Report Campaign 2011
Tomb-chapel of Djehuty (TT 11)
Djehuty was a high official under the joint reign of Hatshepsut–Thutmosis III, c. 1470 BC. He came from Middle Egypt, from the province of Hermopolis (Hemenu), consecrated to the god Thot, the scribe of the gods. Djehuty’s name also related him to the god Thot, since “Djehuty” means “one who belongs to Thot” as Thot is the Greek version of the Egyptian divine name Djehut. This is an important feature in Djehuty’s personality, since he tried to present himself as a cultivated man, well acquainted with the most arcane religious texts, and gifted in the writing and visual composition of inscriptions. His funerary monument was designed as the perfect medium to demonstrate his knowledge and creativity.
As “royal scribe”, he was appointed “overseer of the works (of the craftsmen)” and “overseer of the Treasury”. These two duties were related to each other in as much as they concerned the acquisition, management and redistribution of metals (gold, silver, electrum, bonze, copper), semiprecious stones (turquoise), and exotic timber (cedar wood). As “overseer of the Treasury” he was in charge of collecting taxes from the local governors, and he registered in writing the marvels brought from Punt and directed to the god Amun of Karnak in year 9. As “overseer of works”, he was responsible for “giving instructions and leading the artisans to act regarding the work in” shrines and temples all over Thebes. In Karnak, the noble portal “Presentation of Maat” and two obelisks erected by Hatshepsut between pylons IVth and Vth in year 16 were inlaid with electrum, and the sacred bark of Amun, User-hat-Amun, with gold so that “the Two Lands would be illuminated”. He enhanced with copper and electrum the great doors of Hatshepsut’s Temple of Millions of Years, Djeser-djeseru, and those of the nearby temple of Kha-akhet.
The layout of the inner part of the tomb-chapel has an inverted T-shape, and the walls are fully covered with inscriptions and scenes in relief. Djehuty included in the repertoire three biographical inscriptions, a solar hymn to Amun-Ra, two long cryptographic texts, a visual and textual description of the Opening of the Mouth ritual and other funerary ceremonies, together with the standard compositions of the deceased fishing and fowling in the marshes, hunting game in the desert fringe, a pilgrimage boat journey back and forth to Abydos and a couple of banquet scenes.
The inner part of Djehty’s funerary monument penetrates horizontally 18m inside the rock of the hill, and its excavation was completed during the 9th archaeological campaign. The clearance of the innermost room brought to light the mouth of a funerary shaft (2 x 1m), which was excavated in 2008, and ended being more than 8m deep. At its bottom there was an entrance leading to a big chamber (5.30 x 3.45m, and 1.55m high), excavated in 2009. At the rear end of it there was a second shaft, going down only about 3m. At the bottom there was an entrance leading to second chamber, meant to be Djehuty’s “burial chamber”.
While the walls and ceiling of the antechamber were blackened from one or more fires lit inside, 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 fallen down accidentally from the antechamber, where the funerary equipment was left and was later robbed, broken into pieces and burnt.
The burial chamber was decorated with passages from the Book of the Dead. Now only two of the original walls and the area of the ceiling corresponding to the first quadrangular design preserve the layer of stucco and the text written on it. 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 began 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 final judgement.
Djehuty’s burial chamber is in an unstable and uncertain condition. The ceiling has a big hole in the middle and cracks running in all directions, making it advisable not to stay long inside the chamber. We designed and installed a sort of custom made iron structure to minimize the consequences if one or more blocks happen to fall by accident. On the other hand, the major problem for the conservation of the painted stucco is the humidity inside the chamber. Due to its foothill location and its proximity to the irrigated valley, and the fact that the burial chamber ends up resting 12m below ground level, the underground water table lays very close to it. 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 and separate 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. Under this environmental condition, 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. A tem of geologists specialized in interior environments, (such as prehistoric painted caves) set up autonomous electronic devices inside and outside the burial chamber to monitor all year long the variations in temperature and humidity.
This season we conducted a complete and thorough photographic documentation of the inner part of Djehuty’s funerary monument, including the walls and ceiling of the burial chamber. A set of ortho-photos was taken of each wall, and then joined in the computer to obtain a high resolution single photo of each wall, which can be then zoomed in to perceive small details of its decoration and physical condition.
At the same time, the cleaning, consolidation and restoration of the walls continued, paying special attention to the inner shrine and corridor. Mud was carefully removed from the surface, turning visible parts of inscriptions that were hidden underneath. Some blocks that were found outside, when digging the courtyard, were relocated in the walls, in their original place, thanks to the collaboration between epigraphers and restorers.
Tomb-chapel of Hery (TT 12)
Hery must have lived about fifty years earlier than Djehuty, under King Ahmose, and probably dying under Amenhotep I. His main title was “overseer of the granaries of the king’s mother and royal wife Ahhotep”. Through his mother, he may have been related to the royal family and achieved enough relevance as to be able to make for himself a tomb-chapel decorated in high quality relief. The walls of the corridor (6.20m long and 1.68m high) include two large banquet scenes, a description of his funerary procession, the owner fishing and fowling in the marshes as well as hunting game in the desert with bow and arrows. There is no transverse hall. The excavation on the open courtyard produced over a hundred carved rock fragments that had fallen from the corridor walls. We now know exactly where most of them come from, and we are ready to place them back in place and restore the walls, once we finish excavating the inner part of the monument.
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 for Djehuty’s monument, it was filled with debris that had fallen inside trough two big holes in the ceiling. In this case, one is in the middle, breaking 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. Once the wholes were blocked and the debris stopped from falling, this season we were able to start excavating around the pillar. The debris contained a number of modern objects. At the west-northern corner of the chamber we brought to light a group of shabtis dating to the XXIst Dynasty, inscribed but of poor quality, molded in clay. They belonged to “The father of the god Amun, Hor(i)”. They had fallen down from the neighboring tomb-chapel of Baki through a hole in the wall they both share. Probably of a Ptolemaic date, we found a small linen wrapped up package (6.8 x 5 x 2cm), maybe containing one or more mummified tiny snakes or another small animal.
At the end of this short season we discovered the mouth of a funerary shaft (2.50 x 1.07m). This is actually the second shaft associated to the tomb-chapel of Hery, since we excavated another one outside, in the open courtyard, near the entrance, which was very much robbed and reused in antiquity. The inner shaft will be excavated next season.
Tomb-chapel of Baki
The open courtyard of Baki’s tomb-chapel was excavated in 2005. It was then when we discovered the doorjambs with the owner’s 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, however, painted over a thick layer of mortar, and 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 in 1829 Jean François Champollion went inside to gain access from there into Hery’s central corridor, he described it as a “caverne”.
The inner part of Baki’s monument had a 1m layer of sand and stones over the original floor. A trench, 6.30 x 2m, was opened inside, next to the wall separating the two tomb-chapels. In the process, we brought to light attestations of how the interior had been recently reused as stable, parts of a modern sand floor (“dakka”), and a circular fireplace made of mud bricks. Some mud bricks were ancient, five of them bearing a stamped seal with the inscription “The scribe, Nebamun” and one with the name “Tutuya”. We had found many of these digging the courtyard. The most interesting find was a rock-cut 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, at the entrance of the inner section of the monument, is the most intriguing feature, since this type of composition is usually carved at the rear end, as in Djehuty’s tomb-chapel. At one of the lower corners of the base of the statue-group, we brought to light the hole descending toward the inner chamber of Hery’s tomb-chapel, through which Champolion went in, and through which the debris were falling down. We discovered a second hole, through which the group of XXIst Dynasty shabtis fall down into Hery’s inner chamber.
Gallery with demotic graffiti and animal mummies above the tomb-chapel of Hery
Above the tomb-chapel of Hery, 2m higher up the hill, we found last year 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”. From a stylistic point of view it might be dated to the reign of Sety I. Excavating near its entrance we found a small entrance to a subterranean gallery that goes deep into the bedrock of the hill.
The walls and ceiling are all blackened with a burnt oily substance, except for the last, inner most chamber. Paradoxically, the latter has remains of a fire on the ground, with carbonated ibis and falcon mummies. Above its entrance, there are two demotic graffiti written in red ink, dated to the year 43 of Ptolemy VIII, which corresponds to the year 128/127 BC. A precise plan was produced with a topographical total station, and a survey was conducted inside, picking up a couple of pottery vases, a few sherds, and one fragment of fayence shabti. The gallery was then closed, and its excavation postponed for future campaigns.
Sector 10, south-west of Djehuty’s open courtyard
This season we opened a trench a few meters to the south-west of Djehuty’s courtyard, in order to reach the mud brick structures that were built before the latter and prompted the deviation of its side-walls. We also pretend to reach from above the XIth Dynasty rock-cut tomb whose entrance was discovered a couple of years ago below the south-west side-wall of the court. We excavated this area only for two weeks. The modern debris was removed, and at a depth of 0.5m we unearthed an assemble of 89 shabtis of the XXIst Dynasty (c. 1000 BC). They were molded in clay, painted in white and then inscribed with a single column of text written in black ink. The owner is a wab-priest, probably of Amun, named Su-en-amun.
The significance of the finding goes beyond the shabtis themselves, as it confirms the hypothesis that this sector was not touched by XIX Century thieves nor by previous excavators. The sector has a great potential and gives us hopes that we may find the structures and burials in relatively good condition. We shall find out to what extent this is tru in future campaigns.
Restoration and documentation
A team of five restorers –3 Spaniards and 2 Egyptians– continued working hard in the cleaning, consolidation and restoration of the inner walls of Djehuty’s funerary monument. A group concentrated in the inner most chamber and end of the corridor, removing the hard mud attached to the surface of the walls, and filling the cracks. They also placed back in their original location some blocks and fragments that had fallen down from the wall and were found in the curse of the excavation. A second group concentrated in the reposition of blocks in the second biographical inscription of Djehuty, carved on the east-north end of the transverse hall. The hole communicating Djehuty’s tomb-chapel with its neighbor –399– was finally closed, and the lower part of the inscription was almost completed. One of the restorers was also in charge of the cleaning and consolidation of the painted fallen fragments recovered inside the burial chamber of Djehuty.
Epigraphy and a complete and thorough photographic documentation of the walls was conducted in the tomb-chapel of Djehuty and also in that of Hery. Ortho-photos were taken by setting up a device with rails and operating a laser-meter, so that they would all be taken from the same distance and without any inclination. The lighting was kept constant for the shots of each wall. The photos were later on joined together in a computer to come up with a high resolution single picture of each wall, which can then be zoomed in to perceive small details. The large photo can also be used to draw on it with a vectorial computer program and come up with an epigraphic drawing of a wall.
Moreover, the restoration and reassembling of the XIth Dynasty coffin of the archer caller Iqer was completed. The bows (2), staves (3) and arrows (5) are all now kept in special wooden boxes, perfect for storage and at the same time for exhibiting the objects.
The Supreme Council of Antiquities in Cairo has been extremely helpful in every way, and we are most grateful to its Secretary General, Dr. Zahi Hawass, and to Dr. Mohamed Ismail Khaled, Director of Permanent Committee and Foreign Missions Affairs. In Luxor, as it has happened every year, the Antiquities Service has always been ready to help, and our gratitude goes to Mr. Mansour Boraek, General Director of Antiquities in Upper Egypt; Mr. Mohamed Asm, General Director in the area of Luxor, and to Mr. Mostafa Wazeri, Director of the Antiquities Department in the West Bank. Our inspector for this season, Mrs. Hekmat el-Arabi, has been extremely kind and most cooperative. She has been very efficient and diligent in her duties, and we consider ourselves very lucky to have her working with us.
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. He gathers all the qualities that a good rais must have.
We have employed about eighty workmen. They have all worked very hard and with great care, and we are more than satisfied with their job.