Report Campaign 2009


1. Cleaning the new area south-west of TT 11

The Permanent Committee of the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA) approved in its meeting held on April 30th 2008 the extension of the concession around the tombs TT 11-12 in order to better protect the area and the tombs. The first task to be done was the removal of the huge piles of mud-bricks and rubbish that were left on the ground after the demolition of the modern settlement of Dra Abu el-Naga, south-west of TT 11-12. This task was conducted during six weeks, with great care and order and in a systematic fashion. We devoted most of our workmen, about eighty men out of one hundred, exclusively to this job, and we hired a tractor to take away the debris to an area specifically designated for this purpose. In the process, underneath the floor of one of the modern houses, we discovered part of the lower half of a standing royal statue (69 x 20 x 23 cm.), life-size, beautifully carved in pink granite, and probably dating to the XVIIIth Dynasty.

The annexed area is now perfectly clean. The entrance to the rock-cut tombs that were behind the houses and became visible after the demolition, have all been secured and blocked. The new area has been topographed and a light fence was put up to indicate the new perimeter of the site.

2. A small ramesside chapel unearthed

One of the goals of the present season was to locate up in the hillside the origin of the cascade of debris that fall down into the inner chamber of the tomb of Hery (TT 12) through a hole in the middle of the ceiling. Having that goal in mind, we opened a trench and stated excavating up the hill, 4 m. above the tomb of Hery. In the process, we came across a couple of rough rooms full of debris and with the walls and ceiling very much burnt. When we cleared one of them down to the floor, we found that the lower part of the walls still have paintings preserved. Unfortunately, they were not in good condition, due to the smoke caused by the burning of about fifty falcon and ibis mummies in the middle of the room, probably in the Graeco-roman period. Moreover, the layer of mortar, between 5 and 7 cm. thick, has too much straw, and the rock over which it was applied is also of very bad quality, very weak and breakable.

The chapel measures 2.00 x 2.40 m., and it is 1.60 m. high. The style of the paintings date the chapel to the Ramesside period, and it is similar to the neighbouring chapel of Sa-roy. A scene showing Osiris on his throne, accompanied by a goddess, can be easily recognized. Even more interesting is a scene showing the elaboration of linen cloths with a loom, manipulated by naked children weaving in odd positions. The corners of the room are rounded, and the scenes continue without interruption from one wall to the next one.

At the entrance, the “dintel” of the rock-cut chapel had fallen down, and the door has several layers of mud bricks closing it, attesting the reuse the room with a different purpose in later times. Moreover, the rear wall has a small niche (0.40 m. wide) for a statue, and the former was later on broken to be used as an entrance (0.70 m. wide) to a second room that was hewn behind the painted chapel. At the middle of the north-western wall an entrance (0.90 m. wide, and now closed with mud bricks) giving access to a third room cut part of the paintings.

After a thorough documentation, the chapel was protected under a strong ceiling resting on the bedrock, levelled and raised up with mud-bricks. Next season, the paintings will be cleaned and consolidated.

3. XIth Dynasty rock-cut tomb below the courtyard of Djehuty (TT 11)

Last season, excavating underneath the courtyard of the tomb-chapel of Djehuty, 20 m. away from the façade and 1.5 m. below the floor level, we discovered an undisturbed XIth Dynasty burial. It was a modest burial of a middle class man, whose coffin and small funerary equipment, five arrows and one marl-clay globular jar, was pushed inside a small rock recess. The coffin was painted in red, with a polychrome hieroglyphic inscription running along the four sides and the lid, mentioning owner’s name: Iqer. The inscription and the pottery date the burial a few years earlier or roughly contemporary to the reunification of the country by Montuhotep Nebhepetre.

The rock recess was not a natural accident in the hillside, but it originated from the partial collapse of an earlier rock-cut tomb hewn deeper in the bedrock. The floor of the tomb is 3.5 m. below the level of Djehuty’s court. It has a central corridor oriented east-west and measuring 6.85 x 1.60 m., and 2.50 m. high, with a transverse hall right at the entrance. At one point, the ceiling of the entrance collapsed, and the floor ended up accumulating 2.00 m. of debris. Most of the ceiling of the northern side of the transverse hall survived, and the 0.50 m. that remained free under it was regarded, years later, as a ‘rock-recess’ and was used as burial shelter for Iqer, his coffin resting on a sandy floor.

The rock-cut tomb, located in a lower level, is evidently older than Iqer. But, how old? A group of five complete vases was discovered last year right outside the rock-cut tomb, lying on the ground across the passage leading inside. This season another vase of the same type was found almost six meters further inside the tomb. The dating is, again, XIth dynasty, but these should be dated to the early years of that time period in view of their archaeological context and the relationship with Iqer’s burial, which provides a date ante quem.

During the present season we finished excavating the northern side of the transverse hall, measuring 2.65 x 1.80 m. When we reached the rock floor of the tomb (remember that Iqer was lying here on a sandy floor, 2 m. higher up, almost touching the rock ceiling of the room) the mouth of a funerary shaft (2.00 x 0.70 m.) was brought to light. Unfortunately it was left unfinished at a depth of 2.60 m., where eight limestone hammers or axe-heads and a small bowl broken into pieces were abandoned.

The group of five intact pottery vases found last year, together with the one found this season, seems to indicate that at some point someone must have been buried inside the rock-cut tomb. The only chance to find him/her is now at the southern side of the transverse hall, which has not been excavated yet. We decided not to excavate here in order not to endanger the mud-brick sidewall of Djehuty’s courtyard, since the latter runs across the southern side of the transverse hall one meter above it and without having a solid base.


4. Tomb –399– and underground galleries

The tomb that runs between Djehuty’s tomb and that of Hery, numbered –399– by F. Kampp, also dates to the XVIIIth Dynasty. In the Ptolemaic period it was heavily reused. Underground galleries were cut and human and animal mummies in large numbers were burnt here. In the middle of the central corridor there is a big hole that was used as entrance to access an underground gallery that connects with the shaft that opens at the inner most chamber. The transverse hall has one shaft at each side. The south-western shaft connects with a gallery that can also be reached from one of the burial chambers of the funerary shaft right outside the entrance to the tomb. This gallery is full of ibis and falcon mummies wrapped in linen. The north-eastern shaft connects through a small gallery with the central corridor of Hery’s tomb, which has a circular hole in the middle of its floor. This gallery did not have any mummy, although the walls and ceiling were burnt, and inside we found some relief fragments coming from the south-western wall of Hery’s corridor. These are of great importance for the restoration of Hery’s relief scenes and inscriptions.

Once the transverse hall was completely excavated, we set up an iron door at the entrance of the tomb. Then, the wall that separates it from that of Hery was restored, closing the two big holes with a layer stones facing the tomb –399–, and a layer of fired bricks facing the tomb of Hery. We did not reach the surface of Hery’s wall, but left here 20 cm. free, in order to be able to put back in place the relief fragments coming from this wall that have been recovered during our excavations. So far, we have gathered 212 relief fragments from Hery’s central corridor, 53 of which we know have to be integrated in this wall.

5. Djehuty’s tomb: the funerary shaft and the antechamber

The tomb-chapel of Djehuty (TT 11) penetrates in the hillside about 18 m. The inner most chamber was full of debris up to the ceiling, until we succeeded in clearing it in 2007. It was then, when we discovered the entrance to a funerary shaft (2.00 x 1.00 m.) at the inner chamber. It was excavated the following year. It is well cut in the bedrock, and goes down 8.30 m. At the south-east side there is an opening 1.00 m. high, through which one gains access to a broad chamber, after stepping down a 0.45 m. step.

The chamber measures 5.30 x 3.47 m. The ceiling is about 1.50 m. high, with limestone blocks already fallen off the ceiling at the central area of the room, following the natural tendency of developing a dome in the middle of an empty space. The chamber was full of debris almost up to the ceiling, including many stones of medium and big size, but leaving visible at the rear the opening of a second shaft, surrounded by a pile of big limestone blocks in a quite unstable equilibrium.

The material culture retrieved from inside the chamber was very much mixed up and badly broken into pieces, finding painted pottery of the time of Hatshepsut-Thutmosis III, probably belonging to the funerary equipment of Djehuty, together with pottery of the Ramesside and Saite periods, and painted coffin fragments of the XXIst Dynasty and Third Intermediate Period. This is the unavoidable consequence of the chamber having been cleared and filled up again several times in antiquity and in the recent past.

The burial chamber was probably cleared for the last time in the winter of 1898-99, when W. Spiegelbeg and P.E. Newberry, sponsored by the Marquis of Northampton, excavated in Dra Abu el-Naga. It was probably then, or around that time, when a piece of newspaper found its way down the first shaft and into the chamber. We discovered it on the floor, and it dates to the “[…] month of Abib, year 1614”, which corresponds to the period between July 8th and August 6th of the year 1898 of the Christian era.

In this context, it is risky to draw conclusions from the objects found inside the chamber, as some of them may come from the upper part of the funerary monument, or even from another tomb nearby. Indeed, there were fragments of wall reliefs and of statues of Djehuty that belong to the upper part of the chapel, a couple of canopic jar fragments of “an accountant of the grain of Amun” of the XVIIIth Dynasty that was probably buried in another tomb, and seven rough coffin heads that do not match the relatively small quantity of XXIst Dynasty painted coffin fragments found and that supposedly go with them.

There are a few coffin fragments that preserve enough painting to be dated to the XVIIIth Dynasty, with a black background and the inscriptions and figures in yellow. The systematic excavation of the chamber brought to light less objects that could have been part of the funerary equipment of Djehuty than expected, as we first thought that the chamber would have been only disturbed in antiquity. On the other hand, we found something that we believed we would never find in any case: gold. A group of gold earrings were brought to light, one on the chamber’s floor and the rest inside the second shaft. We also found fragments of gold leaf, some in the chamber but most of them, again, in the second shaft. While we cannot be sure if the earrings belonged to Djehuty, to his mother or to another relative, they are definitively XVIIIth Dynasty style. As to the gold leaf, when the fragments were unfolded, two big eyes painted in black and white on one of the sides were put together, indicating that the gold leaf was originally part of a mask placed over the lid’s face of an anthropomorphic wooden coffin, again, most probably dating to the XVIIIth Dynasty.

The mouth of the second shaft (2.00 x 1.00 m.) opens at the rear end of the chamber, perpendicular to the layout of the first one. Around its mouth there was a large amount of large size stones piled up, as if they had been removed from inside the second shaft to gain access inside the second chamber. This shaft measures between 3.00 and 3.50 m. deep, and it was full of debris up to its mid height.

6. Djehuty’s tomb: the painted burial chamber

At the south-west side of the second shaft there is an opening 1.00 m. high, through which, stepping down a 0.45 m. step, one gains access to a second chamber. This one was meant to be Djehuty’s ‘burial chamber’, turning the previous one in the so-called ‘antechamber’. The burial chamber was originally 2.70 x 2.60 m., and 1.55 m. high. At an uncertain moment (probably a short time before Djehuty’s death), the chamber was enlarged and two of the walls were pushed farther 0.95 and 0.90, to end up with a room of 3.65 x 3.50 m. Actually, the stone blocks resulting from the extension are still inside the chamber, pilled next to the two walls in the direction of the room’s enlargement.

The original ceiling and walls were completely painted over a layer of lime mortar and stucco. When the room was later on enlarged, however, two of the walls were chiselled and their painting lost. The surface of these two ‘new’ walls and of the ceiling’s extension were almost finished, but they never got painted. The reason for leaving the chamber’s extension unfinished could have been the sudden death of Djehuty. Another reason could have been the cracks that opened in the ceiling and the falling off of some big blocks from the central area, as a consequence of the enlargement of the ceiling, turning the chamber into a dangerous place.

For one reason or another, it seems that Djehuty’s coffin was never placed there, that it was left in the antechamber together with his funerary equipment. Inside the burial chamber, as far as we have been able to observe, there are no remains of Djehuty’s coffin, nor fragments of pottery, furniture, etc. Thus, when the first intruders that went down the shaft, broke the jars, boxes and coffin and stole some of the valuable goods, they must have found all these in the antechamber and not inside the burial chamber. That is why the gold earrings and the gold leaf were found in the antechamber and in the second shaft.

Within this scenario of violence, it is worth recalling that Djehuty, his parents and relatives suffered damnatio memoriae in the upper part of the funerary monument. Their names and faces were in most cases chiselled out. However, the damnatio did not reach the painted burial chamber, since Djehuty’s name as well as his father’s and his mother’s were here left untouched. If the executors of the damnatio went down the shaft, they did not find necessary to break into the burial chamber because they would have found the victim resting in the antechamber. If the first intruders, instead of being professional robbers, were people whose main goal was the execution of Djehuty’s damnatio, it would be easier to understand why they left behind a group of expensive gold earrings. This is all a preliminary interpretation, a mere hypothesis. The excavation of the burial chamber and the analysis of the bones and the material culture found in the antechamber could shed new light and lead us in a different direction.

The ceiling and the walls of the burial chamber preserve the name of Djehuty’s mother, “the lady of the house, Dediu”, and his father, “the dignitary, Abuty”. The title “dignitary” seems to refer more to a social status obtained through old age, than to an executive office; a masculine version (though more exclusive) of the common epithet “lady of the house” for well established women. The name “Abuty” is a phonetic transcription of an anthroponym without an Egyptian etymology, what leaves open the possibility of a foreign, Semitic origin for the name and for the person bearing it. Reconstructing Djehuty’s family tree and his origin, it has to be remembered that it seems that he came from the area of Hermopolis. As for Djehuty himself, not only his name is perfectly legible on the ceiling and walls, but there is even an untouched idealized portrait of him, represented with his mother behind an offering table in an conventional composition.

Ceiling and walls were entirely coated with a layer of lime mortar and stucco, and then written all over with funerary text, mostly passages from the Book of the Dead. The text is displayed as if it was a papyrus, written in columns separated by vertical lines, and they ought to be read following a retrograde direction. The signs are cursive hieroglyphs written in black ink, and using the red colour to indicate the beginning of a chapter or to stress a particular section of the text. Some chapters are illustrated by small vignettes.

On the north-west wall there are several transformation spells, meant to help the deceased to overcome specific obstacles in his journey to the Hereafter. Spell or Chapter 86 enables Djehuty to turn into a sparrow; Chapter 81-A passes on to him the capacity of the lots flower to live anew every morning with the rising sun; Chapter 88 gives to him the appearance of a crocodile to defend himself from his enemies; Chapter 87 turns him into a snake that is reborn periodically. Next to these spells there is a representation of the solar bark with Djehuty on board behind Re, together with Chapter 99, meant to help Djehuty in answering correctly the question that each part of the sacred bark addresses him concerning the secret name that each one of them has.

The ceiling has most of the text preserved. Chapter 125, the so-called ‘negative confession’, takes up most of the space. Separated from it is the ‘epilogue’ to this chapter, which enumerates eighteen parts of the deceased’s body, from the hair down to the toes, assigning each one of them to a specific deity, each one represented at the bottom of an independent text-column. Next to it there are spells that refer to knowing the souls of the Westerners and Easterners, Chapters 108 and 109, or knowing the souls of various sacred places, such as Nekhen and Hermopolis, Chapters 113 and 114.

In the middle of the ceiling there is a colourful representation of the sky goddess Nut, with black hair, yellow skin and dressed in a tight blue dress. Her arms are wide opened to embrace and protect Djehuty’s coffin and body that should have been placed right underneath her, in the middle of the room. The text written at both of her sides, on a yellow background, refers to her protective role: “Words spoken by the overseer of the king’s Treasury, Djehuty: ‘O [(my) mother] Nut, spread yourself over me and place me among the imperishable stars that are in you, as I shall not die. Raise me up. I am your son. Remove my weariness (caused) by he who acts against me”. This spell does not belong to the Book of the Dead, but it is part of the Coffin Texts. In order to separate it from the rest of the spells on the ceiling it was written on a yellow background. In the Middle Kingdom this spell was one of the so-called ‘mitre inscriptions’, and by the beginning of the XVIIIth Dynasty it was commonly written on the lid of the coffin, accompanying the depiction of Nut with her arms opened embracing the coffin. Thus, the design of the central part of the ceiling was meant to play the role the coffin’s lid.

The painted burial chamber sheds light on Djehuty’s life and family. A relevant piece of information is the name and status of his father, Abuty. We now know a little more on his artistic, intellectual and cultural preferences, his religious believes and practices. We are now on a better stand to place him among the intellectual and artistic elite of the time of Hatshepsut. Indeed, he was one of the high officials who administered the wealth incoming Thebes, as well as one of the royal scribes who searched for inspiration in the past to develop new ways of communicating ideas, who tried to show to his contemporaries his knowledge of ancient texts and his creativity in writing.

There are only four other painted burial chambers dated to the reign of Hatshepsut-Thutmosis III, and three of them seem to be a few years later than Djehuty’s. These are: Senenmut TT 353; Nakhtmin TT 87; the visir Useramun TT 131; and his assistant Amenemhat TT 82. The burial chamber of Djehuty TT 11, painted around the year 1475 BC, is, therefore, an important discovery from an artistic as well as a historical point of view.


7. The XIth Dynasty coffin and mummy

Last season, conducting an excavation below the courtyard of the tomb of Djehuty, an intact XIth Dynasty burial (c. 2000 BC.) was discovered. This year, we continued with the consolidation and restoration of the coffin. We used cotton impregnated in Paraloid diluted in Acetone to fill the big holes produced by termites underneath the painted surface. The cracks were filled with Epoxy resin and then covered with stucco, which will be in turn coloured in the final stage. The exterior face of the boards received a thin coat of Paraloid to protect the painting.

Moreover, the staves and bows that were left inside the coffin, and had also suffered from water and termites, were cleaned and consolidated, and afterwards wrapped individually in Japanese paper. A special wooden box was made for the five arrows, with a methacrylate lid so that the box does not need to be open to see the interior. The part of the cartonnage mask that has survived and the fringed linen cloth were also cleaned and consolidated, and carefully wrapped for storage.

Salima Ikram studied thoroughly Iqer’s mummy, the evisceration, the wrappings, the cartonnage mask, etc. Two x-ray sessions were conducted before touching the body. Later on, Roxie Walker analyzed the bones, to conclude that Iqer was an adult male who stood about 157 cm. tall in life and died in his late thirties. When he was quite young, he suffered a blow to his left cheekbone. The arch was bent inward and tore at its upper margin, then healed, albeit with deformity.

He has the typical facial features of a Nubian: low nasal bridge, round nasal aperture, and marked alveolar prognathism. In fact, his pronounced anterior angulation of his maxillary incisors meant that he actually used the bottom (mandibular) incisors against the very upper margins and neck of the upper incisors, rather than a normal edge-to-edge, or even a scissors, bite, as can be seen from the wear patterns on the teeth.

His bones show interesting vertebral anomalies, especially spondylolydsis of his fifth lumber vertebra, a condition where the vertebral arch does not fuse to the body of the vertebra. This results in a ‘false joint’ where the two parts move against each other. It also results in some spinal discomfort and instability.

8. Conservation and documentation

Several conservation tasks have already been mentioned, such as (1) the protection of the paintings of the small Ramesside chapel discovered above the tomb of Hery; (2) the closing with bricks and stones of the two big holes in the west-south wall of the corridor of Hery’s tomb; (3) the emergency intervention and protection of the painted burial chamber of Djehuty; (4) the restoration of the coffin and funerary equipment of Iqer. Moreover, (5) the restorers started cleaning and sealing the cracks of the walls and the statues at the inner chamber of the tomb of Djehuty.

The various documentation procedures that are used in an archaeological excavation continued during the present season: geology, topography, photography, epigraphy, physical-anthropology, archeobotany, ceramology, etc. Particularly interesting, due to its implication in the conservation of the monuments, is the detailed and complete geological column of this area of Dra Abu el-Naga.

8 th Season, 2009

Field Director: Dr. José M. Galán

General Director of Antiquities in Upper Egypt: Mansour Boraek Radwan

General Director of Antiquities in Luxor: Mohamed Asm

General Director of Antiquities in the West Bank: Mostafa Wazery

Field Inspector: Hekmat el-Arabi

Rais: Ali Farouk El-Quiftauy

Team Members:
Dr. José M. Serrano (Egyptologist; archaeology)
Dr. Andrés Diego (Egyptologist; epigraphy)
Dr. Gemma Menéndez (Egyptologist; archaeology)
Dr. José M. Parra (Egyptologist; archaeology)
Dr. María J. López (Egyptologist; pottery)
Dr. Salima Ikram (Egyptologist; mummified bodies)
Dr. Roxy Walker (Physical anthropology)
Dr. Ahmed Fahmy (Archeobotanist)
Dr. Sergio Sánchez (Geologist)
Dr. Soledad Cuezva (Geologist)
Francisco Borrego (Egyptologist; archaeology)
Elena de Gregorio (Egyptologist, pottery)
Pía Rodriguez (conservator & restorer)
Leandro de la Vega (conservator & restorer)
Carlos Cabrera (architect)
Juan Ivars (architect)

Sponsored by: Fundación Caja Madrid

Academic Institution: Spanish National Research Centre (CSIC), Madrid