Introduction & A Brief History:
The University of Memphis (http://memphis NULL.edu)’s Karnak Great Hypostyle Hall Project (http://memphis NULL.edu/hypostyle) (KGHHP) is a collaborative effort between Egyptian, American, French & Canadian research teams funded by grants from the The National Endowment for the Humanities (http://neh NULL.gov) (NEH), the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (http://sshrc-crsh NULL.gc NULL.ca) (SSHRCC) and the American Research Center in Egypt (http://arce NULL.org) (ARCE).
Karnak’s Hypostyle Hall columns and their inscriptions have been known about since antiquity and recorded many times over, however an exact epigraphic (http://en NULL.wikipedia NULL.org/wiki/Epigraphy) survey and publication of the scenes in their entirety has as of yet, not been successfully undertaken. This is due in large part to the difficulty of photographing columns without distortion. As you can imagine, taking photographs of curved objects and then flattening them is difficult!
In 2008, French laser scan data sets, know-how, and programs allowed the first real survey attempts, and members of a CFTEEK (http://cfeetk NULL.cnrs NULL.fr) team successfully photographed all of the columns for conservation purposes. Unfortunately the quality of the photographs prevented them from being used for epigraphy.
The KGHHP column photography uses technology developed by Institut Géographique National (http://ignfi NULL.fr) (IGN) cartographer Yves Egels (http://yves NULL.egels NULL.free NULL.fr), with the assistance of Centre National de la Recherché Scientifique (http://cnrs NULL.fr) (CNRS) member Emmanuel Larose (http://orient-mediterranee NULL.com/spip NULL.php?article1409&lang=fr). As a former ARCE photographer, I (http://portfolio NULL.ommphoto NULL.ca/about/) bring a photographic knowledge set and experience to take as well-lit, high resolution photographs as possible. Combined with Yves’s technology the results are pretty incredible: photogrammetrically accurate photo-déroules of the columns with pixel to millimetre accuracy.
Although a few of the columns will be photographed in entirety, the most important and unique parts are the scenes inscribed on them from the reigns of Seti I, Ramses II and Ramses IV. If you’re visiting this site following the information board QR code this is what you have seen (or are watching) me do. After all of the photographs of these scenes have been taken and processed they will serve as the foundation for an accurate epigraphic survey. They will published both in print and online and available for research purposes via Peter Brand (http://memphis NULL.edu/history/bios/bio_brand NULL.htm) at the University of Memphis and Jean Revez (http://uqam NULL.academia NULL.edu/JeanRevez) at the University of Quebec in Montreal (http://uqam NULL.ca) (UQAM). They will also be published in a coffee table book and as a series of limited edition prints.
A Few Facts:
• Our work wouldn’t be possible without the permission and help of the Egyptian Ministry State of Antiquities (MSA), director of Karnak Temple, Abdel Laziz, and a cadre of Karnak inspectors: Peter, Bahaa, Wahlid, Mahmoud & Haggag.
• I have a crew of 6 dedicated workers with experience in Karnak Temple: Raiese Mahmoud, Haggag, Mahmoud, Hassani, Hamada and Farouk. Without their help I wouldn’t be able to photography anything!
• There were originally 134 columns in the Hypostyle Hall. Of those, 3 are missing and 2 have been destroyed to their bases leaving 129 columns in total.
• There are 12 large columns standing 29 m (96 ft) tall, and 117 small columns standing 13.5 m (45 ft) tall.
• The large columns are roughly 10 m (32ft) in circumference, and the small columns are roughly 8 m (26 ft) in circumference.
• Each column typically has three scenes inscribed from the reigns of Seti I, Ramses II and Ramses IV. However, not all columns are complete!
• In total there are 286 small column, and 36 large column scenes. Currently 174 small column scenes have been photographed. (*Note: As of Mar/30/2015, all 286 small column scenes have been photographed.)
• Rectification is the process of removing distortion and flattening the photos on a 2-Dimensional plane while retaining their proper proportions.
In order to photograph the columns completely they are divided into 16 segments or points. A series of 7 photographs in a row from the top to the bottom of each scene is taken from each of the 16 points. On the small columns 8 metres in circumference this means every 1/2 metre. The photographs have roughly 1/3 to 1/2 overlap between them and are taken as flush to the column as possible. Because of the power of the rectification software they are taken handheld, allowing for quick movement.
An aluminum scaffolding array of 4 levels on wheels is aligned to each of the 16 points and levelled to the column. The scaffolding plank is lowered incrementally to match the position of each of the 7 photos in the row. Large pieces of frosted plastic are hung from the back and sides of the scaffolding and used to diffuse direct sunlight. This creates the atmosphere of a giant lightbox which helps light the columns in addition to a photo studio strobe light.
The photographs are taken with a professional DSLR, using a fixed 28mm lens. In order to photograph the column scenes with even lighting, a studio strobe fired through a lightbox is placed a 1/2 meter above the top of each scene. The intensity (wattage) of the strobe is adjusted to maintain as even as lighting as possible for each photograph in the row.
After the photographs have been uploaded and adjusted, they are exported as high resolution jpegs. These jpegs are assembled using programs written by Yves Egels to specifically rectify and align each of 112 photographs into one photogrammetrically accurate photo-déroule of the entire column. More information on this process can be found on Yves’s blog (http://sfpt NULL.fr/parchi/ ) and via the Ecole Nationale des Sciences Géographiques (http://ensg NULL.eu) publication, Close-range Photogrammetry for Architecture. The rectified and properly aligned photographs are then merged and blended together and exported as a high resolution tiff file. The tiff file is level-adjusted and checked for epigraphic and photographic (lighting) consistency.
A Few More Facts:
• Each small column has 112 individual photographs blended together to make one entire déroule of that column.
• It takes roughly 10 minutes per point to adjust the scaffolding and take the photographs for that point, so each column takes roughly 2.5 hrs to photograph.
• In one day, I can generally photograph 2 small columns.
Though I haven’t had the opportunity to photograph the large column scenes that’s soon to follow. Tests will be done at the end of this season and with any luck, next season will be devoted to their photography.
For more information about the Karnak Great Hypostyle Hall Project, the history of the hypostyle hall and epigraphic documentation click here (http://memphis NULL.edu/hypostyle).