Founded in 1948, the American Research Center in Egypt (ARCE) is a private, nonprofit organization composed of educational and cultural institutions, professional scholars, and private individuals. ARCE's mission is to support research on all aspects of Egyptian history and culture, foster a broader knowledge about Egypt among the general public, and strengthen AmericanEgyptian cultural ties. Over the past 72 years, ARCE has served as a powerful force for conservation, education, and historical research within Egypt.
ARCE’s archival and library collections cover 7,000 years of Egyptian history, including prehistoric, Pharaonic, Coptic, Islamic, and more contemporary materials. ARCE’s Archives include institutional records recording the activities of ARCE throughout the years, as well as documentation of projects facilitated by ARCE to protect cultural sites in Egypt. ARCE’s conservation efforts are housed within the ARCE Conservation Archives at the organization’s Cairo Center, which serves as a resource for researchers interested in the dynamics of preserving Egyptian cultural heritage. The Cairo Center also contains the Marilyn M. and William Kelly Simpson Library , which boasts more than forty thousand volumes in multiple languages (and is now searchable through the online catalogue).
The Conservation Archives
Beginning in the early 1990s with support from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), ARCE engaged in vital conservation work at monuments and sites throughout Egypt, leading to a unique collection of material documenting conservation projects that constitute the ARCE Conservation Archives. In total, the Conservation Archives includes 79 collections, each documenting a different project conducted in Egypt.
The Conservation Archives covers a wide range of Egyptian history spanning over 7,000 years. Geographically and historically diverse, the projects include Pharaonic, Coptic, Islamic, and other Egyptian cultural heritage sites of significance. Some examples include Theban tombs TT50, TT69, and TT110, the Roman Wall Paintings at Luxor Temple, The Red Monastery, and the Bab Zuwayla monument in Historic Cairo. Project work includes conservation and archaeological field training, structural preservation, wall paintings conservation, and historical and archaeological documentation.
Each collection contains photographic and written material including 35mm and 120mm color and black & white slides, born-digital images, technical reports, and various grant-related documentation, in addition to a select number of project artifacts and architectural drawings. There are around 70,000 photographic slides, 200,000 images, 1,200 documents, 1,000 drawings, as well as a small selection of artifacts and multimedia content.
In 2015, ARCE began a partnership with the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) to digitize, describe, and publish content from the Conservation Archives. During the first phase of this partnership, ARCE and UCLA worked together to publish two archival collections in UCLA’s International Digital Ephemera Project (IDEP): the Luxor Roman Wall Paintings and the Tomb of Anen collections. In 2019, ARCE was awarded an National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) Foundations Grant for Humanities Collections and Reference Resources to publish an additional three collections and build a new ARCE web portal to showcase these collections.
The ARCE Archives website launched in Fall 2020 with five collections from the Conservation Archives. The online archives includes the two projects previously published on the IDEP site, the Conservation of the Tomb of Anen in the Theban Necropolis, and the Conservation of the Roman Wall Paintings in Luxor Temple, and three additional projects: the Conservation of Aslam al-Silahdar mosque in Historic Cairo, the Architectural Conservation at the Red Monastery in Sohag, Egypt, and the Preservation of the Funerary Enclosure of King Khasekhemwy (Shunet el-Zebib) in Abydos. ARCE is currently seeking out additional funding to digitize and publish the remainder of the collections in the Conservation Archives.
The Conservation Archives is housed in the ARCE Cairo Center within our Archives room. In addition to the records available through the Archives website, all materials in the physical archives are freely accessible in-person through an appointment or through consultation with the Archives staff. Scheduling an appointment with the Archives staff is the best way to plan a visit. To schedule an appointment, email firstname.lastname@example.org. All materials in the Conservation Archives are available for free, and ARCE membership status does not impact a researcher’s access to material.
The Archives is open during working hours, 8:30AM – 4:30PM on Sunday through Thursday. The Archives is closed for weekends (Fridays and Saturdays) as well as all official American and Egyptian holidays. Ramadan may also affect working hours.
2 Midan Símon Bolívar (Qasr al-Dubara)
Cairo, Egypt 11461
Phone: +20 2 2794-8239
Conservation of the Tomb of Anen in the Theban Necropolis
Project Director: Lyla Pinch-Brock
Historic Era: New Kingdom
Project Location: Luxor
October 2002 – January 2003
Located on necropolis of the West Bank of Luxor, the tomb of Anen belonged to an ancient Egyptian priest who served under the reign of Amenhotep III. Over time, the tomb had deteriorated and the roof caved in, filling the tomb with rubble and subjecting the wall paintings to light, heat, and water damage, as well as looters. This project, sponsored by the Royal Ontario Museum, was to conserve and protect the tomb of Anen (TT120), as well as the paintings inside.
In addition to stabilizing and reinforcing the walls of the tomb, the conservators mechanically
cleaned the reliefs with brushes and scalpels and repaired the mission sections through re-adhered
fragments with special mortar. Paintings that had been damaged or removed were restored,
mimicking an ancient painting technique where craftsmen sketched the relief images in red ink
before filling them with color. The team also constructed a protective display box over the restored
wall reliefs to protect them from human or environmental damage and built a series of low slanted
walls along the top edges of the tomb to divert rainwater.
Read more about the conservation of the Tomb of Anen.
Statement of Responsibility:
The American Research Center in Egypt (ARCE) managed the implementation of the conservation of the tomb of Anen in the Theban Necropolis in cooperation with the Egyptian Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities (formerly the Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquities). Lyla Pinch-Brock, co-director of the Royal Ontario Theban Tombs Project based in Toronto, Canada, served as director of the project, aided by conservator Ewa Paradonwska and architect Nicholas Warner. Photographs were taken by Edwin C. Brock and Francis Dzikowski.
Conservation of the monument was funded through the American Research Center in Egypt's Egyptian Antiquities Project (ARCE-EAP) under United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Grant No. 263-G-00-93-00089-00 (formerly 263-0000-G-00-308900).
Conservation of the Roman Wall Paintings in Luxor Temple
Project Director: Michael Jones
Historic Era: Roman Period
Project Location: Luxor
October 2005 – December 2008
Luxor Temple was one of the most important political and religious sites during Egypt’s Pharaonic period. During the Roman era, parts of the temple were converted into cult chapels and churches. This project was initiated to clean and conserve valuable Roman wall paintings at the Luxor Temple. The paintings adorn the late 3rd century AD Roman legionary shrine, from the reign of Diocletian, within the Luxor Temple. The murals were painted in fresco on lime plaster by a group of exceptionally skilled artists who were probably attached to Diocletian's imperial court.
Project Director Michael Jones and conservators Luigi De Cesaris and Alberto Sucato worked in collaboration with Chicago House and the Luxor office of the Ministry of Antiquities. Conservation work on the Roman wall paintings was carried out for three full seasons. The project highlighted and addressed two important issues: the tragic loss of much of the historicallyimportant Roman paintings since John Gardner Wilkinson documented them in the mid-19th century; and the dilemma of how to preserve the paintings in the future after the cleaning and conservation with an intrusive shelter without compromising the temple.
Statement of Responsibility:
Amenhotep III was responsible for constructing the greater part of the present Luxor Temple around 1400 BC. Under Diocletian, Emperor of Rome, 245-313 AD, the first Tetrarchy transformed the temple site, including one of the temple’s offering halls into what is now known as the imperial cult chamber. In the 2000s, the American Research Center in Egypt (ARCE), with the support of the Egyptian Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities (formerly the Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquities), conducted several site visits to Luxor to extensively document the grounds and undertake conversation efforts for the Roman frescoes present in that chamber.
Conservation of the monument was funded through the American Research Center in Egypt's Egyptian Antiquities Conservation Project (ARCE-EAC) United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Agreement No. 263-A-00-04-00018-00.
Conservation of the Mosque of Aslam al-Silahdar in Darb al-Ahmar, Cairo
Project Director: Aga Khan Trust for Culture & Christophe Bouleau
Historic Era: Islamic Period (Mamluk)
Project location: Cairo Governorate
June 2005 – March 2009
The mosque of Aslam al-Silahdar was built in 1344 by a Mamluk prince and features jewel-toned inlaid marble and glittering glass mosaics. The American Research Center in Egypt (ARCE) and the Aga Khan Trust for Culture (AKTC) carried out the comprehensive conservation of the monument directed by Christophe Bouleau. ARCE and skilled laborers from the surrounding neighborhood worked on the structural and aesthetic conservation of the mosque.
Repairs first began on the exterior of the mosque and the interior was used as a workspace to clean and conserve smaller movable components like doors, wooden paneling, metal grilles, and windows. A geotechnical survey assessed the mosque’s structural stability and cleaning and documentation work began on the exterior façades, roof, dome, and minaret. A new ablution was also constructed to replace the original one, which had posed a conservation risk to the mosque due to water leakage.
The team removed and replaced decayed stones and cleaned the minaret and dome with micro
sandblasting. They replaced the wooden roofing and then carefully insulated against the weather
and moisture. Inside the mosque, the project plastered and repainted walls, installed new windows,
and conserved and reinstalled original inlaid doors and wooden paneling. Cracks in the walls were
consolidated and new brickwork fitted where necessary to reinforce the walls and fill gaps. Finally,
conservators cleaned and fully restored all of the mosque’s stunning gypsum and stucco
decorations to their original vibrancy.
Read more about the conservation of Aslam al-Silahdar.
Statement of Responsibility:
The conservation of the Aslam al-Silahdar mosque was managed and implemented by the Aga Khan Trust for Culture (AKTC) with the support of the American Research Center in Egypt (ARCE) and the Egyptian Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities (formerly the Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquities).
Conservation of the monument was funded through the American Research Center in Egypt's Egyptian Antiquities Conservation Project (ARCE-EAC) under United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Agreement No. 263-A-00-04-00018-00, the Aga Khan Trust for Culture (AKTC), and the U.S. Ambassador's Fund for Cultural Preservation.
Red Monastery Architectural Conservation
Project Director: Nicholas Warner
Historic Era: Byzantine
Project Location: Sohag Governorate
January 2015 – December 2018
The Red Monastery Church conservation project is one of ARCE’s longest and most successful endeavors in preservation. Architectural conservation and site presentation work was carried out at the Red Monastery Church under the supervision of Michael Jones and Nicholas Warner. The work was executed by Nicholas Warner with his team of local, skilled craftsmen.
Among the tasks completed were: installation of new limestone paving and a new electrical
network with LED lighting throughout the church; installation of new wooden doors and
cupboards; replacement of sections of timber damaged by termites; roofing work; re-erection of
fallen columns in the nave; installation of displays of archaeological finds; installation of a new
altar in the sanctuary; and repair and conservation of the interior and exterior of the tower
adjacent to the church.
Read more about the architectural conservation at the Red Monastery.
Statement of Responsibility:
The American Research in Egypt (ARCE) managed the implementation of the architectural conservation of the Red Monastery in Sohag, Egypt, led by Michael Jones and architect Nicholas Warner. Conservation work was supported by the Egyptian Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities (formerly the Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquities).
Conservation of the monument was funded through the American Research Center in Egypt's Cultural Heritage Tourism Project in Egypt (Annual Program Statement) United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Agreement No. 263-A-15-00007.
Documentation and Conservation of the Funerary Monument of King Khasekhemwy at Abydos
Project Directors: David O’Connor and Matthew D. Adams
Historic Era: Early Dynastic Period
Project Location: Sohag Governorate
1999 – 2006 and 2010 – 2014
The funerary monument of King Khasekhemwy in Abydos is also known as the Shunet el-Zebib. Little is known about King Khasekhemwy, the last king of the Second Dynasty, but his reign ended in 2686 BC, making Shunet el-Zebib among the oldest surviving mud brick structures in the world and the best example of Egypt’s earliest tradition of royal mortuary building. Funding from the Egyptian Antiquities Project (EAP) between 1999 and 2006 resulted in documentation and conservation of approximately 50% of the 200-meter perimeter using newly made mud bricks of the same size and originally sourced materials to re-establish structural integrity.
Follow-up funding provided under a subsequent USAID grant in 2010 enabled team members to continue with the stabilization and conservation of the enclosure, parts of which still risked collapse. The precarious situation at the Shunet el-Zebib was evidenced by its inclusion in the World Monuments Fund’s 2008 Watch List of the World’s 100 Most Endangered Sites.
Statement of Responsibility:
The conservation and documentation of King Khasekhemwy’s Funerary Monument at Abydos was implemented by the Institute of Fine Arts, New York University, led by David O’Connor, Director, and Matthew Douglas Adams, Associate Director, under the auspices of the University of Pennsylvania Museum-Yale University-Institute of Fine Arts, New York University Expedition to North Abydos, Egypt (William Kelly Simpson and David O’Connor, Co-directors) and in collaboration with consultants William C.S. Remsen (International Preservation Associates, Inc.), Anthony Crosby (Architectural Conservation, LLC), and Conor Power (Structural Technology, Inc.). Conservation work was made possible with the support of the Egyptian Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities (formerly the Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquities).
Conservation of the monument was originally funded through the American Research Center in Egypt's Egyptian Antiquities Project (ARCE-EAP) under United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Agreement No. 263-G-00-93-00089-00 (1999-2006) and subsequently funded through ARCE's Egyptian Antiquities Conservation Project (ARCE-EAC) under USAID Agreement No. 263-A-00-04-00018-00 (2010-2012).
Akhenaten Talatat Project Conservation in the Pennsylvania Magazine, Luxor
Project Director: Dr. Jocelyn Gohary
Assistant Project Director: Dr. Rawya Ismail
Historic era: New Kingdom, 18th dynasty
Project Location: Luxor
October 2008 - December 2012
Talatat blocks, possibly derived from the Arabic word talata meaning “three,” measure roughly three handspans long. Characterized by their Amarna style and smaller size compared to conventional building blocks, they are the result of King Akhenaten’s (1352-1336 BC) goal to urgently erect religious buildings for his “new supreme god” Aten, first in Thebes (ancient Luxor) and later the new city of Akhetaten in Middle Egypt. The talatat blocks were first discovered in the late 19th century and increasingly excavated from then onwards. There are currently approximately 60,000 known blocks, believed to be only a fraction of what exists.
The largest repository of talatat blocks resides in the Pennsylvania Magazine in the Karnak Temple complex in Luxor. The Magazine is directly adjacent to the west wall of the Khonsu Temple and stores approximately 16,000 blocks, the majority of which are sandstone (with a few limestone examples). Used to construct temples for the god Aten, the blocks were subsequently dismantled by Akhenaten’s successors, who reused them in other structures. Previously, from the late 1960s to the mid-1970s, the blocks were photographed and documented in situ by Akhenaten Temple Project staff, under the auspices of the Penn Museum (also referred to as the University Museum, Pennsylvania).
From 2008 to 2012, the American Research Center in Egypt (ARCE) Akhenaten Talatat Project Conservation staff cleaned, conserved, photographed, and recorded approximately 16,000 talatat blocks in the Magazine. The blocks had sustained damage which included dangerously leaning stacks; collapsed stacks; dust and bird droppings due to gaps in the roof; hornets’ nests and damage caused by animal burrowing. Matjaž Kačičnik photographed the preliminary conditions of the 28 stacks in the Magazine before project staff proceeded with removing, cleaning, and conserving blocks; some of the shattered blocks were reassembled with steel pins. Documentation included the use of digital photography and database recording. After structural interventions that addressed damage incurred from animal activity and dust accumulation, the blocks were re-stored in the Pennsylvania Magazine.
Statement of Responsibility:
The American Research Center in Egypt (ARCE) managed the implementation of the Akhenaten Talatat Project Conservation. The project’s objective was to clean, conserve, photograph, and record approximately 16,000 talatat blocks found in the Pennsylvania Magazine, a result of King Akhenaten’s reign. Dr. Jocelyn Gohary directed the project with assistant director Dr. Rawya Ismail, and conservation work was made possible with the support of the Egyptian Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities (formerly the Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquities).
Conservation of the Akhenaten Talatat blocks in the Pennsylvania Magazine was funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Agreement No. 263-A-00-04-00018-00 under the Egyptian Antiquities Project (EAP), and through the administration and facilitation of the American Research Center in Egypt (ARCE).
- FileMaker Database Publication: An integral component of this conservation project’s documentation efforts included the creation of a FileMaker database comprising 17,794 entries. Developed by Dr. Gohary and Dr. Ismail in conjunction with ARCE’s I.T. manager, Mr. Zakaria Yacoub, this database contains information based on a standardized Egyptological and conservation survey and is yet to be published.
- For further information on the database, please refer to the final report (filename: arce_ca_atp_finalreport2012.pdf) included in the Akhenaten Talatat Project Conservation collection. Researchers looking to access the database can arrange an in-person appointment upon request.
- Environmental Conditions in the Pennsylvania Magazine: Information from the data logger, measured between December 2008 and September 2009, recording the temperature (measured in °C) and relative humidity (RH %) of the Magazine is available upon request.
The Conservation and Documentation of the Tomb Chapel of Menna (TT 69)
Project Director: Dr. Melinda Hartwig
Historic era: New Kingdom, 18th Dynasty
Project Location: Luxor
The Tomb of Menna, Theban Tomb number 69, is located in the Theban necropolis of Sheikh Abd el-Qurna in Luxor, Upper Egypt. The rock-cut tomb is famous for the completeness and superb quality of the paintings that adorn its walls. Structurally, the tomb chapel takes the form of an inverted T, with a forecourt, broad hall, and inner hall leading to a statue shrine. The painted decoration is organized symbolically along a central axis that reflected the deceased’s transition from the land of the living in the east to the land of the dead in the west. As such, the walls in the broad hall are concerned primarily with the official duties and celebrations of Menna’s life, while the walls in the long hall depict scenes of his transition to and life in the hereafter.
Menna was an elite official recognized and honored by King Amenhotep III with the Gold of Honor collar, a collar of golden disc-shaped beads, which he wears in most scenes. Menna’s official titles reveal that he was a Scribe, and Overseer of the Fields of the Lord of Two Lands and the Temple of Amun. These titles indicate that Menna administered both state and temple fields, which was an unusual occurrence in the 18th Dynasty. The Broad Hall Near Left wall, abbreviated as BHNL, is also known as the “Agricultural Wall,” and depicts some of Menna’s official responsibilities. Menna’s wife, Henuttawy, appears alongside him on most of the tomb’s walls and bore the titles of “Chantress of Amun” and “Mistress of the House.” Also notable is the intentional damage inflicted on Menna’s likeness in an act of damnatio memoriae, and later destruction to the name of Amun by the agents of Akhenaten.
The project, directed by Dr. Melinda Hartwig, set an unprecedented standard for the conservation and non-invasive documentation of ancient Egyptian tombs. Dr. Hartwig led an interdisciplinary team of experts that undertook the conservation, archaeometric examination, and digital recording of the tomb. The project resulted in an invaluable collection of high-resolution, digital images that were stitched together to create an exact copy of the tomb walls, which were then traced as vector drawings to create line drawings of the decoration. The collection also includes reports, slides, and digital images shot with raking light and ultraviolet light.
Statement of Responsibility:
The Conservation and Documentation of the Tomb Chapel of Menna (TT 69) project was implemented by Dr. Melinda Hartwig, a professor at Georgia State University, from 2007-2009. The project’s objective was the conservation, archaeometric examination, and digital recording of the painted tomb chapel of Menna, to set a precedent for non-invasive methods of analysis. Dr. Hartwig worked with an interdisciplinary team of conservators, digital specialists, Egyptologists, and scientists, with the support of Georgia State University and the Egyptian Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities (formerly the Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquities).
The conservation of the Tomb of Menna was made possible with funding by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Agreement No. 263-A-00-04-00018-00 and administered by the Egyptian Antiquities Conservation Project (EAC) Agreement No. EAC-11-2007 of the American Research Center in Egypt (ARCE). The Interuniversity Attraction Poles Program provided additional financial support.
Amenemweskhet: Menna’s eldest daughter, a lady-in-waiting in the royal court as indicated by the crown she wears in her depictions.
Ankh: Hieroglyph and decorative device symbolizing “life”.
Braziers: A metal or pottery container used for burning. It was often used for rituals to burn offerings.
Cavetto cornice: Often referred to as an “Egyptian cornice”, an architectural feature, a cornice of concave molding.
Censer: An incense burner, usually used for offerings.
Djed pillar: Depicted in the tomb on the niche wall, in Egyptian hieroglyphs it symbolizes stability. It is also associated with the gods, Ptah and Osiris.
Duamutef: One of the Four Sons of Horus who protected the organs of the dead, Duamutef safeguarded the stomach.
E. Mckay: Ernest Mckay, a British archaeologist who restored the tomb in 1913, sought to reassemble the fragments that had broken away from the Broad Hall Far Left wall (BHFL) after the ceiling fell. He reaffixed the fragments using mud plaster, however, many were misplaced.
False-door Stela: A painted stela, enclosed in the frame of a painted false door, often found in ancient Egyptian Theban tombs.
Frieze: A horizontal band of sculpted or painted decoration found near the ceiling. In the tomb, it is usually a painted decorative frieze of repeated lotus flower petals.
Gleaners: Depicted on Broad Hall Near Left (BHNL), also known as the Agricultural Wall. The definition of the word refers to an individual who gathers small pieces such as grain left by harvesters in the field.
Gold of Honor: a collar of golden disks or beads presented by the king in recognition of an official in high office that related to the king and his royal holdings.
Hapy: One of the Four Sons of Horus who protected the organs of the dead, Hapy safeguarded the lungs.
Henuttawy: Menna’s wife, who held the title of “Chantress of Amun” and “Mistress of the House”, the latter title suggests that she came into the marriage with property.
Imentet (Goddess of the West): The patron deity of the Theban Necropolis, Imentet, means “West.”
Imsety: One of the Four Sons of Horus who protected the organs of the dead, Imsety protected the liver.
Kasy: Youngest daughter of Menna.
Kha: Menna’s second son, who was a wab-priest. In all of his representations on the wall, his body and head are shaved to conform to priestly requirements of ritual purity.
Libation: ritual pouring of liquid.
Lotus (symbolism): symbolized the regeneration of life, or rebirth.
Ma’at: Ma’at was the goddess of truth, justice, and order. The pedestal hieroglyph for “truth” and “justice” on which the Osiris sits enthroned.
Menit: A beaded necklace sacred to the goddess Hathor, imbued with her healing power.
Menna: The owner of the tomb, he was recognized by the king and a holder of a high office. His titles indicate that he was a royal scribe and overseer of the fields belonging to the king and the temple of Amun.
Nehemet: Daughter of Menna. a lady-in-waiting in the royal court as indicated by the crown she wears in her depictions. She may have predeceased her sisters.
Nemset jar: A type of jar used for ritual libation.
Netjerty adze: An object held to the deceased’s mouth to open it ritually, used in the Opening of the Mouth ceremony
Opening of the Mouth: a ceremony or ritual to restore the deceased’s vital functions.
Osiris: The god of the afterlife, associated with the dead, resurrection, and vegetation.
Qebehsenuef: One of the Four Sons of Horus who protected the organs of the dead, Qebhsenuef safeguarded the intestines.
Re-Horakhty: The falcon-headed sun god, usually depicted with a sun disk on his head. His name means “Re (is) Horus of the Horizon.”
Se: Menna’s first son, and a grain scribe of Amun.
Sekhem staff: A staff that symbolizes authority.
Sem priest: Depicted wearing leopard skin, the sem-priest was a mortuary priest who was concerned with the deceased’s transition into the afterlife, such as the ceremony of the Opening of the Mouth.
Sistrum: A Hathoric instrument used by female temple musicians, who rattled it to appease the gods.
Wab-priest: meaning “pure one”, an entry-level temple priest who is depicted completely shaven.
Valley Festival (Beautiful Festival of the Western Valley): A processional ancestor festival held annually in the Theban Necropolis during which relatives celebrated their dead ancestors in their tomb chapels. Menna’s tomb, TT 69, is oriented towards one of the festival processional routes.
Voyage to Abydos: A pilgrimage to Abydos, the holy city of Osiris, the god of the afterlife. Every Egyptian desired to make the voyage in life; in death, it could be absorbed into the funerary ceremony as the journey the mummy or statue of the deceased took from the east bank to the western necropolis