The Middle Kingdom Theban Project is a multidisciplinary and international research project engaged in the examination of historical, archaeological, artistic, and textual evidence associated with the origins of Middle Kingdom Egypt (ca. 2050 a. C.). The sources of information related to this period can be mainly identified in sites, monuments, texts, and material culture from the mid-late Eleventh Dynasty (Intef I-III, Mentuhotep II) and the early Twelfth Dynasty (Amenemhat I-Sesostris I), especially in Thebes (modern Luxor). Therefore, early Middle Kingdom Thebes, its necropolis (Asasif, Deir el-Bahari, Dra Abu el-Naga, El-Tarif) and related evidence are the main targets of our project.
In this respect, the Middle Kingdom Theban Project counts on the archaeological expedition of the University of Alcalá to Deir el-Bahari as the primary research team for the project. The UAH expedition works in the sites of Deir el-Bahari and Asasif, with a concession granted by the MSA that includes several tombs from the late Eleventh Dynasty and early Middle Kingdom. Among others, the expedition concentrates on the tombs of the royal treasurer Henenu (TT 313) and the vizir Ipi (TT 315), as well as other monuments such as the chapel and sarcophagus of Harhotep in the Cairo Museum (CG 28023) and paintings from the tombs of Dagi (TT 103) and Djari (TT 366). The Middle Kingdom Theban Project is mainly concerned with the reconstruction, study, and publication of these tombs, and gives also priority to the restoration and conservation of monuments in risk.
For this reason, the major goals of the project are established in five areas of work:
Survey, mapping, and excavation of late Eleventh Dynasty and early Middle Kingdom tombs in the areas of Asasif and Deir el-Bahari, including the eastern sector of the latter necropolis, which has been scarcely examined in the past. The excavation of these tombs develops in the inner and outer sections of each funerary complex. It implies archaeological work in the outer section of the complex, including the enclosure wall and monumental entrance into the complex, as well as the excavation of the inner structures (corridors, chapel rooms, sarcophagus chambers, shafts), usually of the rock-cut type.
The Middle Kingdom Theban Project also concentrates on the identification, copying, and reconstruction of the inscriptions –in relief, painting, or ink– found in the tombs and objects of the excavated areas. These include, among others, the sarcophagus chapel of Harhotep (now in the Cairo Museum), the sarcophagi and coffins found in the tombs of Ipi, Harhotep, and Henenu, the potmarks observed in the jars from Ipi’s mummification deposit, and the group of various stelae in the tomb of Henenu. The epigraphic duties also involve the examination of contexts for previous findings, such as the subsidiary tomb of Meseh and the finding spot of the Heqanakhte letters and sealings.
Conservation and archaeological site management
A priority line of action for the Middle Kingdom Theban Project is the identification of monuments and structures of the period in the need of architectonic reconstruction, restoration, and conservation. For this task, the UAH expedition counts on the work of a team of conservators, architects, 3D laser technicians, masonry and stone experts, papyrology conservators, and other specialists who contribute to the reconstruction and preservation of monuments, structures, objects, and the associated evidence.
Sciences in archaeology
The UAH expedition to Deir el-Bahari also relies on CIARQ (acronym for “Ciencias en la arqueología”), a research group based at the University of Alcalá whose primary goal is to analyze materials, structures, and findings from the site through a variety of scientific fields, methods, and approaches. Disciplines such as architecture, geology, geography, topography, chemistry, biology, physical anthropology and forensic medicine benefits from this new research frame in Egypt while they offer to the Middle Kingdom Theban Project cutting-edge approaches and relevant innovative information.
Publication and dissemination
The publication and dissemination of the results by the Middle Kingdom Theban Project is no doubt a critical task in the project contribution to the comprehension of the period. For this reason, the project follows a meticulous plan for the annual publication of the preliminary report (with information on our archaeological, epigraphic, and conservation results) in the German peer-reviewed journal Studien zur Altägyptischen Kultur (SAK), and the dissemination of further research in the Spanish Egyptological journal Boletín de la Asociación Española de Egiptología (BAEDE). In addition, the project members are currently working on the publication of several aspects of the archaeological, epigraphic, and restoration work. Likewise, the dissemination of the results is a primary issue in the project and multiple talks, conferences, and workshops are organized and attended to discuss possible interpretations.