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labelThe Dig Diary 1999--Part 1


Sunday to Tuesday 28-30 November

Members of the team start going to Egypt. Monday sees the carrying out of stage one of the paperwork relating to the permission granted by the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA) in August. In the offices of that organisation at Abbassiya in Cairo I meet the secretary of the Permanent Committee for Archaeology of the SCA and then receive our papers from Dr Mohamed el-Saghir, Director of Pharaonic Monuments; we also have to check our passports with the police of the SCA. Then down to the offices of Egyptair to try and get a flight to Luxor. After a long wait, all the planes are full except the 6:15 the next morning, so I have to get up at 4:45 on Tuesday to get to the airport!

In the meantime, John Taylor, our coffin specialist, and Gillian Pyke, one of the pottery team, have arrived in Luxor on Monday night. My flight to Luxor was such that I was able to surprise them by meeting them for breakfast. The early arrival on Tuesday meant that I could get to see Sabri Abdel Aziz, the new Chief Inspector for Upper Egypt and General Director of Luxor in his office behind the Luxor Museum. We then drove over to the West Bank, dropping me off at the Qurna Inspectorate before moving into the Abul Kassem hotel. I met the new General Director of the West Bank, Mohamed el-Bialey.

The Abul Kassem hotel

Wednesday 1 December

Down to the Inspectorate. There we do the necessary paperwork, and are allocated our inspector, Abdel-Rahman Ahmed Hassan. Later in the morning, we get into the tomb. The rest of the morning is spent getting the electricity connected, and sorting out where all our various pieces of equipment are. This is John Taylor's first visit to the tomb, so he needs to be acquainted with everything.

The aims of the first part of the season are based around coffins and ceramics. These two categories of object form the bulk of the material discovered since 1992. John Taylor is the top authority on coffins of the Third Intermediate Period, which seem to form the bulk of the group. His aim is to work out what we have so that we can document it and use the information to build a better picture of the history of the tomb. Turning to ceramics, in the last few days of the 1998 season we came across the burial chamber of Senneferi, in which were 345 kg of smashed pottery, seemingly forming a deposit contemporary with the tomb owner. As such a large deposit of uncontaminated pottery has rarely been found and never studied, our first aim is to assess what is there so that we can plan for the future. There are masses of other pottery, but they are likely of less importance and will have to wait their turn.

Thursday 2 December

Work begins in earnest at 7:00. Ceramics: We begin with the burial chamber of Senneferi. The first task is to sort the sherds out and see what we have from here. So the material is taken out into the courtyard and a first sort is done on the main types, layer by layer. The vast majority (in kg terms) consists of pieces of large brown Nile silt amphorae, which are so numerous that they have to be a category of their own. Then we make the usual distinction of other silts and marl clays. The former consist of a variety of types, from small fine sherds to large chunky beer jars. The marls are much finer, and consist of a number of bottles, jars and flasks, many distinguished by typical early 18th dynasty red and black decoration. A number of fragments appear to belong to canopic jars, so we make a sub-category for them at this stage. There is also another large category, which we shall term oasis jars. These are made of a clay from the western oases, and a lot of research has been done on them at present. These are largish storage amphorae. So the sorting goes on, done by Gillian, Abdel-Rahman and Nigel; each layer's worth of each type is weighed and bagged for further investigation.

Coffins: John opens up the storage boxes and begins to sort through the 17,000 fragments, to make his initial assessment of the material. He puts them into boxes by dynasty, and it is soon quite clear that we have coffins from the 21st to the 26th dynasties. We know about the reuse of the tomb in the 25th dynasty (see History) but other data has not been clearly forthcoming from other sources. So we wait to see what John comes up with. This diary will not initially feature his work much as I am working on the pots and am leaving him alone to look through the material in peace.

On a non-Egyptological note, Thursday was the last day of the local festival of Abul Qumsan (see last year's diary for this one). We went along to watch the horses and the stick fighters.

Friday 3 December

Friday is the normal day off. Foreign missions tend to spend this day either asleep, working on their notes, or visiting the sites. This day we chose the latter, and walked over the hill from Deir el-Bahari to the Valley of the Kings. There we visited all the 13 tombs presently open.

Deir el-Bahari

Valley of the Kings

All text and images © Nigel Strudwick 1999

© Nigel Strudwick 1997-2018