THE UNDERWATER SITE OF QAITBAY - METHODS AND TECHNIQUES

Drawing and moulding

Isabelle Hairy
May 2006
In this first stage of the study, we are gathering an image of the site that develops step by step as the exploration extends to the furthest corners. There are still numerous blocks hidden under the sand and under other blocks. We estimate they form some 30% of the quantity already registered. Thus, our observable data becomes more and more dense.
Alongside this work, specialists have begun to concentrate on certain remarkable blocks selected from the inventory. To provide a more in depth study, this time it has been necessary to increase the information describing each of these elements. In order to do this, the divers have turned to new activities: creating moulds of the inscriptions and decoration, and technical drawing of the details of blocks on all their surfaces.
The moulds present a precise image of texts that are difficult to read under water. In fact, it is impossible to imagine that they could be reproduced as a 1:1 scale drawing, as is the traditional practice on a land dig. Deciphering and reading these texts can tell us of the original provenance and sometimes the date of these blocks. The same goes for certain decoration. The study of the stylistics by specialists in ancient art allows for an identification that can lead, in the best of all cases, to a date.
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And while the study of inscriptions can also point to the eventual reassembly of a monument, as was the case with the obelisk of Seti I now exhibited in the open-air museum at Kom el Dikka (see “Exhibiting the Lifted Elements”), any form of reconstruction will, in all cases, require a technical drawing of the constituent parts of the assembly. The inscription itself, more than just being a simple text, can also be loaded with clues as to the date it was inscribed, just as an unmarked block can be revealing through the study of its geometry and surfaces.

We will see further on how these detailed observations allow us to explore through time and to locate the shadowy areas of this terra incognita.

 

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