Today, April 30th, we have put an end to the fourth season of the MKTP at Deir el-Bahari. These three weeks have been a very intensive period, without a single break, to reach the goals previously defined over the year. The lack of weekends and a non-stop daily pace from 6 AM to 4:30 PM together with the afternoon-evening work have transformed 21 days into the work of 35 days, which is the amount of time we originally planned to work in the site. The team members, exhausted, have demonstrated a great capacity to adapt themselves to the circumstances and achieve all the goals. Today, all of us had different sensations and feelings, with an immense happiness at closing the tombs and knowing that we have fulfilled all our objectives, but a bit of sadness because of the colleagues, duties, and stories that once more we are leaving behind.
The session of today started at 5:30 AM with our arrival to the site earlier than usual. Due to security reasons, the authorities and police in the area prefer the teams closing their sites and tombs at Deir el-Bahari between 6 and 8 AM. For this reason, we decided to begin the morning half an hour earlier and to arrive to the site as soon as possible. In two hours, Mohamed took final photos of the site while the rest of the team members worked in other tasks, such as the payment calculations, the lists of materials, the packing of materials to be taken to the MKTP storage, etc. In a few words, we dedicated all our efforts early this morning to prepare the closing of the tomb and the whole ritual coming afterwards, including the last payment-day, a very special moment for all of us. After such a ceremony the inspector would put an end with the closing and sealing of the tomb door in the complex of Ipi.
At 8 AM everything was ready for the ceremony of the workers’ payment, celebrate the “happy ending” of the season, and say farewell to many people in the site. No doubt, it has been a bittersweet sensation for all of us. For knowing more about the lives, stories, and anecdotes of rais Ali, Omar, Karam, Badawi, Talaat, Zaabut, Sayed, Gomaa, and the other seventy workers, we will have to wait one more year and meet them again in Deir el-Bahari in the next season. Everyone waited with excitement the beginning of the payment run by the MKTP moudir and rais Ali since we always try to go beyong the payment itself and always provide them with some materials for their houses and families, especially their children. This year, while Antonio –with the help of Raúl and rais Ali– double-checked the payments and workers lists, the rest of the team members prepared individual packages for each of the workers with notebooks, pens, pencils, small toys, candies, balloons… small presents that will for sure surprise their children. At the same time, in a couple of tables in the courtyard, we also prepared sweets and drinks to celebrate all together the end of the season, our efforts and achievements. As members of this large group of experts, local workers, authorities, guardians of the necropolis, policemen, and other officials, we get continuously astonished by immersing ourselves –even if only superficially– into the lives of the Egyptians, perceiving the difficulties and goodness of this country, their virtues, charisma, and humor, as well as their ways of thinking, living, and understanding the world, which in many cases (not in all of them) might not have been much different from those of the ancient Egyptians from pharaonic times.
At the end of the day we visited the recent excavations of the team led by Dr. Zahi Hawass and directed in the field by Dr. Mahmoud Afifi. In the previous excavations in the Valley of the Monkeys, they found some foundation deposits with materials belonging to a king of the Eighteenth Dynasty, and they search now the tomb of this king with much care and excitement. Soon, we will know more about this scientific adventure and the presumable discovery of a new tomb in the area of the Valley of the kings.
One more year, the MKTP team ends a season full of stories. We stress the humanistic and scientific value of this expedition, the support of the University of Alcalá (UAH), which commits himself for international, multidisciplinary, humanistic and scientific projects that do not obviate great values such as the search for knowledge with integrity, with efforts, with the will and goal of documenting, protecting, publishing, and sharing the results and the meaning of our investigations. About this season, it is also important to underline the partnership of several institutions for funding our expedition, with the UAH and MINECO at the front and the greatest financial support of Fundación Palarq, as well as the contributions of the Asociación Española de Egiptología and the Asociación de Amigos de la UAH. We thank all of them for their boundless support. Finally, this season testifies to the capacity of collaboration between experts and the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities and, above all, the generosity of the Egyptian people.
Ashufkum sana el-gaia, insha allah! See you next year!