17th Season Report: January 16 th – February 24 th
The Supreme Council of Antiquities in Cairo has been extremely helpful in every way, and we are most grateful to the Minister of State Antiquities, Dr. Khaled El Anani, to the General Director of Antiquities of Egypt, Dr. Mustafa Wasiri, and to Dr. Mohamed Ismail Khaled, Secretary of Permanent Committee and Foreign Missions Affairs. In Luxor, as it has happened every year, the authorities responsible of the Supreme Council of Antiquities have been most helpful, in particular Mohamed Abedel-Aziz, General Director of Antiquities in Upper Egypt; to General Director of Antiquities in Luxor, Taalat Abdel-Aziz; to Fathy Yasin, Director of the Antiquities Department in the West Bank; to Baha Abdel Yaber, Manager of the West Bank, Qurna; and to Ramadan Ahmed Ali, Manager of all missions on the West Bank.
We have had this season as SCA Inspector Ahmed Tayib. He has been at the same time strict and vigilant, as well as most helpful and cooperative, and we are very grateful to him for this.
Rais Ali Farouk El-Quiftauy, as in years before, has played an important role in the success of our work. He organizes the workmen perfectly well, and has a great sensibility for archaeology, for the conservation of the objects found and the structures unearthed. It is thanks to his involvement and energy that we have been able to accomplish our goals.
We have employed about 100 workmen. They have all worked very hard and with great care, and we are more than satisfied with their job.
Two Egyptian restorers have joined the team this season: Mohamed Yaad and Mohamed Ahmed Salam. They are excellent professionals, and have been most helpful and efficient. They have been engaged mostly in the cleaning of façade and entrance to Djehuty’s tomb-chapel (TT 11), carefully removing the mud from the surface, filling in the cracks, and consolidating the areas that were about to fall down.
The field season has been sponsored mainly by (1) the Spanish Ministry of Culture, (2) Técnicas Reunidas, a Spanish Engeneering company, (3) Indra, a computer technology company, (4) Palarq Foundation for palaeonthology and archaeology.
Dra Abu el-Naga is the modern name of the hill that rises on the West Bank at the northern end of the necropolis associated with the ancient city of Thebes, which coincides with modern Luxor. A Spanish mission has been working at the foothill of the central area of Dra Abu el-Naga since January 2002, inside and around the rock-cut tomb-chapels of Djehuty and Hery (TT 11-12).
Hery lived at the very beginning of the Eighteenth Dynasty, under King Ahmose, and probably died under his successor, King Amenhotep I. He could have been related to the royal family through his mother, Ahmes, who is referred to in her son’s monument as “adornment(?) of the king.” Hery’s administrative title mentioned in his tomb-chapel is “overseer of the granaries of the king’s mother and royal wife Ahhotep.” It must have been a relevant position since Queen Ahhotep ruled de facto as king for about twenty years at the very beginning of the 18th Dynasty. The inner walls of his funerary monument, TT 12, were entirely decorated in high quality relief, being one of the very few decorated tomb-chapels that is preserved of this time period, c. 1510 BC.
Djehuty lived about fifty years later, c. 1460 BC. In the peak of his administrative career as scribe, he acted as “overseer of the Treasury” and “overseer of the works” carried out by the craftsmen and metal workers for Queen Hatshepsut, who also ruled as king for about the same lapse of time as Ahhotep. Djehuty was also “overseer of the cattle of Amun,” an office that associates him with the temple of Amun in Karnak, which is located right in front at the other side of the river Nile. The walls of his tomb-chapel, TT 11, were decorated in relief, even the façade and part of the left sidewall of the open courtyard. His burial chamber is also entirely written with passages from the Book of Going Forth by Day, i.e. the Book of the Dead.
In the winter 2006/07 the modern village of Dra Abu el-Naga was demolished, and the following year we applied for an extension of our site in exchange of clearing the piles of debris left on the ground. The official permission was approved in 2008, and the area started to be cleaned a year later. Starting in 2011, the excavations focused in the area southwest of Djehuty’s courtyard, referred to as “Sector 10”, where a number of mud-brick offering chapels and funerary shafts dating to the 17th or early 18th Dynasty have been unearthed. Despite of the fact that all of them were robbed and in antiquity, relevant members of the royal family and/or the Theban elite during this period of transition were rescued from oblivion: the king’s son Intefmose, the king’s son Ahmose, the mouthpiece of Nekhen Ahhotep, and a man called Neb, buried in a nicely painted rishi-coffin.
During the present season we have continued the excavation at the southwest of the tomb-chapel of Djehuty (TT 11), in the so-called Sector 10. One of the main targets of this season has been the excavation of the open courtyard shared by two rock cut-tombs of the 12th Dynasty. First, we had to remove a layer of 2 m in height of modern rubbish produced by the houses and stables of the village that was demolished in 2006. Then, the excavation reached several layers of mid size limestone blocks mixed with materials resulting from the robberies of funerary shafts in the area. Actually, seven new shafts were unearthed in the area, distributed around the courtyard of the Middle Kingdom tombs.
One of the shafts, UE 1173, was excavated this season. Its mouth measures 2.62 x 0.97 m, and is 4.05 m deep. The burial chamber opens to the south/east. It measures 2.85 x 2.75 m, and 1.50 m in height. In the middle of the chamber, the rock floor has a recess 2.10 x 0.75 m, and 0.80 m deep, to place inside the coffin. The shaft was robbed, being a 17th Dynasty small plate, which was found on the floor right in front of the burial chamber’s entrance, the only piece that may be assigned to the funerary equipment of its original owner, and may be used to date the shaft. A mud brick wall 1.10 m in height was built at the bottom of the shaft, across its length, probably to facilitate the looting of the burial chamber. The wall was built on top of 0.40 m of sand, what seems to indicate that the burial chamber had already been robbed. The filling of the shaft had a few material mixed with the sand and stones, including some fragments of 21st Dynasty coffins. The other six remaining shafts presumably date also to the 17th or early 18th Dynasty, but this chronology is in need of confirmation once they are excavated in the coming season.
In the area where the shafts’ mouths are now visible, a wide variety of objects of different chronologies were found in the process of excavation. Among them, the following are highlighted. (A) A limestone ostracon with an administrative text written in hieratic with black ink, dating to the New Kingdom. (B) A limestone ostracon with a figurative scene traced in black, depicting people in action displayed in three registers. (C) A marl clay small bottle, with a wavy neck and incised decoration, dating to the 17th Dynasty, and containing in a perfect state of preservation 45.9 grams of barley grains and 2 dates, which were the necessary ingredients to produce sweet beer, meant to supply the deceased with freshly brewed beer in the hereafter. (D) A 17th Dynasty stick-shabti, with the name of its owner written in black ink over the front side, wrapped in plant leaves and small linen bandages and placed inside a mud sarcophagus. (E) A limestone fragment with the cartouche of Ahmes-Nefertari carved in incised relief. (F) An infant coffin box (lid missing), probably of the 17th Dynasty.
Several shabtis of Tutuya, senior steward of Amun and senior overseer of the cattle of Amun at the beginning of the 19th Dynasty, were also found. Most of them are of painted mud and two were made in white faience. All of them were intentionally broken. These same two types of shabtis were also found inscribed with the name Nebmehyt, who is also referred to as senior steward of Amun and senior overseer of the cattle of Amun. The relationship between the two is still unclear. Due to the amount of shabtis and mud-bricks that have been found bearing the name of Tutuya, it may be inferred that his tomb has to be located in our site, probably in Sector 10.
The excavation in front of the two Middle Kingdom rock-cut tombs did not reach the mother rock, and at the end of the season there was still 1.35 m of sand covering the entrance to the courtyard. It will be excavated next season, together with the funerary shafts identified in the area. We did complete the excavation around the small garden located in the courtyard, at the entrance of one of the rock-cut tombs. More 12th Dynasty pottery was found here, including three kernoi-vases of different sizes.
The entrance to the rock-cut tomb associated with the garden, UE 1018, was closed with mud-bricks (30 x 16 x 8 cm) coated with a layer of white mortar. The closing does not rest on the rock floor of the tomb, but lies 0.40 m above it, with a series of layers underneath that indicate that it did not belong to the first owner but was built when sand and small size stones had already slide into the central corridor of the tomb after it was reopened. The closing of this second use of the tomb is physically connected outside the entrance to a muna-pavement, which in turn connects with the garden. This connection and relationship among the tomb’s closing, the pavement and the garden seems to indicate that the garden did not belong to the first owner of the tomb either, but to a second user. The time laps between the two occupants did not necessarily have to be very long. Actually, the pottery found inside the tomb and around the garden dates consistently to the early 12th Dynasty, what indicates that the tomb was built, used, closed, and then opened, reused and closed again in a few years, in what may be considered the same time period. It has to be kept in mind that the rock-tombs were used by several members of the same family as a pantheon, and therefore they were closed and opened repeatedly. In that brief laps of time, however, more than one flood may have happened, partially filling the open courtyard and part of the tomb’s central corridor with almost half a metre of sand and rubble.
There is still no written evidence to identify the occupants of the rock-cut tomb, but they certainly must have been elite members of the Theban court in the early 12th Dynasty. The tomb was reused one thousand years later by several high ranked priests of the temple of Amun of the 22nd Dynasty. Their mummies were, unfortunately, badly dismembered, but still some interesting materials and information could be retrieved. The mummies had leather braces with the figure of King Osorkon offering to different gods. One of the broken torsos preserved a metal plaque attached with smears of resin to the incision opened in the right flank to eviscerate the body. The plaque, probably made of lead, has a wadjet-eye or “eye of Horus” engraved on one side, used as an amulet to prevent evil from coming inside the body. The metal piece was originally rectangular, but two of the corners are missing.
A second dismembered torso had, in the place of the heart, a handful of yellow sand or ocre, on top of which was deposited a small necklace formed by eight metal plaques, most probably god, and two faience pieces. These are all amulets for protection, since each one has engraved in one of its sides a symbol or hieroglyphic sign associated with the safekeeping of the body: a heart, a djed-pillar, a wadjet-eye, a vulture (goddess), a scarab, a menat-necklace, and a djed-serpent and the tjet or Isis buckle/girdle.
Among the linen found, there are several pieces with laundry marks, and others with the name and title of the owner and a year date, unfortunately without an indication of the king’s reign to which they refer. The legible dates range from year 13 to year 33. They all seem to belong to “the wab-priest Amenhotep”, of whom we also found a few blue faience shabtis. Moreover, two almost complete shrouds with a large size standing figure of Osiris painted in red were also found. On one of them the god is wearing the atef-crown and on the other the henu-crown. Unfortunately, the figures and the inscription next to them are quite faded, but using the DStretch program they may be reconstructed and read to a large extent. The inscription on both shrouds mention a “god’s father of Amun”, the former is identified as Nesimen, and the latter as Padimut. Fragments of blue faience shabtis with the name Padimut have also been found. A third linen shroud, in a more fragmentary state, shows Osiris seated on a throne and the inscription mentions a wab-priest called Userhat.
The central corridor of the rock-cut tomb was filled with debris almost up to the ceiling. In the lower layer, resting on the rock floor, materials dating to the 12th dynasty were brought to light, spread in a random way as the consequence of having been thrown away by the first robbers. Together with wooden fragments of coffins and boxes, complete pottery vessels were also retrieved, of the same style and typology and, therefore, of the same chronology as the ones found outside around the funerary garden.
Excavations also took place inside the tomb-chapel located to the northeast of the tomb-chapel of Hery (TT 12). The central corridor, divided into UE 175 and 176, was filled with debris almost up to the ceiling. As the excavation progressed and kept going down, a number of human mummies of the Roman period were coming to light. Most of them were infants, thrown on the ground randomly, without coffins or any funerary equipment, aside of a few oil lamps. It seems that they were thrown from above, from the tomb immediately higher up the hillside, through a hole in the ceiling connecting the two tombs. Of an earlier date are the 2nd century BC. demotic graffiti that were written on the walls of this newly (re)discovered tomb-chapel by the same scribe or group of scribes that wrote on the walls of the tomb-chapel of Hery. The wall surface got blackened by the smoke of fires lit inside the tomb and so were the graffiti, which ended being almost invisible. Again, only by using the program DStretch the graffiti may now be read.
Fragments of a seated statue of Ay, overseer of the weavers at the end of the 18th Dynasty, were also found here. His tomb is one of the two tombs located right above, which connect with UE 175 and UE 176 through two big holes in the ceiling. In the lower layer of the debris filling the corridor, smashed on the rock floor, there was a marl clay vessel dating to the 12th Dynasty. This finding is most significant, since it helps to confirm the date of the rock-cut tomb in the 12th Dynasty, and helps to argue that the central corridor of Hery’s tomb-chapel was also first hewn in this period.
A team of three archaeobotanists have been working mostly in the funerary garden of the 12th Dynasty, identifying the seeds and collecting samples of botanical remains, which were taken to be analysed at the IFAO lab in Cairo at the end of the season. The layout of the garden measures 3 x 2.25 m, and it is framed by mud-brick walls coated with mortar. The garden is divided into a grid composed of 23 squares that measure around 0.30 m, and additional spaces of different forms: two rectangles of 0.40 x 0.30 m and 0.20 x 0.65 m; a larger area of 1.08 x 0.67 m; two squared spaces with rounded edges, measuring 0.35 and 0.32 m, located in the middle of the garden and at a higher level. The garden is around 0.55 m above the rock of the court’s floor, as it was built when the courtyard was filled with sand and stones dragged in by a sequence of heavy rains and winds. This circumstance made possible that the interior of each square is around 0.40 m deep and was filled with fertile and dark silt. Many of the squares preserve in a remarkable condition the seeds botanical remains of the species that were planted 4,000 years ago. Archaeobotanists retrieved and analysed also botanical remains found in other areas of the site, inside pottery vessels and other types of containers.
The stratigraphy of the excavation cut that is visible in the open courtyard around the garden preserves traces of heavy rains that happened in the Theban necropolis between 2000 BC and 1500 BC. The analysis of the sediments, sands and gravel may shed light on the paleoclimate in this region of Egypt. The layers of thin sand deposited on the courtyard with the passing of time, water running and wind blowing, eventually covered the garden and helped to preserve the seeds in a remarkable condition. When the area was reused in the 17th Dynasty and the mud-brick shrine housing three funerary stelae was built attached to the rock façade between the entrances of the two 12th Dynasty rock-cut tombs, the garden was already covered and protected by sand and did not get damaged.
Animal bones and mummies have been studied, paying special attention to shrews and snakes found last season, in the burial chambers of the tomb-chapel (UE 194) that overlaps with the inner most room of Djehuty’s tomb-chapel.
The epigraphic tasks of the present season have focus on three types of materials: a cartonnage mummy case of the 22nd Dynasty, a papyrus with the Book of the Dead of the 21st Dynasty, and the Book of the Dead written on the walls and ceiling of the burial chamber of the tomb-chapel of Djehuty of the early 18th Dynasty. The cartonnage and the papyrus were found in Sector 10 during the field season 2016.
The reconstruction of the eight cartonnages found in the funerary shaft UE 165 and its burial chamber was begun in 2017 and continued in 2018 with the focus set on the most complete mummy-case (inventory number 1353). It belonged to the servant in the temple of Amun Pasetjenfy, son of Padiiset, who held the same title as his son, and of the mistress of the house Djedisetisankh, daughter of the fourth priest of Amun Djedkhonsuiuefankh. The cartonnage is decorated on its front part with a ram-headed falcon surrounded by the four sons of Horus, and a falcon with spread wings over an Abydos fetish. The latter element is flanked by the winged-goddesses Isis and Nephthys and two kites (their emblems). On the back of the cartonnage, standing on top of an Isis-knot there is a large-size djed-pillar, surmounted by two ostrich feathers over ram horns with uraei. Although broken into pieces by ancient looters, the colourful decoration of the cartonnage is in a remarkable state of preservation.
In the field season of 2017, the cartonnage fragments were joined on a flat surface. This year a base was built with an inert and rigid material taking the shape and measurements of the original mummy-case. The small fragments were mounted on top of this base. Some pieces were glued together using a cellulose adhesive and all were held in place by means of nylon pins. The front and back part of the mummy-case were mounted separately, in order to view both sides at the same time and to facilitate the photographic documentation.
Work on the papyrus of the songstress of Amun Tanedjemi, decorated with the Book of the Dead (inventory number 5242), has been completed with the aid of Bridget Leach, former conservator of the British Museum. The papyrus roll must have been quite long in antiquity, but only three sections have come down to us in a fragmentary state: the initial vignette of an enthroned Osiris, spell 110 (so-called ‘Fields of Iaru’) and spell 149 (featuring the mounds of the Beyond). The fragments were consolidated and placed in their original position, reconstructing the initial layout of the scenes and texts.
Finally, the joining of the fragments belonging to the collapsed surfaces of the burial chamber of Djehuty (TT 11), decorated with Book of the Dead spells, has ended. Most of the fragments belonged to one of the corners of the ceiling that fall down in antiquity, and only a few fragments pertained to the two walls that were demolished when it was decided to enlarge the chamber after the walls had already been plastered and fully written. This season, however, a big limestone block with part of chapter 82 of Djehuty’s Book of the Dead was found in the excavation of Sector 10, right outside the entrance to his courtyard. This unexpected find opens the possibility that more fragments may be found in the area, and thus next season the excavations will continue in front of the entrance to Djehuty’s open courtyard hoping to find more limestone blocks with Book of the Dead columns coming from his burial chamber.
Tomb-chapel of Djehuty (TT 11)
Works have centred on the façade and sidewalls of the entrance to the tomb-chapel of Djehuty. The intervention has entailed the fixing back on the door jambs of the entrance door relief fragments that were retrieved during the excavations in the open courtyard and whose exact position had been previously identified by the epigraphists. Additionally, all the wall surfaces and the floor of the entrance area have been cleaned by mechanical means and the cracks in the rock have been sealed using a mortar of lime and sand (1:3). The polychrome surfaces and the inscription of the northern statue of Djehuty were consolidated with Paraloid B-72, dissolved at 4% in a universal solvent. Finally, the treatment of the walls’ surface has been completed applying a last layer of lime mortar and a film of hiba with vinyl resin.
Tomb-chapel of Hery (TT 12)
The restoration works executed in the tomb-chapel of Hery have centred on the right wall and have entailed the following steps:
1. General consolidation. The work started with a general revision of the consolidations undertaken during the previous season. The lower part of the right wall, on account of its vulnerability, was consolidated with a mixture of acrylic resin and water. The mixture was applied trough injection and spraying.
2. Reintegration of fragments. The original position of several fragments was identified in a new revision of the ones that were not reintegrated last season. To reintegrate these fragments they were levelled, placed, and temporarily held in position by means of steel dowels or directly joined to the rock surface with glue.
3. Filling with hydraulic mortar. When the exact place for a fragment is confirmed, the surrounding area is sealed with a mortar made of hydraulic lime and sand (1:3), filled to a level of 1 cm below the wall’s surface. The last layer, which will consists of a reintegration mortar toned to the colour of the rock, will be placed next year.
A small necklace formed by eight of small plaques, stick together and covered by a blackened resin, was found inside the torso of a broken human mummy (see above). They were extracted from their original position by softening the resin. Afterwards, the eight plaques were separated and cleaned one by one individually. The eight plaques are made of a yellow metal sheet, probably gold, measuring 1.2 x 0.9 cm and 0.03 thick. They all have a small ring attached to the upper end, through which a string with tini faience beads passed and formed a necklace. Each plaque has a decorative motif incised on one of its sides by using an awl. At the closing of the season the necklace was taken to Carter House Magazine and registered.
In the torso of a second dismembered human mummy, there was a metal plaque carefully placed at the side incision for eviscerating the abdomen (see above). It was attached to the flesh and linen bandages by a thick layer of resin. The plaque was removed and cleaned. It is a rectangular piece, measuring 5.4 x 7.20 x 0.1 cm, and pierced in each corner, although two of them are missing. On one of its sides it has an incised decorative motif. The metal has not been identified yet, but it seems to be lead or an alloy with high contents of lead. At the closing of the season it was taken to Carter House Magazine and registered.
A large group of textiles made of linen and probably dating to the 22nd Dynasty was found inside a reused 12th Dynasty rock-cut tomb within Sector 10, the one associated with the funerary garden. They were part of a large ensemble of mixed dismembered human remains and broken funerary equipment. There were at least 6 tunics, 6 shrouds, 4 rectangular cloths and 9 linen fragments of small size. These all bore different laundry marks, brief inscriptions and/or a large size figure of Osiris traced in red ink. The textiles were found in a poor state of preservation, creased, blackened and stiff. The conservation treatment included humidification, flattening, and drying between blotting paper. Afterwards, the decorative motifs and the inscriptions were documented. Each piece was then wrapped in a special paper and placed in an individual container with its label.