Connecticut College Magazine · Fall 2005


Mach Arom ´89: Rebuilding hope for Thai tsunami victims

Kathryn Bard ´68: Somewhere in Egypt

Who cares about Haiti?

Venturing into Iran: Beyond the warning

Gloria Hollister Anable ’24: Into the deep

Gaida Ozols Fuller ´74: Six months in Uganda

Sarah Trapido ´08: Going 13,000 miles on veggie oil

Yoko Shimada ´99: Fighting the war on AIDS in East Africa

The extra mile: Journeys that make a difference

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Kathryn Bard ´68: Somewhere in Egypt

Kathryn Bard ´68: Somewhere in Egypt
Kathryn Bard ´68 in her office at Boston University.

by Lisa Brownell

A band of Egyptian sailors sent by the king on an expedition to Punt, the “God’s Land” — somewhere in the southern Red Sea region, arrived on the sea coast. Digging into the shifting sand they made two caves, where they stored anchors, oars, rope, vessels of food at the end of the expedition. They also set up limestone tablets covered with hieroglyphics that mentioned their voyage. Then they covered everything up with sand and went away.

Four thousand years later, Kathryn Bard ’68, an associate professor of archaeology at Boston University, reached her hand into the excavated hillside and into a man-made cave. In a joint project sponsored by B.U. and University of Naples “L’Orientale,” Bard and co-leader Professor Rodolfo Fattovich also found a second much larger cave two days later, one that might have been created as a shrine or temple. After completing a partial excavation, and documenting one of the most important finds of its kind — the first intact parts of a seafaring vessel ever recovered in Egypt — the team did just what the sailors had done several millennia ago. They buried the cave entrances and departed, taking the secret of their location with them.

“I have been excavating at different sites since 1976, and prior to this, have found mostly broken pottery and stone tools,” says Bard, who feels rewarded by the significance of this latest find.

Whatever further secrets are hidden in the caves will have to wait, at least until this coming December. “I’m going back to Egypt just as soon as I finish grading blue books,” says Bard, a faculty member at B.U. since 1988. But a hundred or so blue books aren’t the only obstacle for her to surmount: there’s also the red tape, miles and miles of it.

All excavations in Egypt must be given clearance by the Supreme Council of Antiquities, a government agency. Archaeologists working on the Red Sea coast must obtain separate permissions from the Egyptian army, navy, coast guard, and air force. Additionally, they must have an armed guard with them at all times, a necessary precaution in an era of terrorism. All excavated materials are relinquished with due speed to the Supreme Council, just as soon as the archaeologists can document the finds — through notes, photographs and drawings.

When the team returns to their hidden caves at Wadi Gawasis, the site of the pharaonic port of Saww, they will bring along a nautical archaeologist, and Bard believes that they will be able to reconstruct an image of the entire 70-foot ship from what they have found to date. They’ll also bring an expert on wood, since the well-preserved timbers and steering oars are made from cedar.

“Cedar doesn’t grow in Egypt,” says Bard. It grows at 1,000 meters above sea level in what are now northwest Syria and Lebanon. The ancient timbers were taken by ship to the Egyptian Delta, and then up the Nile to Coptos, where there was a shipbuilding yard. Then the ships were disassembled. She recounts the explanation that was carefully inscribed on a limestone stele found at the location: the ship pieces were carried (on a 10-day trek) across the Eastern Desert to the Red Sea port of Saww by a huge expedition of over 3,700 men.

The pottery found in the second larger cave, next to two pieces of a ship’s steering oar, dates to the early New Kingdom. The only known seafaring expedition to Punt from this period was during the reign of Queen Hatshepsut, between 1473 and 1458 B.C.

“There are detailed reliefs of a naval expedition in her temple,” notes Bard, who is hoping that the apparent convergence of several lines of evidence will give her team a rare opportunity to link the finds in the cave with the larger timeline of Egyptian history.

When she was last interviewed for CC: Magazine in 1993, Bard was pictured up to her neck in a pit burial in Aksum, Ethiopia, a decade-long project funded by National Geographic that she completed three years ago. Prior to that she excavated at several sites in Upper Egypt. She earned the National Geographic Society’s Chairman’s Award for Exploration for her findings in Ethiopia and Egypt. “It’s what I’m most proud of in my career,” she says.

Bard was born in Boston but raised outside of Chicago. Among her schoolmates was none other than Hillary Clinton, she recalls. In addition to being inspired by the Field Museum, she also remembers going to her public library as a child and “checking out every single book they had on ancient Egypt.”

A fine arts major at Connecticut College, she made long-lasting friendships among both her classmates and faculty. (She visited many classmates this past summer, including one or two who had gotten in touch with her after seeing news stories about her find, which was reported in the media worldwide.) Bard earned an M.F.A. from Yale University’s School of Art in 1971 and two master’s degrees from the University of Michigan and the University of Toronto. About that time she took a year off to travel — an unforgettable trek from Cairo to Cape Town by train, boat, truck, bus, and car. In 1987, she was awarded a Ph.D. in Egyptian Archaeology from the University of Toronto.

Editor and compiler of the Encyclopedia of the Archaeology of Ancient Egypt, published in 1999, she is in the final stages of revisions of another major work, An Introduction to the Archaeology of Ancient Egypt, to be published next year by Blackwells Publishing in Oxford, UK.

Undeterred by scorpions, terrorists, and sandstorms, Bard has no plans to retire. “If anything, my research interests have expanded with this latest find. I just want to keep on doing what I am doing for as long as possible.”

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