptian Arabic!

Liz using the total station for survey.

Liz using the total station for survey.

The archaeology itself was amazingly complicated due to varying periods interconnecting on multiple levels. It felt like trying to complete three puzzles without all the pieces all at the same time which in contrast to how it sounds made it even more fun! Being a domestic setting, it was like we were digging up someone’s living room. It really made me think about how multiple spaces were used together and I realised how different our modern view of a ‘home’ is.

It is difficult to pick just one highlight from my time in Egypt but having the archaeological sites such as the Valley of the Kings and Karnak Temple on my doorstep was amazing. The opportunity to visit the sites that I had been studying for many years gave me an even deeper appreciation of the archaeology. A little tip: For an amazing view of Luxor temple, head to the top floor of the McDonalds opposite (not sponsored unfortunately). You won’t be disappointed!

Liz at the Ramesseum.

Liz at the Ramesseum