18th Season Report: January 15 th – February 25 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 Dra. Nashua Gaber, 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 Yahia Eueda, General Director of Antiquities in Upper Egypt; Gadafi Abdelrahim, General Director of Antiquities in Luxor; Fathy Yasin, Director of the Antiquities Department in the West Bank; Baha Abdel Yaber, Manager of the West Bank, Qurna; and Ramadan Ahmed Ali, Manager of all missions on the West Bank.
We have had this season as SCA Inspector Mohamed Beebesh. He has been at the same time strict and vigilant, as well as most helpful and cooperative.
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: Saadi Zaki Adballah and Mohamed Yaad Ahmed. They are excellent professionals, and have been most helpful and efficient.
The field season has been sponsored by (1) the Spanish Ministry of Culture, (2) the Spanish Ministry of Research and Innovation, (3) Técnicas Reunidas, a Spanish Engineering company, (4) Indra, a computer technology company, (5) Palarq Foundation for paleontology 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 the monument of her son 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. The inner walls of his funerary monument 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 BCE.
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 were decorated in relief, as was also 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.
In the winter 2006/2007 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 Dynasty have been unearthed. Despite the fact that all of them were robbed in antiquity, a few objects of the original funerary equipments may still be retrieved. Through the inscribed objects we may rescue from oblivion some of the members of the royal family and/or the Theban elite during this period of transition, such as 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 18th season of field work we have continued the excavation at the southwest of the tomb-chapel of Djehuty (TT 11), the so-called “Sector 10”. One of the main targets has been the excavation of the access to the open courtyard shared by two 12th Dynasty rock-cut tombs, where a funerary garden was unearthed in 2017. We found a number of pottery vessels dating to the 13th Dynasty, when the garden was in the process of being buried under layers of thin sand dragged in by rain water and wind. The geologists and geomorphologists analysed the stratigraphy of the archaeological cut near the garden and they have now a good chance to learn more about the climate and the environment in the Theban necropolis between 2000 and 1500 BCE.
The 12th Dynasty rock-cut tomb associated with the garden (UE 1018) was entirely excavated. It was very much looted in antiquity and in modern times, and few materials could be assigned to the first owner(s). The only objects found in the side chamber that opens to the left of the central corridor, the shaft that was opened in it and the burial chamber at its end, which are worth mentioning, are a bronze eye from the head of an anthropoid coffin, and a bronze mirror still partially wrapped in linen. The robbers left behind two significant metal objects, which paradoxically was what they were looking for with greed.
The rock floor of the courtyard shared by the two 12th Dynasty tombs had a hole, through which we gained access to a side room of a large saff-tomb of the 11th/12th Dynasty, still buried underground. The saff-tomb was built in a lower level of the hill-side, as the hole in the court’s floor breaks the ceiling of the side room. The façade of the saff-tomb has eleven pillars and measures 40 m in length. Most of the pottery on the surface between the pillars and the façade seems to date to the 17th and early 18th Dynasty, but also a few modern objects were spotted. The discovery of this large size saff-tomb is significant because it alters the perception that we have today of this area of the necropolis.
Seven shafts were unearthed last season in the area, distributed around the courtyard of the 12th Dynasty rock-cut tombs and the garden. One shaft was excavated then, and proved to have been very much robbed, with only one 17th Dynasty dish preserved, which enabled us to date its first burial. This season we excavated three shafts, which may be dated to the 17th Dynasty through the material culture found in them. Despite the fact that they were robbed in antiquity, we found significant material from the first owner(s), as will be shown below.
The shaft UE 115 is located behind the mud-brick offering chapel associated with the king’s son Intefmose. Its mouth is slightly larger than most of the other shafts, and it has a mud-brick curb. The shaft had clear signs of having been heavily robbed in recent times. Nevertheless, we found a limestone fragment with part of an inscription, “for the ka of the king’s son Intefmose”, and a fragment of an early 18th Dynasty stela. The shaft is more than 8 m deep and ends in a large burial chamber oriented to the west. It is filled with rubble almost to the ceiling, and it is planned to be excavated next season.
Shaft UE 1157 is located to the southeast of the 12th Dynasty courtyard. It is 4.50 m deep, and at the bottom there was a skeleton in anatomical position. It belongs to a woman between 25 and 35 years old, who probably died from two blows on her head, executed with a metal sharp-edged heavy weapon. A second skull was also found, belonging to a male individual between 30 and 45 years old, who received five mortal wounds with a similar weapon. Remains of an infant were also found, together with part of a reed mat and fallen mud-bricks.
Fragments of a large marl B carenated bowl were joined together to reconstruct the piece almost completely. It is decorated with a net of painted triangles, coloured in black, red and green. The decoration was applied after baking, and it imitates the Pan Grave, group C, Nubian style (with incised triangles). A polychrome vessel, and particularly the use of the colour green, is exceptional for the Second Intermediate Period.
A painted wooden shabti was found at the bottom of the shaft. Its front side was written with the shabti formula displayed in seven lines, dedicated to an “overseer of the granary” whose name ends in […]ineni/a. Inside the burial chamber, several fragments of a painted wooden coffin were found, two of them with part of a text written in light blue/green on top of red guide lines. The section of the text where the name was written had been erased and re-written, but still “the king’s son […]-neb-bau, justified”, may be read. The pottery described above, as well as the shabti and the coffin, may all be dated to the 17th Dynasty.
Shaft UE 1172 is also located southeast of the 12th Dynasty courtyard. It is 4.30 m deep, and it showed clear evidence of having been robbed and reused. Below a layer of mixed material, including fragments of a wooden furniture, botanical remains, linen, human bones and a dog, a pair of leather sandals was discovered. They were found paired, with both soles facing out, what probably helped to preserve them in good condition. The inner or upper part of the sandals have a red dye and both are engraved with the same motives: figures of the hippo goddess Thoeris and the god Bes, weser-figures dressed in a cloak and depicted with jackal heads and human legs, a pair of oryx, a pair of seated felines turning around their heads and a rosette at the heel end of the sandal. They really are an exceptional pair of 17th Dynasty sandals.
Right below the sandals a pair of leather balls were brought to light. They are tied to each other by a string, and both were filled with barley husks to keep a rounded shape. The outside is made of six leather segments sewn together. They were probably part of a ball game, similar to those shown in 12th Dynasty tombs at Beni Hassan.
The burial chamber connects through a broken wall with the central corridor of a large 11th/12th Dynasty rock-cut tomb, which is filled with rubble almost up to the ceiling. A stick-shabti and a 17th Dynasty painted little jar were found in the burial chamber. The jar was painted after being baked, using black, red and yellow colours, the latter being quite uncommon. The lid of a clay model sarcophagus was found, bearing an offering formula written in four columns, dedicated “to the ka of Mose, by his brother, who causes his name to live, Ahmose”.
The area in front of the entrance to the courtyard of the tomb-chapel of Djehuty was labelled ‘Sector 11’ for convenience, since all the data seem to indicate that there is no real break or change between this area and Sector 10, southwest of Djehuty’s court. The excavation here started this season with the aim of finding more written fragments from the burial chamber of Djehuty, which was decorated with passages from the Book of Going Forth by Day (i.e., the Book of the Dead). Last season we found a big fragment in this area, and we were thus hoping to find more pieces that would enable us to reconstruct the missing parts of the text. We did find two small fragments, and a third one detached from the left wall of the central corridor of the tomb-chapel of Djehuty.
On the other hand, a 17th Dynasty mud-brick offering chapel was brought to light. Inside we found fragments of painted mortar, which seem to indicate that at least part of the chapel was originally painted with bright colours. The inner part probably had a vaulted ceiling decorated with a textile pattern, and the upper part of the side walls ended in a heker-frieze. Moreover, around the offering mud-brick chapel six stick-shabtis and two model wooden coffins were unearthed. The coffin lids and five of the shabtishave inscriptions written in black ink, in cursive hieroglyphs and/or hieratic. They all mention the name Ahmose, and one of them, found wrapped in linen, bears the composite name Ahmose Sapair.
Excavations were conducted also inside the tomb-chapel to the northeast of the tomb-chapel of Hery (TT 12). A number of Ptolemaic and Roman pottery vessels and oil lamps were found. Fragments of the statue of Ay, “overseer of the weavers” at the end of the 18th Dynasty, were also retrieved. His tomb is right above, and they are connected through a big hole in the ceiling. More demotic graffiti were recorded in this area, referring to the deposition of animal mummies inside these tombs.
A team of three archaeobotanists have been working mostly in the funerary garden of the 12th Dynasty, identifying the seeds and other botanical remains. The inner grid is composed of 23 squares (30 x 30 cm) and of several additional spaces of different forms. The interior of each section is filled with fertile and dark soil, preserving a number of different seeds and organic remains. Botanical remains found in jars and other containers, in various areas of the site, were also analysed.
The stratigraphy of the excavation cut that is visible around the garden preserves traces of rains that happened in the Theban necropolis between 2000 BC and 1500 BCE. The analysis of the sediments, sands and gravel may shed light on the climate in this area of Egypt. The layers of thin sand deposited in 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, the garden was already protected by sand and did not get damaged.
A specialist in wood has joined the team for ten days. Using a microscope rented to the IFAO, she was able to identify in the field all the types of wood used in the manufacture of a wide variety of objects, such as fragments of coffins, furniture, musical instruments, tools, etc.
Epigraphists and restorers have been working together in the reconstruction of eight cartonnage mummy cases of the 22nd Dynasty, which were found broken into hundreds of pieces in one of the shafts of Sector 10 during the field season 2016. The study and assemblage of the fragments from the ceiling of the burial chamber of the tomb-chapel of Djehuty continued and may be considered finished.
Moreover, Digital epigraphy of the tombs’ decoration has gone a step further by adopting the methodology used by the Epigraphic Survey of the University of Chicago. The new approach implies the use of the most updated digital technology, combined with the aims and the aesthetic of classical epigraphic drawing.
Pottery plays a major role in the excavation. For this reason the team includes three specialists that have reassembled vessels, drawn the most significant shapes and helped us date the contexts in which they were found.
A Leica Total Station was used during the entire campaign to locate the objects found and also to document the new structures unearthed, including the mud-brick chapels and shafts. The layout of the new saff-tomb discovered during this season was also traced and recorded.
Tomb-chapel of Djehuty (TT 11)
Works have centred at the entrance and the transverse hall of the tomb-chapel of Djehuty. The intervention has entailed the attachment of relief fragments that had fallen down and whose position was previously identified by the epigraphists on the door jambs of the entrance door. Additionally, the wall surface of the transverse hall has been cleaned, carefully removing the mud crust by mechanical means. The cracks in the rock have been sealed using a mortar of lime and sand (1:3).
Tomb-chapel of Hery (TT 12)
The restoration works executed in the tomb of Hery have centred on the right and left walls of the central corridor and have entailed the reintegration of fragments, and filling of gaps with hydraulic mortar, lime and sand (1:3), to a level of 1 cm below the wall’s vertical level. The last layer, consisting of a reintegration mortar toned to the colour of the rock, was also applied in the present campaign.
The restoration of the tomb-chapels of Djehuty and Hery, TT 11–12, is now almost finished and, therefore, they will be ready to be opened to the public in a couple of years.
The most relevant objects found during the excavation were carefully cleaned, consolidated and wrapped in special paper and boxes. They include objects made of wood, linen, leather and metal.