Report Campaign 2010


The open courtyard of Djehty’s funerary monument is 34m long, and was excavated during the first five seasons of fieldwork, in 2002–06. The inner part of the monument penetrates horizontally 18m inside the rock of the hill, and its excavation was completed this year, during the 9th archaeological campaign.

The excavation of the innermost room of the tomb-chapel had some difficulty due the existence of two big holes in the ceiling, through which sand and stones fell down and filled the room up to the ceiling. Once the problem of the cascade of debris falling down was solved, in 2006, the excavation inside could start the following year. We brought to light the beautifully carved and interesting reliefs that decorate the walls, depicting the peculiar funerary rituals on behalf of Djehuty. When the ground level was almost reached, the mouth of a funerary shaft was discovered at one of the sides of the room. The opening of the shaft measures 2 x 1m, and it has a rock curb/step around it 45cm high.

The funerary shaft was excavated in 2008, and it ended being more than 8m deep. At the bottom there was an entrance leading to a big chamber filled with sand and stones almost up to the top. It measures 5.30 x 3.45m, and 1.55m high. Once again, the excavation was postponed for the following year, 2009. Through a dated newspaper fragment we learnt that the chamber was cleared and refilled in the winter of 1898/99, when Dra Abu el-Naga was partially excavated for three months by the Marquees of Northampton, Spiegelberg and Newberry. Despite the fact that the chamber’s debris had been manipulated in modern times, we were able to find mixed up numerous fragments of painted pottery dating to the reign of Hatshepsut–Thutmosis III, which could be partly recomposed. We were also able to put together most of a big jar dating to the XIXth Dynasty (c. 1200 BC), with two sketches depicting the head of a king drawn in black and a standing figure of a king offering wine in red ink, and eight big jars of the XXIst Dynasty (c. 1000 BC), that could reflect successive reuses of the chamber. The coffin fragments that still preserve the decoration seem to support this hypothesis, pointing to a heavy reutilization during the XXIst Dynasty.

The circumstantial evidence seems to point out that there was a big fire (or more than one) inside the chamber, which left a black thick crust over big areas on the walls. It must have happened between the XVIIIth and the XXIst Dynasties, since the coffin fragments painted with a black background, characteristic of the XVIIIth Dynasty, all of them have traces of fire, while none of the yellow background fragments, characteristic of the XXIst Dynasty, have any trace of fire or smoke. The human bones can also be divided in two groups, those that were burnt and those that do not show any trace of fire. However, since they were found scattered all over the chamber and completely mixed up, they cannot be dated and used as evidence. It is worth noticing the very few linen fragments that were recovered compared to the amount of human remains, coffin fragments, etc., that were found.

Unexpectedly, at the rear end of the chamber, there was a second shaft. Its mouth was of the usual size, 2 x 1m, but it was not as deep as the first one, going down only about 3m. At the bottom there was an entrance leading to another chamber. This one was meant to be Djehuty’s “burial chamber”, turning the previous one into the “antechamber”. The second shaft was filled with 1m of debris. Excavating here we found small fragments of golden foil that, when they were flattened on the restorers’ table, it became clear that they covered the face of an anthropomorphic coffin’s lid, since we could see two eyes painted in black and white. It can probably be dated to the XVIIIth Dynasty, but it is difficult to say if it belonged to Djehuty. At the bottom of the second shaft we discovered also a group of six gold earrings (one is double, and another has lotus adornment to attach a semiprecious stone). The style is characteristic of the XVIIIth Dynasty, the closest parallels are to be found among the jewelry of the three Syrian princesses of Thutmosis III, on display today at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. It seems that men started to wear earrings at the beginning of the XVIIIth Dynasty, but again it cannot be said if they belonged to Djehuty, to a member of his family or to an individual buried there a few years later.

Taking into account the successive reuses and robberies in antiquity, followed by the clearance and refilling of the shaft in recent times, it is certainly surprising to find this small ‘treasure’, which would have been very much coveted by any of its numerous intruders. A possible explanation for it would be that the funerary equipment was left in the antechamber and, when it was sacked, part of it rolled into the second shaft. The coffin and its accompanying goods were never placed inside the burial chamber, but were placed in the antechamber. The robbers found everything here, using a dim light took away what they saw and pleased, and set fire to the rest of the stuff. The visitors that came later did not bother to clear completely the second shaft, since it was not necessary to get into the burial chamber and check that there was nothing there of any value for them.

The burial chamber has no trace of smoke, nothing was burnt inside because nothing seems to have been left there. The few fragmented objects that were found during the excavation that took place in 2010, were near the entrance because they had fall down accidentally from the antechamber. Among the objects found, there is a group of six wallet-shape spacers of a girdle, four made of cornaline, one of turquoise and anther one of gold. All the pieces have a jagged curved side imitating a shell, and three holes drilled through it to be linked and form a chain. No beads were found. The girdle spacers can be dated to the XVIIIth Dynasty, but we have no clue as to whom they might have belonged.

The are quite a number of objects found in the antechamber, in the second shaft and in the burial chamber that can be dated to the XVIIIth Dyansty, and more precisely to the reign of Hatshepsut–Thutmosis III: decorated pottery, black painted coffin fragments, earrings, part of a girdle, etc. Since they bear no inscriptions, it cannot be said who the owner was. In fact, since the name of Djehuty is absent from the funerary equipment left, it cannot be said with certainty if Djehuty was buried here, in his burial chamber. The only two objects that bear traces of a personal name, it is certainly not “Djehuty”. One is a fragment of the feet of the lid of an anthropomorphic coffin, finely carved on both sides. The inner side preserves one hand of the goddess Isis ready to protect the deceased by embracing him with her arms, and the text above her reproduces a short prayer that mentions at the end the name of its owner: “Recitation: ‘Oh Geb, embrace me with your arms, brighten my face and [open my eyes], Inena, justified”.

The excavation of the burial chamber recovered many fragments of various seizes of stucco with traces of writing, which had fallen from the walls and ceiling. Moreover, we are now able to adventure a hypothesis on how the chamber was hewn and decorated. It was first designed almost quadrangular, 2.70 x 2.52m, and 1.55m tall. One gained access inside through an entrance 1m high, and descending a step of 45cm. The entrance was centered at the east/north wall. When the carving of the walls was almost finished, for unknown reasons, the chamber was enlarged by cutting 0.95m deeper the rear end wall and the left hand wall. The entrance was, thus, no longer centered. The extension was left unfinished, leaving the left hand wall well carved and even with a first layer of mortar, but the work on the rear wall was stopped leaving a ruff and irregular surface. The stonemasons left abandoned on the floor the limestone chips resulting from the last chiseling of the rock.

Thus, when the draughtsmen and scribes came in to decorate it with passages from the Book of the Dead, only the areas left from the original design were then coated with a layer of mortar and stucco, those that were finished and ready, i.e., two of the walls and the area of the ceiling corresponding to the first quadrangular design. It seems that, for one reason or another, maybe because Djehuty was close to dying or already dead, they were running out of time and they had to work in haste. Not only they did not remove the limestone chips pilled at the foot of the two unfinished walls, but the layer of mortar and stucco was applied uneven and carelessly. The Book of the Dead passages were copied making a number of mistakes, and even the separating lines between columns and registers of texts were traced without the precision with which the ancient Egyptians used to do this kind of mechanical tasks. The figures painted in the small vignettes that illustrate some of the chapters lack the usual details, and even the larger figures of Djehuty and his mother in a banquet scene and that of the goddess Nut, were painted with a very loose hand, without time to outline and/or correct them.

The analysis of the handwriting reveals that more than one scribe was involved in the job. The titles that precede the name of Djehuty are written in different ways, and the spellings for the phonetic rendering of the name of Djehuty’s father (Abu/ Abty/ Abuty) also vary. Nevertheless, the whole plastered surface got written. Djehuty’s selection of Book of the Dead chapters is particularly relevant because it was under Hatshepsut when the composition reached a considerable length and the sequence of chapters started to be established. Thus, Djehuty’s burial chamber is one of the earliest Book of the Dead samples that has been preserved. It is worth noticing that it includes one of the earliest versions of chapter BD 125, the so-called ‘negative confession’ during the last judgement.


Last season, following after the discovery of the Djehuty’s burial chamber, it was very little what we could do for its preservation. Firstly, two thirds of the floor were covered by sand and stone blocks that made difficult our movement inside, and it was better not to disturb the debris because it could contain small objects and fragments of painted stucco. Secondly, the ceiling looked very unstable, with a big hole in the middle and cracks running in all directions, making it advisable not to stay long inside the chamber. The problem that we had to face this season was how to proceed, since in order to set up supports for the ceiling we needed to clear first the floor, and in order to clear the floor safely we needed to secure the ceiling first. The solution was to operate in phases, step by step. We designed a sort of custom made iron ‘table’ that could be gradually enlarged by attaching other tables to it as we advance clearing the floor. The tables had to be of a size that could descend down the shafts and go through the chamber’s entrance. The resulting size of the three joined structures set up inside the chamber was 1.90 x 2.80m. The legs of the tables are telescopic, so that the structure could be raised and remained fixed at a height 20cm below the ceiling. The top was then covered with foam ‘mattresses’ of 10cm, thus leaving a free space of just 10cm.

The idea behind the device was not to try to hold up the blocks that seemed to be about to fall down from the ceiling, but instead to minimize the consequences if one or more blocks happen to fall by accident. If one falls down and hits the ground, the painted surface will be badly damaged, and the resulting vibrations can cause other blocks to fall down. Vibration is considered to be a major cause for the detachment of blocks. The point of departure for our approach to the problem was that it was risky to set up a system of supports, first of all because the floor was not even, but covered with debris, and secondly because the layer of mortar and stucco was hiding in part structural problems of the rock, so that it became difficult to estimate precisely which were the dangerous areas and which were in good condition. The geologist advice was to touch the ceiling as little as possible, since the behavior of the cracks in the bedrock are difficult to predict. Moreover, since most of the ceiling’s surface was painted, the damage caused by the supports could have been too great.

The iron structure has two basic features. On the one hand, the telescopic legs permit the top of the structure to go up and down as the situation requires. On the other hand, the top of the structure of each of the three modules or tables is divided into two parts, and these can be opened as if they were window’s leafs. In this way, by opening one or two, a section of the ceiling can be accessed without obstacles so that restoration, photography or epigraphy can now be conducted easily and safely. By opening only a section and leaving the rest closed, the person(s) underneath can work on the ceiling while being protected under the closed part of the iron structure.

The top of the iron structure is made of an iron grid, so that one can check periodically if a stone block has fallen down from the ceiling by accident. In this unfortunate case, the window leaf holding it would be opened carefully, the block recovered and then placed back in place by the restorers if they consider it feasible. If necessary, the structure can be lowered down by shrinking the telescopic legs.

The major problem for the conservation of the painted stucco is the humidity inside the chamber. Due to the foothill location of the tomb-chapel, and the fact that the burial chamber ends up resting 12m below ground level, the underground water table lays very close. Indeed, the water level oscillated greatly depending on the season of the year and if the Nile’s inundation was high or low. Still today there is a difference between summer and winter, and if the damp’s gates are opened or closed. Anyhow, the humidity inside the chamber reaches a very high level. When we first went in and started registering the humidity, it reached a level of 80%. This circumstance causes that the salts of the limestone bedrock precipitate and migrate to the surface. As the salts appear on the surface, they push the layer of stucco, separating it from the rock. Thus, gypsum and halite salts can easily be seen on the surface, particularly on the lower half of the walls and inside the cracks. High humidity, on the other hand, has a positive effect: the gypsum layer of stucco has preserved almost intact its original condition, it has not suffered dehydration, it has not transformed itself into anhydrite, and thus it has not loose volume and it has not gotten covered in cracks.

Under these circumstances, we need to avoid drastic and repeated variations in humidity and temperature levels, and thus the chamber remains closed as much as possible, so that the natural environmental conditions can be recovered and maintained stabilized. During the two months of fieldwork in January and February, when the chamber unavoidably has to remain opened most of the time, the humidity descends down to 25%. During the ten months laps between one archaeological season and the following, the entrance to the burial chamber and the antechamber are both closed, as well as the mouth of the second shaft, and by doing so, between March and December 2009 the humidity recovered up to 65%. The temperature has a small oscillation around 28.5ºC, and its effect on the preservation of the stucco is also quite small. Nevertheless, it is convenient to register the temperature, because the difference between the temperature inside the burial chamber and in the upper part of the monument produces the movement of air masses, contributing to lower down the humidity inside. To register also the exchange of air masses we measure also the levels of radon gas. The environmental conditions are monitored during the whole year through a HOBO data logger.

Next season, in 2011, being able now to work inside the burial chamber with a certain degree of safety and comfortably condition under the iron structure, we will try to seal with resin some of the bigger cracks on the ceiling, and anchor with metal cramps the blocks that seem to be ready to fall down, in order to provide strength and stability to the chamber. Since the burial chamber will never be visited by the general public, and on the other hand, due to the proximity of the water table, the humidity will continue causing the appearance of salts, the project will conduct only an emergency consolidation of the painting. Special attention will be paid to fix the borders of the stucco sections that are already separated from the wall and ready to fall down. The consolidation procedure, spraying a very light solution of Paraloid and Acetone, has to be very careful with the preservation of the pigments, which were applied using very little binder, and therefore can easily be removed. We will pay special attention not to darken the white background colour when fixing the pigments. The main policy we will follow is to reduce our intervention to the minimum and indispensable, acting slowly and carefully, constantly checking the results and ready to readapt our plans to the new circumstances that may prompt.


At the corner formed by the façade of the inner part of Djehuty’s monument and the east/north sidewall of its open courtyard, where a standing life-seize statue of the owner was carved inside a niche, there is a funerary shaft, well cut in the bedrock, with a curb/step around it 30cm high. The mouth of the shaft, 2 x 1m, was already visible at least in 1899, during the excavations of the Marquees of Northampton, Newberry and Spiegelberg, and that is how we found it back in 2002. The area close to the façade was roofed by the Antiquity Service in 1909, and unfortunately one of the stone walls stands on top of one side of the shaft’s curb.

The shaft was filled with sand to the very top, but we were sure that it had been robbed in antiquity and cleared in more recent times. Trying to follow an efficient order in the excavation, we did not start working in it until this season. The shaft ended up being almost 9m deep, with the walls well finished and the longer sides having in the middle small holes aligned every half meter to help the ancient workmen going up and down the shaft. The excavation in the shaft recovered 24 fragments of relief, 10 of which certainly come from the walls of Djehuty’s monument. Moreover, almost at the bottom of the shaft there was a group of 39 fragments of the life-size statue(s) of Djehuty near the façade. At the bottom also we found several fragments of a shallow open faience bowl, with a linear design drawn in black depicting a Hathor head pillar accompanied by aquatic floral motives, probably dating to the XVIIIth Dynasty.

At the bottom of the shaft, an entrance hewn at the north/west side leads to a burial chamber. It measured originally 2 x 4 x 1m, but today the chamber is slightly bigger, irregular and rough due to the detachment of blocks from the ceiling and walls, measuring now 2.50 x 4.30 x 1.70m. Inside, there were about 40cm of sand and stone blocks. Despite the numerous ancient robbers and modern visitors that descended down the shaft in various times, we found a number of objects dated to the XVIIIth Dynasty. Among them, the lower half of a limestone statuette of a seated man. The feet and the hands, placed over his knees, are notoriously big, what helps to date approximately the piece. A small cornaline udjat-eye was also found. It has a hole drilled through it to be used as amulet, integrated in a necklace. A significant find was a fine Cypriot type juglet, almost complete, common in early XVIIIth Dynasty elite burials.

The shaft is, undoubtedly, part of the monument’s plan. Although it should not be assumed that the façade was the first part to be finished, being the shaft’s curb carved in the bedrock and integrated in the design together with the biographical inscription and Djehuty’s statue, the possibility that it could be a later addition can be ruled out. But now that we know that Djehuty’s funerary shaft is the one at the inner most chamber of the monument, the question to be asked is, for whom was this shaft prepared for? There seem to be only two possibilities. It could have been hewn for Djehuty, but later there was a change of plans and it was then taken over by a member of his family, maybe his parents, or someone close to him. The second possibility is that it was meant from the very beginning to be occupied by his parents or a close relative (remember that there is no evidence that Djehuty had a wife and children). There are not enough data to answer this question.


At the west/south side of the transverse hall of Djehuty’s tomb-chapel there is a third shaft. In this case it was certainly a later addition, most probably made during the XXVIth Dynasty (c. 650 BC). It has no curb, and its mouth is quadrangular, measuring 1 x 1.18m, what would have forced to descend the coffins vertically. The shaft was already cleared down to 2.30m. Newspaper fragments confirmed that the shaft had been cleared at the end of the XIXth Century. We started the excavation last year, and stopped when we found the entrance to two burial chambers.

The shaft ended up measuring 5.40m deep. At the north/west side there is the entrance to one of the burial chambers. The chamber measures 2.65 x 2.40m. The height is 1.55 in the middle and 1.35m at the sides, and the corners are slightly rounded, what gives to the ceiling a vault appearance, typical of Saite burial chambers. In the floor there is quadrangular pit hewn in the rock, the sides measuring 60cm, and being 45cm deep. Its function was to place inside a wooden chest with the four canopic jars. At the bottom there were remains of wood, and one of the lids of a canopic jar. The limestone lid, nicely carved, represents the falcon headed god Qebehseuef, the son of Horus in charge of the intestines of the deceased, with the udjat-eye painted in black.

The entrance to the second burial chamber is at the east/north side of the shaft. The measurements are similar to the other one, 2.45 x 2.85 x 1.55m, but the ceiling’s vault shape is here not so clear. In the floor there are two pits of similar dimensions to the one in the other chamber, but nothing relevant was found inside. Two of the walls, though, have a peculiar feature: the workmen wrote three times the numeral “nine” in black ink, tracing three groups of nine parallel strokes in a single line. A big pottery vase was found almost complete.

The layout of the two burial chambers and the shaft make it clear that the first chamber to be hewn was the one to the north/west, since it is well aligned with the shaft, while the other one has its entrance moved to one side of the wall. The excavation of both chambers brought to light a large number of faience beads, fragments of shabtis of various types but characteristic of the Saite period, and fragments of inscriptions from the walls of Djehuty’s tomb-chapel.


The innermost chamber of Hery’s funerary monument measures 5.20 x 6.60m, and it has a central pillar. As it was the case in Djehuty’s monument, it is filled with debris that had fallen inside trough two big holes. In this case, one is in the middle of the ceiling, broking part of the pillar, and the other connects with the inner part of the nearby monument of Baki, located one meter to the east/north and 2m higher up the hill.

This season we were able to block the whole in the ceiling and start excavating the area around the pillar. The process was not easy because the debris could not be touched from inside, and we had to work from outside, on the hill slope above Hery’s inner most chamber. Last year we found here a small Ramesside chapel (c. 1100 BC), preserving interesting paintings on the walls showing naked children manipulating a loom to manufacture linen cloths. The accompanying inscription mentions “Ramose, chief of the meret-servants”. Excavating near its entrance we found this year a dummy, solid canopic jar with a baboon head as lid, representing the god Hapy, in charge of protecting the lungs of the deceased. In that same area we brought to light a small entrance to a subterranean gallery that goes deep into the bedrock of the hill. The gallery might be connected to the reutilization of the necropolis during the II Century BC to bury animal mummies, mostly falcon and ibis, as documented through the presence of a number demotic graffiti written in red ink. Next season we will continue excavating this area to remove weight from above the tomb-chapels, we will investigate the gallery and produce an accurate plan of its interior.

Once the hole in the ceiling of Hery’s innermost chamber was blocked, we tackled the big hole in the wall connecting with Baki’s monument. The open courtyard of Baki’s tomb-chapel was excavated in 2005, and it was then when we discovered the doorjambs with his name and tiles carved on them, “the overseer of the cattle of Amun, Baki”, who must have lived in the mid XVIIIth Dynasty. The inner part of the monument was painted over a thick layer of mortar, but most of the decoration is now gone. The walls and ceiling were reworked to such an extent that the tomb-chapel’s layout is hardly recognizable. In fact, when Jean Francois Champollion went in to gain access into Hery’s central corridor, he described it as a “caverne”.

The inner part of Baki’s monument had 1m of sand and stones. Since the main goal was to free Hery’s innermost chamber from debris falling inside from Baki’s, we opened inside the latter a trench 6.30 x 2m next to the wall separating them. In the process, we brought to light attestations of the interior being recently reused as stable, several fragments of modern sand floor (“dakka”), and a circular fireplace made of mud bricks. The most interesting find was a group of four seated statues inside a niche. They are badly damaged, but it can be ventured that they belonged to the deceased, his wife and parents. The location of the group, carved on the sidewall, is the most intriguing feature, since this type of composition is usually carved at the rear end of the monument, as in Djehuty’s tomb-chapel. At the corner of the base of the statue-group with the floor, we finally reached and cleared around the hole going down into Hery’s chamber. Hery’s innermost chamber is now ready to be fully excavated next season, in 2011. We are hoping to find here more fragments of the inscriptions and relief scenes that decorate the walls of the central corridor (6.20m long and 1.68m high), and we may also find remains of the relief scenes that once decorated the walls of the inner chamber. Thirdly, there is a chance also that we may find here a funerary shaft, as in the case of the monument of Djehuty and –399–.