TT99 banner

labelThe Dig Diary 2001--Part 1

Tuesday 25-28 September

Helen & Nigel Strudwick set out for Egypt, arriving in Cairo early in the morning of the 26th. After getting up the next morning, our first task is to do the paperwork relating to our permission to work, as without this we can do nothing. Thus we go to the offices of the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA) at Abbassiya, a northeastern suburb of Cairo, and sign our contract and obtain our letter to take to Luxor; we also have to check our passports with the police of the SCA. This we accomplished very easily--thanks to the SCA. It was quite critical that we get the work done that day, as the 'weekend' in government departments in Egypt is now Thursday and Friday, so if we didn't get it completed we would have had to wait until Saturday, which in turn would delay getting to Luxor.

We are scheduled to fly down to Luxor on Friday, and so there was time to visit the Cairo Museum. We spend time chatting with our curatorial friends in the Museum, and also call on the new Director of the Museum, Dr Mamduh el-Damaty. We were shown the restored and cleaned copper statue of Pepy I, found at Hierakonpolis over 100 years ago. The change in its condition, work done by a German restorer from Mainz, is incredible! We went home early, as we were both feeling a little tired after our late arrival in Cairo.

On Thursday we started by going to the British Embassy to register our passports, a useful precaution to take in case something unexpected happens. Then we return to the museum to have a wander around the galleries for a few hours, which we have not done for a few years. As always, we see objects which we have never noticed before--it really is an amazing place!

On Friday we fly to Luxor. We move into the Abul Kassem hotel, as we have done for every season in TT99 since 1994.

The Abul Kassem hotel

Saturday 29 September

Now we start doing our paperwork in Luxor. We start by crossing over to the East Bank to visit the inspectorate there. On the way we notice how much work has been going on rearranging things at the West Bank ferry landing. The car park has been moved, and everything now has the feeling of a small town. Once on the east we visit Mr Bakhit, Director of Karnak, who is standing in for Sabri Abdel-Aziz, the Director of Upper Egypt who is presently on leave. He is very busy with people coming in with requests and bits of paper for signature. Once that is done we head for the west, to visit the General Director of the West Bank, Mohamed el-Bialey. He is an old friend and we spend a long time chatting and catching up, while at the same time he sorts out our papers. He then suggests that we have a look at the work he has been doing at Deir el-Bahari. The site is quiet in the afternoon and it is really beautiful to see it without lots of visitors. He shows us the various improvements he has been making for visitors, and we also look at the Third Terrace of the temple, which is scheduled soon for reopening after many years of reconstruction work. The Egyptian-Polish expedition there has done a great job of restoring the temple.

Sunday 30 September

This morning we go to the West Bank Inspectorate to get access to the tomb. The key is presently with Inspector Ramadan Ahmed Aly who was with us in 1997 and 1998, and we head off for the tomb. Click to see a short video of the opening of the tomb (430k in size). Ramadan is standing in for Abdul-Rahman whom we have had for the last two years. A relative of Abdul-Rahman's has died and he is away helping with the arrangements and initial period of mourning.

Everything in the tomb is as we left it--in fact it seems as if we have never been away. We connect up our cables to the electricity supply, and we are off! The first job is to prepare material for our first member of staff, Tony Waldron, who is due to arrive Monday evening. Tony is a world-renowned expert in the study of human remains, and we are lucky that he is working with us. Tony was last with us in 1998 (see the Dig Diary 1998 and report on that season), and this time he is to finish off the bones we found after he left that season.

So Helen and I have to find them. Our memory is bad, and we cannot recall whether they are in Shaft F or Shaft C in the tomb, and so we open both. All the bones in Shaft F come from that area which was excavated in 1997, so Tony has seen those. One question I was asked earlier this year by a young person was 'what does a tomb smell like?'; this shaft did smell not very good this morning, due to all the mummies in it. Anyway, the bones are all in Shaft C, and Helen and I lift them out; there are quite a lot, all from the shafts in the courtyard. Some we hope are the bones of Senneferi himself. This whole process gives us a taste for the dust of the tomb. After five minutes we are very dirty.

Then we move the bones down to the front of the tomb and sort them by the context from which they came. It is particularly interesting and reassuring to see that the bones from the big shaft in the courtyard, the burial of Senneferi, are overwhelmingly concentrated on the room we have provisionally identified as the burial chamber. You can see this in the photo here--look at the huge pile on the right and how little there is from other places in the burial.

A good first day!

All text and images © Nigel & Helen Strudwick 2001

© Nigel Strudwick 1997-2018