Dreams fulfilled beside the Nile
They haven’t been back long and their feelings are contradictory: joy at being back with their friends and families again, but already missing a country that captivated them. Behind them lie two-and-a-half months of intense but satisfying work. It was a unique experience and one they had dreamed of during years of studying at Malaga University. Few have the opportunity to experience first hand what it is like to excavate in the land of the legendary Nile and the excitement of finding a mummy or sarcophagus, as they did. Here, Belén Gutiérrez, Daniel González, Patricia Mogaburu and Marina Esteve talk of their experiences.
The four of them took part in the sixth programme of excavations organised by the Institute of Studies of Ancient Egypt, or IEAE, in Luxor, near the legendary Thebes. The Spanish archaeologists were set to work on the tomb of the Vizir Amen-Hotep Huy, who was vassal to the pharaoh Amenhotep IV, called Ajenaton, father of the famous Tutankhamen. Belén Gutiérrez received a grant from the Fundación Gaselec, the electricity company of Melilla which, like the Fundación 3M and HisdeSat, supports this project. Grants were also awarded from the Malaga companies Esirtu Grup and Malaga Segur Itesa. Through an agreement with the University, the students gain credits from their trip and are allocated work. The IEAE is headed by Egyptologists Francisco Martín and Teresa Bedman..
A magical experience
Belén Gutiérrez Bueno, 23, is a History graduate. “It was a unique experience and even though I had dreamed of this all my life, it completely exceeded my expectations; I feel very lucky to have had the opportunity to learn from two of the best Egyptologists in the world, Francisco and Teresa,” she says. She admits that the work in Egypt “is hard” because of the temperature and the geographical conditions but despite this “every day when you get up to go to work you are excited and you can’t wait to see what is going to happen; we were like a big family, and there were plenty of laughs. I was lucky to be there for two months because I got to know the whole team and I will remember this experience for the rest of my life,” she says.
Belén is passionate about mummies and from that point of view her experience in Egypt could not have been better: in the patio of the temple in which the team were excavating, more than 100 mummies were found. “Thanks to the help of Dr Ángel Serrano I am learning a great deal about them and I will be able to profile my preferences in Egyptology,” she explains.
Daniel González is already a veteran in the land of Thebes. In 2013 he took part in the excavation for the first time, with a grant from Gaselec. Last year he was able to travel thanks to a grant from Esirtu Group. “Even though I was there for the second time, my experience with this team was as satisfying as the first time,” he says, although last year the work he was involved in was different. “This time we spent a lot of time excavating the patio, and this made me realise that I still have a great deal to enjoy, to do and to learn as part of this project. Also, we were in Thebes, which is a fantastic setting,” he explains.
Marina Esteve, a 22-year-old History of Art student, fulfilled a dream by working in Egypt. “It was a magical experience, and exactly what I needed to confirm that I wanted to continue with my studies in Egyptology; it is a difficult path to take, but is very satisfying,” she says. “The work is hard but it is very rewarding, the Spanish team is wonderful and we were able to support each other and encourage each other to keep going,” she says. Her speciality within archaeology is physical anthropology, “so this country and especially our excavation is ideal because more than 100 mummies were discovered and I was able to learn from them,” she says.
Patricia Mogaburu is also studying history at Malaga University. “I found my vocation with this excavation, because after hours of digging, finding any sort of material from pharaonic Egypt gave me such a sense of satisfaction that I wish I could feel that way constantly in my life,” she explains. For her, “spending a month in Egypt has been one of the best experiences of my life because you are absorbed day after day. Although you are following a type of routine, every day is still an adventure within and outside the excavation.”
Patricia, who was the first to return because her grant was for a shorter period, also stresses her gratitude to Malaga University, because it has given her six credits and helped her financially, and to her colleagues and teachers. Her fellow students made it easier for her to come back and resume her classes with normality, and the teachers helped her with work and exams.
All these young people have returned with the reward of the discoveries they made and the hope of returning soon because, as they say, the ancient lands of Egypt captivate everyone who visits them.