19th Season Report: January 14 th – February 22 nd
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; to General Director of Antiquities in Luxor, Gadafi Abdelrahim; 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 Ahmed Tayib as SCA Inspector. He has been at the same time strict and vigilant, as well as most helpful and cooperative. We are, indeed, very grateful to him.
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.
Three Egyptian restorers have joined the team this season: Seham Sahry Bershawey Abd El Azeem, Hussein Mohamed Hassan and Fatma El Zahra Mohamed. 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 Engeneering 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 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, while her son was still a child and later during his campaign against the Hyksos in the Delta and into Nubia. 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, ca. 1510 BCE.
Djehuty lived about fifty years later, ca. 1460 BCE. 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 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, 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, better known as the Book of the Dead.
In the winter 2006/2007 the modern village of Dra Abu el-Naga was demolished. The following year we applied to the Ministry of Antiquities 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 cleared a year later. In 2011 we started the excavation of the area, southwest of Djehuty’s courtyard, which was labeled “Sector 10”. A number of mud-brick offering chapels and funerary shafts dating to the 17th Dynasty, ca. 1600 BCE, have been unearthed since then. Despite the fact that all of them were robbed in antiquity, a few objects of the original funerary equipments were 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, or a man called Neb, buried in a nicely painted rishi-coffin.
The Ministry of Antiquities approved this year a second extension of the site, around twenty metres to the north-west, up the hill above the tomb-chapels of Djehuty and Hery (TT 11–12). The area includes the ruins of a house that was demolished in 2006, but the debris were never removed. Our main purpose here is to reach the bedrock over which the house was built and remove the rubble accumulated on the hillside as far down as the tomb-chapel of Djehuty. In this way, we will prevent serious damages on the monuments in case of heavy rains.
At the opposite side of the site, the area of excavation was extended to the south-east of Sector 10 and the adjacent sector, labelled “Sector 11”, in front of the courtyard of the tomb-chapel of Djehuty. The ground level here is 4 m above the level of the excavated area in Sector 10 and 11. Most part of this area, which covers more than 200 m2, was used as a dump place by the houses at the northern end of the village of Dra Abu el-Naga. Thus, we began by clearing a 1.80 m deep hollow filled with modern rubbish. It consisted mostly of a large amount of decomposing grass, mixed with broken plastic objects, rotten home appliances, torn fabrics and a wide variety of souvenirs manufactured by the nearby shops. Only in the last days of the season we found a couple of illegible funerary cones and a couple of ramesside clay shabtis, probably belonging to Tutuya.
One of the tasks planned for this season was the architectural study of the four 17th Dynasty mud-brick offering chapels discovered until present in the site. They were built following a similar design and technique, but at the same time each one of them has its own features. While documenting the chapel UE 1010 and its funerary shaft, located in square 6B (see the plan), a small wooden coffin was discovered below the mud-bricks of the curb’s south/east side. It measures 1 x 0.22 x 0.16 m and was found still closed, with the lid on, although not strongly fixed to the box by any device. The head end is slightly curved, and the board for the lid seems to have been reused. The latter has five circular holes along each side, perforated in the middle of a rectangle of a different tone than the rest of the board. One of the holes at the head end has a rope hoop passing through it, as if it was used as a handle. Through the archaeological context and the stratigraphy, the coffin may be dated to the 17th Dynasty, ca. 1550 BCE. The interior of the coffin is 0.91 m in length and was covered with a linen cloth. Resting over it there was the mummy of an infant between 9 and 12 months, preserved in bad condition and partly covered by rubble.
The area in front of the courtyard of the tomb-chapel of Djehuty (TT 11) started been excavated last season, and was labelled “Sector 11”. The main structure unearthed at that time was a 17th Dynasty mud-brick offering chapel (ca. 1600 BCE). A short distance to the north/east six stick-shabtis and their model wooden coffins were found, most of them bearing the name Ahmose, and one of them Ahmose-Sapair. During the present campaign, a small mud coffin was found to the south/west of the chapel. It lay flat on the ground level of the chapel and preserved a thin string around it, meant to hold together the box and the lid. The mud sarcophagus was coated with a whitewash. It measures 24.5 x 12 x 14.5 cm, and its interior 20.2 x 9 x 4 cm. A wooden mummy-form figurine measuring 19 x 5 cm was found inside, wrapped in four linen bandages, which were attached to it by two linen strips tied to the neck and ankles. The shabti was carefully carved and has a label written vertically in hieratic, using black ink, indicating the owner’s name: “The Osiris, Djehuty”. One of the linen bandages has the same label, but written horizontally. The name Djehuty was popular during the 17th and early 18th Dynasty. The ensemble probably dates back to the 17th Dynasty, ca. 1600 BCE.
Excavating to the north/east of the chapel, part of the mud-brick wall that surrounds the funerary shaft was brought to light. It preserves five rows of mud-bricks, reaching a height of 30 cm outside and 40 cm at the inner side the wall. At the inner side of one of the corners part of the original floor is preserved. It was flattened, covered with a layer of mortar and then coated with a whitewash.
Outside of the enclosure mud-brick wall several ensembles of fragmented pottery vessels, coffin wooden boards, ropes and other materials thrown away by the ancient robbers were brought to light. Some of the pottery dates to the 13th Dynasty, indicating that nearby there must be a monument or burial dating to this period. Excavating the layers of limestone chips accumulated to the north/east of the mud-brick chapel, interesting materials were found. Among them, a pair of small size leather sandals, probably dating to the 17th Dynasty, and a terracotta shabti with a very peculiar face and a horizontal hieratic inscription over the chest, probably dating to the ramesside period.
Near the offering chapel a couple of newspaper fragments dating to 1895 were found, showing in a very eloquent way how next to an area that remained unaltered since antiquity (i.e. the offering chapel, the stick-shabtis of Ahmose and Djehuty’s model coffin), there are areas that were excavated down to the bedrock at the end of the 19th century.
In this context, to the north/east of the mud-brick offering chapel and near a small mound made by robbers’ spoils, a complete and still closed wooden coffin was found. It was placed flat on the ground and without any protection over it. Despite the context, it seems that it was left lying on the ground with certain care, and it seems odd that it was not opened by the robbers operating in the area.
The coffin was carved from a single tree trunk, with minor repairs made of small wooden pieces that were later hidden under a coat of whitewash that spread over the exterior (except for the back). It measures 1.75 x 0.33 m. The shape and the style in which the head was carved remind one of a large size stick-shabti: small and triangular face framed by a prominent headdress with two lappets falling over the shoulders down to the chest. It dates to the 17th Dynasty, ca. 1600 BCE. It is preserved in a quite good condition, with only two minor holes in the back, on which the coffin lays and for that matter it suffered more from humidity.
The lid was attached to the box by three dowels at each side. The head end of the box is curved, and the thickness (i.e. the part that touched the lid) was painted in red, as a magical/prophylactic measure. Inside the coffin, the mummy of a 15/16 year old woman, around 1.55 m high, was resting on her right side. A linen cushion was placed between her abdomen and the coffin’s side to keep the body in position. The mummy was in bad condition, the linen bandages were broken and holey, detached from the body, and the bones were loose.
The x-ray session conducted on the mummy showed that she was wearing several personal adornments. Taking into account the bad state of the mummy, and relaying of the x-ray images at our disposal, we proceeded with great care and precision to remove the pieces that were previously detected. The left ear was pierced twice and each hole hosted a small spiral earring. At least one of the two, the better preserved one, was made of gold foil. She was wearing also a ring in each hand, one is made of bone and the other consists of a blue glass oval piece mounted in a metal frame and attached to the finger by a circular string.
Moreover, four different necklaces were left with the body. They were not hanging around the neck, but placed together as a handful over the chest before she was wrapped with linen bandages. The beads remained in their original arrangement and joined together by their strings, which were well preserved and only broken in a few places. The four necklaces were joined together by a faience buckle with four holes. One necklace, 62 cm long, is made of green beads of faience and glass. Another one, 70 cm long, alternates dark and light blue faience beads. A third one is made of several lines of faience beads tied together by all the strings braided into a ring at both ends. The most sophisticated and colourful necklace measures 61 cm and is made of 74 pieces, combining beads of amethyst, cornelian, amber, blue glass, quartz, faience and other materials not yet identified. The beads were given various shapes, including two scarabs, one falcon/Horus, and five miniature faience amulets.
During the present season several 17th Dynasty funerary shafts were excavated. They are located to the south/east of the courtyard shared by two Middle Kingdom rock-cut tombs, in front one of which a funerary garden was built in the 12th Dynasty. All the shafts were opened and robbed in antiquity, and then filled up again with rubble one or more times.
The funerary shaft UE 1159 is only 2.55 m deep. Among the materials found mixed with the rubble filling the shaft, there were shabtis of Tutuya, senior steward of Amun and senior overseer of the cattle of Amun under Ramesses II. One of them was carefully carved in wood and painted, an exceptional sample among the more than one hundred clay shabtis of Tutuya that were found in this and in the previous season. Moreover, several fragments of a wooden coffin painted black in the outside and white inside were found. On the inner side, a funerary text was written in black ink and cursive hieroglyphs displayed in horizontal lines. The paleography seems to correspond to the Second Intermediate Period.
The funerary shaft UE 1073 is 5 m deep. It was robbed in ancient times, but still at the rear of the burial chamber we found an amorphous bulk made by three much wrinkled fabric bands. The material used is hemp, combining dark and light fibres, with nicely plaited fringes closing both ends. Once the restorers stretched and flattened them, each one measured 8 m long by 0.20 m wide. They are uncommon pieces, and for that reason it is not all clear for what they may have been used.
The funerary shaft UE 1163 was left unfinished at a depth of 1.40 m. As it seems to be the norm, the curb was built with mud-bricks. They measure 37 x 17 x 12/13 cm. The shaft was reopened, probably by robbers, and the curb was raised with mud-bricks of a different size, measuring 30 x 16 x 9 cm, and without binding mortar. The latter are of the same size and type as the ones used in the nearby offering chapel located in Sector 11. Probably the thieves took them from here to facilitate their access inside the shaft; and probably they were even more disappointed than we were. Anyhow, the fact that the shaft was abandoned before its completion offers us the chance to learn some details concerning the construction phases of these structures, which cannot be easily perceived when the work is finished.
The funerary shaft UE 1192 is 4.5 m deep. It was robbed in antiquity and the filling contained a large quantity of fragmented pottery, much more than any other shaft in the area. Two burial chambers open at the bottom, one at each end. The burial chamber to the north/west was probably the main and first one to be made. Its floor is at the same level as the bottom of the shaft and it is slightly bigger than the other one. In the middle of its floor there is a rectangular recess 1.20 m deep, to fit in a wooden coffin. The burial chamber to the south/east has its floor 0.40 m higher than the bottom of the shaft, and it had 0.40 m of debris inside. A human body was found parallel to the right wall, and near the feet there was a leather bag, together with a leather loincloth. Inside the bag, there was a wrist guard for an archer, made of a thick rawhide of outstanding quality, preserving even the strings to tie it to the arm.
The funerary shaft UE 1172 was excavated last season. Despite the fact that it was robbed and filled again with rubble in ancient times, we found a pair of well preserved red leather sandals with engraved decoration and, just below them, a pair of white leather balls tied together by a sting. The two ensembles, dating to the 17th Dynasty (ca. 1600 BCE), are truly exceptional. The shaft is 4.23 m deep, and lacks a burial chamber. Instead, there is a big hole at the bottom’s south/east corner, which connects with a large rock-cut tomb of the 11th/early 12th Dynasty –reused in the 17th Dynasty as burial place for almost one hundred bodies–. The size of the hole, 2 x 1.20 m, is much larger than the robbers’ holes that were opened in other shafts in the site. If the possibility that the hole was opened by robbers is left aside, then, it seems that when the shaft was hewn it ran by accident into an earlier rock-cut tomb. Instead of changing plans and opening the burial chamber at the other end of the shaft, it was decided to use part of the tomb as its burial chamber. Following this hypothesis, it was then decided to continue the excavation of the shaft UE 1172 into the earlier tomb. The shaft actually ran into a side room of the tomb, which was mostly occupied by a shaft itself.
This ‘second’ shaft, originally part of the Middle Kingdom rock-cut tomb, is 2.90 m deep. A number of interesting materials were found inside, mostly of the 17th Dynasty and earlier. Among them, are the following. (1) A new pair of leather sandals, although of lesser quality and less well preserved than the red ones. (2) Uninscribed stick-shabtis. (3) Two headrests, one of them inscribed for “The good god, the lord of […], the son of Ra, Int[ef…]”, and on the other side the beginning of second inscription: “A boon that the king grants and (also) Hathor […]” (4) A quiver made of leather, dating to the Second Intermediate Period, ca. 1600 BCE. It is remarkable the number and quality of leather objects that we have found in this and the previous season. (5) A model coffin made of mud and coated with a whitewash, over which a pair of udjat-eyes were drawn in black ink on one side, and the figures of Isis and Nephthys at the head and foot ends, sketched in a way that they resemble cursive hieroglyphs. (6) The lid of a model coffin made in wood, with the name Ahmose written in black ink. (7) A bronze arrow head. (8) Beads of a colourful necklace made of faience and semi-precious stones.
At the bottom of the shaft there were a couple of Middle Kingdom beer jars, which had been moved out from the burial chamber probably by robbers. Actually, at the lower level of the debris blocking the entrance to the burial chamber a couple of complete Middle Kingdom beer jars were visible. The burial chamber was partially filled with debris, and fragments of the same object were found outside and inside the chamber. This is the case of tree Middle Kingdom wooden figurines that were originally part of a maquette, or the fragments of a painted limestone stela, which has been almost entirely reconstructed even when the excavation of the burial chamber has not finished and should be resumed next season.
The stela measures 49 x 35 x 5.5 cm. The figurative scene shows the owner and his wife, called Retjet, standing before an offering table piled with food. At the other side, probably his elder son, depicted with his mouth opened, is making an invocation of offerings while holding a large lotus flower in his hand. Above the figurative scene, the main inscription is arranged in two horizontal lines, which are difficult to read because the words do not seem to follow the conventional order and the text seems to start on the second line and not on the one on top. Moreover, the captions that accompany the figures are faded and thus are hard to make out, even using the program DStretch with different filters. The stela may be dated, on stylistic and paleographic grounds, to the 12th or 13th Dynasty.
Underground Gallery UE 275
The tomb parallel to that of Hery (TT 12) to the north/east connects with the funerary shaft of the tomb of Ay, which is located 2 m higher up the hillside. The underground gallery apparently leads to the “chapels of the gods” according to the demotic graffiti that were written on the walls in the 2nd century BCE. The excavation in this area actually follows the demotic graffiti, and in the way to the “chapels of the gods”, interesting Ptolemaic and Roman materials are found, like a faience amulet of the god Bes, or a complete jar. Earlier materials are also found mixed with the rubble, such as 18th Dynasty funerary cones, or 260 shabtis of the prophet of Amun called Hor, dating to the 21st Dynasty, ca. 1000 BCE.
The inner walls of the tomb of Djehuty (TT 11) are being drawn in detail, trying to convey even the artistic value of the reliefs. The drawings are first traced on an IPad over a high resolution orto-photo of a section of the wall. The epigraphists trace the drawings in front of the wall to avoid getting tricked by the side-light of the photograph, which may lead to confuse lines with cracks and produce shadows that may hide details or alter the shape of the signs or the figures. The preliminary drawing is later completed in the computer adding to it standardized shadows for the reliefs and the various types of alterations of the wall surface by using a different layer in Photoshop for each different type of information. An important step in the process is the collation, and thus the drawings traced last year by two epigraphists have been thoroughly revised in this campaign by two other team members.
Every season we found a large number of pottery vessels of various types and chronologies, in most cases in a very fragmentary sate. For this reason, the pottery team is integrated by three specialists, assisted by three workmen devoted to join fragments and reconstruct vessels as much as possible. This season we found for the first time pottery dating to the Old Kingdom, including several fragments of a typology known as “Meidum bowl”. These were found lying on the bedrock in Sector 10, among the funerary shafts to the north/east of the Middle Kingdom garden.
On the other hand, it must be underlined also the finding of several Middle Kingdom beer jars down the ‘second’ shaft on UE 1172. Some of them are preserved complete, while others were reassembled and drawn this season.
As in previous seasons, Leica Geosystems lend us a topographical total station to produce accurate plans and georeference the photogrametries taken all over the site.
CONSERVATION AND RESTORATION
The 17th Dynasty mud-brick structures, funerary shafts and offering chapels, were consolidated and restored, mainly by using ethyl silicate.
Wall cleaning and consolidation continued in the transverse hall and in the statue niche at the inner most room of the tomb-chapel of Djehuty (TT 11). The restoration of the tomb-chapel of Djehuty may be considered almost finished. The small details are now taken care of so that it could be opened to the public soon.
The restauration of the tomb-chapel of Hery (TT 12) may also be considered practically finished. The floor and the ceiling have been consolidated, the entrance has been enhanced, and the last touches of the walls’ restoration have taken place. The lines that frame each register in which the wall scenes are divided were extended over the areas that have been recently reconstructed, in order to visually link the figures that form part of the same scene but are now separated by a lacuna.
As it is done every season, the objects found in the excavation have been carefully cleaned and consolidated, and then wrapped in acid-free paper and stored in appropriate boxes.
REPLICA OF THE 12TH DYNASTY FUNERARY GARDEN
In February 2017 a funerary garden of the 12th Dynasty (ca. 2000 BCE) was discovered. It has already been carefully excavated and the botanical remains meticulously collected, analysed and identified. The mud and mud-brick structure was consolidated and restored last year. Still, because of its fragile nature, the garden cannot be left exposed to the sun, wind or rain. It must remain covered to preserve it appropriately. For this reason, a metal structure was designed and installed above it, and insulating aluminium sheets were fixed all around it.
Now, it seemed to us that it was a pity that the only Middle Kingdom funerary garden that is known, well documented and preserved until present, would remained concealed and out of the sight. As an alternative solution, we asked and obtained official permission from the Ministry of Antiquities to produce a replica or facsimile of the garden, with the idea of installing it at the site to supersede the original.
The replica was produced in Madrid and shipped to Luxor divided into four sections. These were placed on top of the structure covering the ancient garden, and were joined together with resin. The final touches were carried out with mortar and plaster by one of the Factum Arte technicians and artists that made the replica. Even the trunk of the tree was accurately reproduced and glued to the garden in its exact place.
The courtyard where the garden is located was filled with clean sand so that the base of the replica would end up at ground level, as the original was. The original garden, in turn, ended up (again) buried, underneath the replica. The latter blends and matches perfectly with the other mud-brick structures in the area.
It is hard to realize that the garden that is now visible is not the real, the ancient one, but its replica or facsimile. While the 12th Dynasty garden is preserved and remains safe, the potential visitor to the site, when approaching the tombs of Djehuty and Hery (TT 11, 12), will be able to get an idea of how this unique garden looked like within its archaeological context.
Dr. Louise Bertini, Director of the ARCE Cairo office, and her staff visited the site and examined the replica of the garden, which was produced and installed thanks to an ARCE-AEF 2018 grant. Dr. Zahi Hawass also visited us during this season and praised the initiative and final outcome of the garden’s replica.