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labelThe Dig Diary 1999--Part 7

Sunday 19 December

Weather note: it seems to be unseasonably hot at the moment. The evenings are warm and it feels a bit hot at night. Outside at the tomb in the sun it can be quite uncomfortable.

Today is Gillian's last day, and she achieves the remarkable feat of completing the group of drawings she set out to do. Usually we all want to do more than is feasible, but she managed it. A quick reckon-up in the evening for the purposes of a report gives us an approximate number of 120 vessels of all types in the Senneferi burial assemblage, an astonishing number which shows just how interesting it is and how important it is going to be.

Bridget and Julie continue to get on with their papyri and shrouds. We'll look at Julie's work tomorrow. Helen and I continue going through all the other finds. The work ranges from actually making intelligent notes on some of the pieces with consideration of the publication in mind, through recataloguing to the simple rebagging and packing of the objects. We work through whatever comes next in the pile. Among the things we looked at today were two enigmatic objects, which our colleague René van Walsem in Leiden pointed out were probably intended to be Opening of the Mouth implements. Closer examination in the light of René's ideas has confirmed and expanded on his interpretation. If you look at the two photos below, you can hopefully see that the back profile of the objects (where the yellow arrows are) is curved, and thus the objects are indeed adzes (hieroglyph ); there is also a fragment of the back which is curved, and which may have borne Senneferi's name. I asked Julie for her comment on the material, and she immediately answered 'ivory, probably elephant'. So it really looks as if these are not imitation but real implements buried with Senneferi--and still unique objects.

Monday 20 December

We say goodbye to Gillian as she heads off in a taxi just after 6:00--we'll miss her. Down to the tomb, where things continue much as before. Let's have a look at what Julie Dawson has been doing.

She has the unenviable task of conserving the Senneferi shroud discovered last year. Julie has made light work of conserving the textiles we have found in earlier seasons, but these fragments are much more complex. They are very creased, but the real problem is the fragility of the linen itself. We noticed this last year as we were digging it up; actually, since it is less damp in the tomb than in the burial chamber, it seems initially less fragile this year. Julie's technique is to lay the pieces out under several layers of special tissue, the upper of which is dampened, and this allows the fibres to relax so that they can be smoothed. The actual smoothing is done by the pressure of weights, but before they are applied, Julie has to coax the fibres as much as possible into their original flatness. It is thus a slow and very tiring task.


Below you see one piece laid out prior to conservation, and then another well into the process:

She then has the problem of how to pack them; the smaller pieces are placed between special archival card with a fine net over them to allow them to be viewed while held in place, but the larger pieces have turned out to be bigger than a box she has brought for them. She has to spend a certain amount of time at the hotel making and remaking her boxes. The larger pieces are going to have to be laid flat with part of them folded back on themselves, which needs careful preparation.

Tuesday 21 December

Things continue as before. Julie and Bridget will be leaving after work tomorrow, so today they do their last day of new work, and will concentrate tomorrow on getting things ready for packing and storage. Here is a close-up of the hieroglyphs on one of Julie's shroud fragments. The photo shows the clarity of the hieroglyphs, and the use of red ink at particular places. Senneferi's name and title can be seen in the fourth column from the right.

Dealing with the other objects, the bags of beads were next in sequence. There are more than 6,000 of them, and thus of course there is no time (and no point) to deal with them all, Most of them are from bead nets of the 25th and 26th dynasties, and have come off their strings. A few examples still have their string, while others are formed of areas of beads woven into a pattern. Typical forms are faces or amulets. We have one such, which looks very much as if it was going to be the four sons of Horus, actually made into the bead net rather than added as separate amulets.


All text and images © Nigel Strudwick 1999

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