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.”