The ancient temple complex Medinet Habu has survived for thousands of years in the arid desert climate. But in the 100 years since the Oriental Institute’s (OI) Epigraphic Survey first arrived in nearby Luxor, Egypt, things have changed. Temple floors have become muddier, salt crystals have formed on stone monuments and ancient foundations have slowly turned back into sand.
Egyptologist Brett McClain has been part of the Epigraphic Survey since 1998. Each year from April to October, the Survey’s team members return to the Chicago House in Luxor to record inscriptions found on nearby ancient sites.
Every year researchers find more evidence of a looming threat faced by these historical monuments: climate change.
“By the 1990s, we were really beginning to see the effects of the environmental transformation of Egypt,” said McClain, the Survey’s interim director. “We realized that it was our responsibility to the monuments that we were working on not just to record them, but to restore and preserve them physically.”
The team hopes to mitigate damage caused by a combination of human intervention and climate change. With the aid of grant funding from USAID Egypt, the OI has led the restoration of three free-standing structures in Medinet Habu that were in danger of collapse. Restoration of the first gate was completed in 2017, while two other monuments will be completed this spring.