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Lost LABYRINTH Of Egypt Scanned

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Author Topic: Lost LABYRINTH Of Egypt Scanned  (Read 8900 times)
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« Reply #30 on: September 30, 2008, 08:01:47 pm »

3 A History of the Hawara Site and Its Excavation

Before we move onto the modelling and dissemination of the online contents, let us brief on the study area. Hawara is a cemetery site in the southeastern Fayum region, about 80km south of present day Cairo. It is the burial place of Amenemhat III, the last great king of the 12th dynasty (about 1855-1808 BC). To the south of the pyramid the king constructed a large cult complex (approximately 120 metres by 300 metres), in which the king was worshipped as a god. The complex was most probably built in the second half of his reign, and seems to have been called Ankh-Amenemhat. After some 1500 years, king Amenemhat III was still attested as a god in the Fayum region, especially in Hawara and, during the period of Classical Antiquity, the cult complex of the king came to be known as the "Labyrinth" (Arnold 1980).

The Greek historian Herodotus, who visited the temple in the 5th century BC, described a building complex with three thousand rooms connected by winding passages. Later Strabo visited the temple about 25 BC and also described an amazing building. Pliny the Elder gives the longest report on the "Labyrinth" even though he never saw it himself and was probably mixing direct observations from other authors with his own imagination of what he thought a Labyrinth might be. Since Ptolemaic times, especially under the Romans, the complex was used as a quarry and hence has mostly disappeared (Lloyd 1970). In Late Antiquity, the complex was considered as one of the wonders of the world.

The Renaissance stimulated rising interest in Antiquity, and brought back into circulation classical authors such as Herodotus. As a result, once again people became interested in the Egyptian Labyrinth. The scholar Athanasius Kircher produced one of the first pictorial reconstructions, mainly based on the account in Herodotus. At the centre of his architecture drawing, Kircher placed a maze, most likely to have been inspired by Roman labyrinth mosaics, and surrounded it with the twelve courts described by Herodotus (Kern 1995: fig. 63).

Around 1840, the original Labyrinth site at Hawara was rediscovered by the Prussian expedition of Richard Lepsius (Lepsius 1849). Lepsius thought that the structures excavated by his team were parts of the temple of King Amenemhat III, but later research showed that they belonged to Roman tombs. Since the expedition of Lepsius, the place came to be known as a findspot for some high quality royal statues. In 1888, Flinders Petrie started to excavate at Hawara. The results of his work on the Labyrinth itself were disappointing for him. Since Roman times the whole building had been totally destroyed, and he was unable to recover any part of the complex. Sensationally though, he found a series of portrait panel paintings, depicting the local elite in the period of Roman rule (Petrie 1889, 1890). With these findings, he restored to classical art history a field that had been virtually unknown until then.

In 1911, Petrie returned to Hawara to excavate in the Labyrinth and to find more of the so-called Fayum portraits on the Roman Period mummies. As usual, Petrie published his results soon after his work and also depicted partial reconstructions of the complex within his volumes. These were still mainly based on the classical authors, and only few points depended on the little evidence he found for the original architecture (Petrie et al. 1912).

Since Petrie’s excavations in 1911, no official excavation has been carried out in the Labyrinth, though some shorter expeditions from the Antiquity Service have dug in the necropolis of Hawara. Apart from some short notes in Egyptological journals nothing has been published from these excavations. Only this year a Belgian mission began a survey of the site, which has already begun to produce more accurate information. This should advance the research by colleagues such as Dieter Arnold (Arnold 1979, 1980), Ingrid Blom-Boer (Blom-Boer 1989), and Eric Uphill (Uphill 2000), who have published much stimulating work on Hawara (Figure 1).
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