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Back to Egypt's Sin City

What happens in the Hall of Drunkenness, stays in the Hall of Drunkenness ... or does it?

Archaeologist Betsy Bryan and her team of students and researchers from Johns Hopkins University are back at the Temple of Mut, within Egypt's Luxor dig, to delve more deeply into the sex and booze of ancient times - and you can follow their exploits over the Web.

Jay VanRensselaer / JHU
Egyptologist Betsy Bryan. left, talks

with a conservator among column

sections from the Temple of Mut's

Hall of Drunkenness.

Over the past six years, Bryan's online expeditions have documented 3,400-year-old rites at the temple that were conducted to appease the gods and give vent to some of the age-old animal impulses in the process. The highlights apparently involved getting drunk on barley beer, then "traveling through the marshes" (a euphemism for having sex), then passing out, then waking up the next morning for religious services.

Bryan was last at the temple site in January, and now she and her team have returned to continue their excavations of the Hall of Drunkenness, which served as party central for the annual festival during the reign of the pharaonic queen Hatshepsut. The dispatches from Luxor have just resumed, and the team is already hard at work conserving the hall's toppled columns.

This season's crew includes a stone mason, two artists who will train the three undergraduates who are participating, a conservator, volunteers and local workers. The artists and students are copying inscriptions found on the columns, and there are intriguing traces of wall paintings that are in the process of being cleaned up.

Will there be anything to equal last year's discovery of the monumental statue of Queen Tiy, who was King Tut's grandmother? Keep checking Johns Hopkins' Web site for the latest - and if you're hankering for more virtual excavations, click on over to Archaeology magazine's "Interactive Digs." Who knows? They just might whet your appetite to take on a real-life archaeological fieldwork opportunity