Report Campaign 2015
14th Season Report: January 13 th – February 21 st
Dra Abu el-Naga is the modern name of the hill that rises at the northern end of the necropolis associated with the ancient city of Thebes, which coincides with modern Luxor. It is located on the West Bank, right in front of the temple of Amun-Ra in Karnak. 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 probably lived under the first king of the new Theban dynasty, King Ahmose, and 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.” The only administrative title mentioned in the tomb-chapel is “overseer of the granaries of the king’s mother and royal wife Ahhotep.” The inner walls of his funerary monument were entirely decorated in high quality relief, being one of the very few decorated tomb-chapels of this time period, c. 1510 BC, that is preserved.
Djehuty lived about fifty years later, c. 1460 BC. In the peak of his administrative career as scribe, he acted as “overseer of the treasure” and “overseer of the works” carried out by the craftsmen and metal workers for Queen Hatshepsut. He was also “overseer of the cattle of Amun.” The walls of his tomb-chapel were also decorated in relief, even the façade and part of the left sidewall of the open courtyard. His burial chamber is entirely written with passages from the Book of the Dead.
SOUTH-WEST OF DJEHUTY’S OPEN COURTYARD (TT 11)
‘SECTOR 10 SOUTH’
In the winter of 2006/07 the modern village of Dra Abu el-Naga was entirely demolished and its people relocated in modern houses in New Gurna. The Spanish mission applied then to the Supreme Council of Antiquities for an extension of the site to the left/southwest of Djehuty’s courtyard. Once the debris was removed and the area cleared, in January 2011 excavations commenced in what was then called ‘Sector 10’. The following seasons, three meters below the ground level of the modern houses, a number of Seventeenth Dynasty burials (c. 1650-1550 BC) were unearthed, consisting of funerary shafts and offering mud-brick chapels, but also coffins placed unprotected on the ground and ensembles of votive pottery vessels. The discovery of part of the necropolis used by the royal family and elite members of the Seventeenth Dynasty helps to understand the possible reasons behind Djehuty’s choice of this particular spot for building his tomb-chapel, more than five hundred meters away from most of his colleagues, high officials of Hatshepsut-Thutmose III’s administration, who were buried south of Deir el-Bahari, between el-Asasif plain and the hillside of Sheikh Abd el-Gurna.
Excavating to the southwest of the open courtyard of the tomb-chapel of Djehuty for the last four years, we have discovered several burials from an earlier period, the 17th Dynasty (ca. 1600 BC.). Among them, (a) two infant coffins lying sidewise on the ground, unprotected and without any funerary equipment; (b) the mud brick offering-chapel and funerary shaft of prince Intefmose; (c) the mud brick offering-chapel and funerary shaft of Ahmose-Sapair; (d) a third shaft probably belonging to a “son of the King of Upper and Lower Egypt;” (e) a rishi-coffin of a man called Neb, buried down a fourth shaft. Last season we discovered also (f) a large rock-cut tomb probably of the Eleventh Dynasty, that was heavily reused in the Seventeenth or early Eighteenth Dynasty to bury almost one hundred human bodies (including a high number of infants) wrapped in linen, some of them also wrapped in mats, but very few in coffins.
This season, excavation continued in the same area, and we brought to light more pottery vessels of the big deposit of the early Eighteenth Dynasty that was unearthed in 2012. A mud brick wall is now also visible in squares 4-X and 5-X, which is probably part of a funerary structure that remains buried under ground to the west of the trench. It is 0.92 m thick, and the mud brick measurements are: 34 x 16 x 9 cm.
A second large rock-cut tomb was also discovered. It has several holes in the ceiling and walls that have been opened by robbers. The entrance and some of the holes were walled up with bricks sometime in the Twentieth century, probably by the Antiquities Service. Still, we found inside plastic bags and pieces of paper dating to the year 2004. One of the holes coincides with the area taken by a house of the modern village that was demolished in 2006/07. Nevertheless, the tomb is of great interest and potential, since modern robbers probably did not move around the debris that fill part of the corridor and rooms, and thus did not reach the floor.
From its layout, the rock-cut tomb can be dated to the Second Intermediate Period. The central corridor is oriented east-west, and it is partially filled with debris, the end of it being currently blocked. It is at least 18 m long, 2 m wide and 2.66 m high near the entrance. There is an opening at the middle of the right wall that gives access to a side room with the floor 1.10 m lower. The room has an opening at the bottom of the eastern wall just enough for a coffin to be pushed through: 1.16 m high and about 1 m wide. It is 2.5 m long and descends into what looks like a burial chamber. Inside, there were Twenty-first Dynasty shabtis and coffin fragments deliberately grouped on the surface near the entrance, together with a fragment of a small stela showing a standing female figure, of uncertain dating but certainly earlier (First Intermediate Period (?). There was also a stone block preserving part of a royal serekh: the lower part of a falcon, carved and painted, resting on a vertical rectangle, where a king’s name would have been written. Next to it, there was another sandstone block with a cartouche incised and painted on one of the sides, which included the divine name “Ra,” but the rest of the royal name is missing. On the right side, there is part of an incised standing female figure. These two blocks could be an indication that the tomb originally belonged to a member of the royal family, although they also could have been brought from outside, from a nearby tomb, since the tomb has been opened and robbed several times, in different periods.
Excavating outside the entrance, we found a large amount of pottery, all dating to the Thirteenth Dynasty, ca. 1700 BC, what could be an indication of the date of the rock-cut tomb and of the missing royal name. Although the vessels have been thrown outside by ancient robbers, most of them are complete, within a layer that was not altered by modern thieves, nor by the Antiquities Service officials that closed the entrance and holes in the Twentieth century. Near the rock-cut tomb, we excavated two funerary shafts that were opened one next to each other in parallel, oriented east-west, and with the 0.5 m separating rock wall between them broken at the top. One of them was left unfinished after descending 4.10 m. When the burial chamber was opened to the west, the stonecutters ran into the burial chamber of the neighboring shaft and abandoned it. The thieves later on connected the shaft with a gallery leading to other tombs. The other shaft, which was the first one to be hewn, descends 5.30 m. and the burial chamber opens at its western end. The burial chamber was cut 1.20 m. deeper than the bottom of the shaft, in order to leave the coffin under the floor’s level. Thus, the chamber ended up being exceptionally high, 2.40 m. The chamber is 2.80 m. long and 1.58 m. wide, but the lower half is only 1.20 m. wide, just enough to fit in a coffin.
The shaft had been heavily robbed, and very little of the probable original burial could be retrieved: a few pieces of wood painted in white and with the inscription written in green, probably pertaining to a canopic box; a simple necklace made of mud beads; a wooden comb; a lotus flower also carved in wood; and a cartonage mummy mask in very bad condition. Moreover, lying on the ground along the right wall of the burial chamber, we found 2 bows and 20 arrows. The bows are 1.69 m. and 1.74 m. long, one made of acacia and the other of tamarisk wood. Both of them preserve the cord tied at the ends. The arrows are 72 cm. long in average, and are made of reed and acacia, with silex tips attached by gum to the acacia stick. A piece of coarse cloth was found wrapping a group of seven arrows and a small calcite vase. The date of the ensemble is still uncertain.
‘SECTOR 10 NORTH’
Northwest of the offering-chapel of prince Intefmose, we brought to light another mud brick structure with a similar layout, but this one larger and its walls preserving part of the original colors. It seems to be an offering-chapel of the early Eighteenth Dynasty, measuring 4.40 x 3.90 m., with the front side wider than the rear wall (3.30 m.). It was soon after enlarged, but its core maintaining the layout. In front of its entrance, a large quantity of Seventeenth and early Eighteenth Dynasty pottery was found piled on the ground. Some of the vessels, still complete, are visible underneath the extension of the mud brick chapel.
Together with the pottery deposit, a linen fragment was found, and when it was later on flattened by the conservators, the epigraphists could identify part of chapter 149 of the Book of the Dead written in vertical columns, in cursive hieroglyphs and using black ink. It can tentatively be dated to the early Eighteenth Dynasty. In the same area, we found a stick-shabti and its wooden coffin in very bad condition. The figurine, 17 cm in height, was painted in white and the facial features were traced in black. The coffin’s lid, 23.5 x 10 cm, is slightly vaulted and painted in white and green. It preserves part of the inscription, traced in black over a yellow background, mentioning the owner’s name: “the dignitary Ahmose.” They can be dated to the Seventeenth Dynasty. Excavating northwest up the hill and adjunct to the extension of the offering-chapel mentioned above, the courtyard of a new tomb-chapel of the early Eighteenth Dynasty came to light. It is oriented east-west, and measures 5.00 x 5.80 m, with an entrance of 1.17 m. The mud brick sidewalls are 0.55 m thick (mud bricks: 35 x 17 x 9 cm), and they are not exactly parallel, but the angle of the left one with the façade is slightly open. It was probably a way to adapt the building to the hillside topography and to the street going up along the left sidewall of Djehuty’s open courtyard (TT 11) and reaching the second level of tombs above it. The façade is made of two aligned mud brick walls 1.65 m thick, separated by an entrance 1.07 wide. The most striking feature is a mud brick vault in the middle of the court’s floor, almost 1 m high, going into the entrance to the inner part of the monument. It was apparently built to cover a hole in the floor, which originally could have been a funerary shaft (2.30 x 1.10 m). The latter was crossed by a gallery connecting Djehuty’s tomb-chapel with another one still unknown, both of them located in a lower level of the hillside. The vault was probably meant to roof the part of the gallery that coincided with the shaft and, therefore, did not have a rock ceiling.
At the southeastern corner of the open courtyard, a deposit of seventeen funerary cones of Djehuty was unearthed. They had been thrown away there when the nearby superstructure of his tomb-chapel was already broken. It is remarkable the good state of preservation of the seal impressions. Eight of them bear the inscription “overseer of the treasure and of the works,” eight have the impression “overseer of the cattle of Amun,” and only one has the flat end illegible.
Wall to wall, adjunct to the northwest sidewall of the open courtyard, there is another court of approximately the same dimensions and orientation (east-west), and which was probably built only slightly later. The mud brick sidewalls are also 0.55 m thick. The façade is also made of mud bricks, in this case imitating a ‘palace façade’, 5.35 m wide, 3.30 m high and 1.50 m thick. In the middle, the entrance to the inner part of the monument is 1.10 m wide and 2.20 m high, with a mud brick arch as lintel and the floor’s threshold made of two limestone slaps 0.80 x 0.50 m.
Many of the mud bricks (35 x 17 x 10 cm) preserve legible a rectangular seal impression (11 x 4.5 cm) that identifies the owner of the tomb-chapel: “The royal scribe Djehuty-nefer, justified of voice.” It is significant that Djehuty-nefer had no funerary cones, but had a large number of stamped mud bricks that were placed in such a way as to leave visible the impression. It seems that the stamped mud bricks, with the name and main title of the monument’s owner, replaced the stamped funerary cones. Djehuty-nefer departs in this way also from Djehuty’s design, since the latter had about three hundred funerary cones built-in the façade.
The entrance to the tomb-chapel of the royal scribe and overseer of the treasure, Djehuty-nefer was discovered in the central area of Dra Abu el-Naga, near the tomb of Hery (TT 12), by Jean François Champollion and Ipollito Rosellini in 1829. They did not excavate inside the funerary monument, but limited themselves to have a look at the inner part, that they described as without reliefs and filled with debris, and also also cleared the entrance. The door jambs and the lintel that they found were taken by the Italian scholar to Florence, and are today on display in the Archaeological Museum of this city. This tomb was included in the list of Lost Tombs: a Study of Certain Eighteenth Dynasty Monuments in the Theban Necropolis, published by Lise Manniche in 1988, as TT A10. It can now be said that it has fianlly been re-discovered. Djehuty-nefer was overseer of the treasure under King Thutmose III, and was probably the successor of Djehuty (TT 11) in that administrative position.
The floor of the open courtyard of Djehuty-nefer’s funerary monument is not carved into the bedrock, but it is made of hardy sand (dakka) and mortar. At the entrance, underneath the floor, part of a pottery deposit became visible, dating to the early Eighteenth Dynasty, that is only a few years earlier. It was part of the offerings made for an earlier burial in that same area. This feature implies that the monuments followed one another in a quite short period of time, running over the offerings still laying on the ground and/or the most exposed parts of earlier buildings. The open courtyard of Djehuty-nefer has lost the mud brick entrance wall, opposite de façade, that should have stand about 5 m away from it. It was probably broken when the entrance to the other tomb-chapel next to it, further to the northwest, was built making a right angle with it, that is oriented south-north. This new tomb-chapel has a very small court, without a defined entrance. It has a couple descending steps towards the entrance. The inner walls are all blacken by fire. The room at the rear end has the floor broken, connecting with the inner most room of Djehuty’s monument (TT 11), which is in a lower level and accordingly has a big hole in that part of the ceiling.
The ‘street’ going up along the left sidewall of Djehuty’s open courtyard (TT 11) and reaching that of Djehuty-nefer, makes here a right turn, continues behind the superstructure of Djehuty’s façade, and reaches the small court of the tomb-chapel located right above -399- (the tomb-chapel between Djehuty and Hery, TT 11-12) by descending three rock cut steps.
DOCUMENTATION OF IBIS AND FALCON MUMMIES IN –399– AND TT 12
The rock-cut tomb-chapel known as -399-, is located between that of Djehuty and of Hery (TT 11-12), and dates also to the beginning of the Eighteenth Dynasty. In the middle of the central corridor there is a hole in the floor, which leads to a gallery with a staircase that descends to the shaft that opens at the inner most room. The shaft of -399- has two burial chambers that communicate with those of the neighboring tomb-chapel of Hery. The north/west chamber of Hery was found filled with animal mummies in wrapped linen packages. There are probably over 1,000 mummies piled inside the chamber. This is probably also the case for the north/west chamber of -399-. The floor of the south/east chamber of Hery was cover with a 30 cm layer of animal bones. More than twenty different spices of raptors have been identified. Again, this is probably also the case for the south/east chamber of -399- with which it connects. While the excavation of the underground gallery in -399- was taking place, the study of the animal remains continued. Among the linen packages, an early Eighteenth Dynasty scarab was found, probably associated with Hery’s burial.
The archaeological data is complemented by a large number of demotic graffiti written on the walls of the tomb-chapels of Djehuty and Hery (TT 11-12), and also in the underground gallery of -399-. They mention the name and titles of the priests that were involved in the deposition of animal mummies in the Second Century BCE. The graffiti are been copied, transcribed, translated and studied by demotic epigraphists.
RESTORATION OF THE TOMB-CHAPELS TT 11-12
Cleaning, consolidation and restoration of the walls has continued inside the tomb-chapel of Djehuty (TT 11), paying special attention to the central corridor and inner most room. Mud was carefully removed from the surface, using both mechanical means and an ultrasound machine, which has proven to be very useful. Inscriptions and demotic graffiti that were hidden underneath a thick crust of mud are now perfectly visible. Moreover, some blocks that were found outside when digging the courtyard years ago, are now being relocated in the walls, in their original position, thanks to the close collaboration between restorers and epigraphists.
During the last two seasons, we installed an iron grid hanging down from the completely broken rock ceiling at the inner most room and the central corridor. In 2015 the architects accomplished the installation of a similar iron structure in the ceiling of the transverse hall. The iron structure is designed to stop any rock from falling down to the floor. Moreover, taking advantage of the rigid iron frame of the grid ceiling, we attached to it a modern lighting system using tubes of micro LED lamps, which illuminates the reliefs from above (and not the other way around, as it is common in tomb-chapels that preserve the original ceiling). Not only the inscriptions and scenes in relief can now be seen and appreciated much better, as if we were in a museum, but in this way also we avoid having lamps on the floor.
The restoration of the tomb-chapel of Hery started this season. Cracks were filled, and about 35 pieces were placed back in their original position on the left wall.
A team of geologists specialized in subterranean environments has set up autonomous electronic devices inside and outside the tomb-chapels, in order to record all year long the variations in temperature and humidity.
An epigraphist specialized in funerary corpora has been putting together fragments of stucco with traces of text, which we found fallen on the floor inside the burial chamber of Djehuty. New chapters of Djehuty’s Book of the Dead have now been identified, offering a more complete picture of how the burial chamber originally looked like.
Finally, the objects that have been found in the course of the excavation have been carefully cleaned, consolidated (when needed), wrapped in acid free paper and safely stored.
THE RISHI-COFFIN OF NEB: RESTORATION AND LUXOR MUSEUM
The rishi-coffin of Neb that was found at the end of the previous season was moved days later to the SCA magazine near Carter House. There, one of the team’s restorers cleaned, consolidated and restored the coffin, under the supervision of Inspector Ezra, who is in charge of the room assigned to the Spanish mission within the new magazine. The mummy was previously removed and relocated in a special box made for this purpose. It was studied by a physical anthropologists and paleopathologists. A series of x-rays was taken under the supervision of Inspector Toha. Moreover, about one hundred boxes were moved from the site into the magazine, containing pottery, bones, and various small objects. The pieces that were considered of good quality by the magazine chief inspectors were registered in the Spanish mission Register Book.
On May 8th 2015 the coffin of Neb was transferred from the SCA magazine near Carter House on the West Bank to the Luxor Museum on the East Bank. The coffin was set up and displayed inside a large showcase in the upper floor of the old section of the museum. It lays between the coffin of Iqer of the Eleventh Dynasty and the flower bouquets of the Twenty-first Dynasty, which were found years ago in the open courtyard of the tomb-chapel of Djehuty (TT 11), and were moved and displayed in the Museum in May 2012 and January 2013.
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. Mamdouh Eldamati, and to Hani Abo El-Azm, 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 Abdel Hakim Karrar, General Director of Antiquities in Upper Egypt; and Taalat Abdel-Azziz, Director of the Antiquities Department in the West Bank.
We have had this season as SCA inspector Heba Sayed. He has been most helpful and cooperative.
Rais Ali Farouk El-Quiftauy, as in years before, has played an important role in the success of our work. He organizes the workmen perfectly well, and has a great sensibility for archaeology, for the conservation of the objects found and the structures unearthed.
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: Ahmed Yaad, Mohamed Ahmed Salam and Saad Zaki. They are excellent professionals, and have been most helpful and efficient. They have been engaged in the cleaning of the walls of the central corridor and the inner most chamber of Djehuty’s tomb-chapel (TT 11). They have carefully remove the mud from the walls’ surface, consolidate the colors and the demotic graffiti preserved on them. They have also place back in situ the blocks that had fall down and were found in the excavation of the courtyard.
The field season has been sponsored by Union Fenosa Gas (UFG), a Spanish gas company whose main activity is based in Damietta, and by the Spanish Ministry of Culture.
Field Director: Dr. José M. Galán
General Director of Antiquities in Upper Egypt: Dr. Abdel Hakim Karrar
General Director of Antiquities in Luxor: Sultan Eid
General Director of Antiquities in the West Bank: Taalat Abdel-Azziz
Director of Dra Abu el-Naga: Ahmed Leizi
Field Inspector: Heba Sayed
Rais: Ali Farouk el-Qiftauy
Dr. José M. Serrano (Egyptologist; archaeology)
Dr. Salima Ikram (Egyptologist; mummified bodies)
Dr. Lucía Díaz Iglesias (Egyptologist; epigraphist)
Dr. Andrés Diego Espinel (Egyptologist epigraphist)
Dr. Francisco Borrego (Egyptologist; archaeology)
Dr. Francisco Bosch (Egyptologist; archaeology)
María Ángeles Jiménez (Egyptologist, archaeology)
Gudelia García (Egiptologist; archaeology)
David García (archaeologist)
Zulema Barahona (Egyptologist, pottery)
Dr. Roxy Walker (Physical anthropology)
Spitzer, Megan (Physical Anthropologist)
Pía Rodriguez (conservator & restorer)
Nieves López (conservator & restorer)
Miguel Ángel Navarro (conservador & restorer)
Carlos Cabrera (architect)
Juan Ivars (architect)
Ignacio Forcadell (architect)
José Latova (photographer)