Until next time!

Today, 20 December, the 6th campaign of the Middle Kingdom Theban Project comes to an end. After 50 days of work, the gates of Ipi, Henenu, Dagi and E1 are closed until 2022.

This morning we returned to the site to collect the last tools, remove the tents and make the last payments. The conservation team also took the opportunity to go to Dagi’s tomb to make sure that the data logger they have installed is working properly.

Iria and Bea finished making a list of the most special objects stored in Ipi’s chest and in Henenu’s tomb. A copy of this list will remain inside the chest, while another copy has been given to our inspector Mohamed.

After the final signatures and handshakes between Antonio and Rais Ali, the tombs have been definitively closed until the next campaign which, we hope, will be this time next year.

It has been a campaign full of emotions, discoveries, new friendships and, above all, a lot of work. We have discovered a floral offering in what seems to be a new tomb in the courtyard of Ipi; we have finished the excavation of the shafts in the tomb of Henenu and begun excavation of the courtyard; we have found a descending corridor in tomb E1 and we have carried out hundreds of analyses on mummies, textiles and ceramics. All this without forgetting the dozens of conservation and restoration treatments that have been carried out in all the complexes.

Organising an archaeological campaign in another country in the middle of a pandemic has not been easy, but thanks to the efforts of all the members of the MKTP and the support of the different institutions that back us, it has been possible. We now have a year of study ahead of us from our offices and preparation for the next season.

We hope you have enjoyed reading our daily life from the Theban mountain, we assure you that we have enjoyed sharing all our adventures, and hope to see you again in 2022!

foto de Sergio Alarcón_IMG_2996

Packing day

Today was the last day of work at the site. With the exception of E1, activity at the site has focused on completing the necessary documentation and organising the storage area.

David and Iria spent part of the day taking photographs for the photogrammetry of the courtyard at Henenu. They have also been organising the materials found during this campaign and doing the final cleaning of the tomb.

Once they finished at Henenu’s tomb, they went to Ipi to help Bea organise the large storage area there. The amount of finds that have been obtained from the courtyard and the subsidiary chamber mean that storage work requires the help of more than one person. Together they were able to organise all the materials in a very short time.

E1 was the last tomb to complete the archaeological work. The excavation has focused on continuing to extract the sand and rocks from the descending corridor. We knew that we would not reach the end during this season, but we have already advanced a lot so that we can continue next year.

For their part, the conservation team has finished the inventory of Ipi’s special objects, including the ones found this season. After breakfast Reed and Ella started to place the objects in the boxes they had made for them, organising them inside the storage chest. Although this involves a lot of work, it ensures the objects are stored safely and next year the team will be able to start dealing with the more fragile objects immediately.

At the end of the day, all the objects and tools that we have used throughout the campaign were carefully placed inside the tombs of Ipi and Henenu. For safety reasons, the objects from E1 were moved to the tomb of Ipi, where they will remain until the next season.

It was a strange feeling to leave the site today. Although we will have to return tomorrow to put away the last tools and remove the tents, the feeling is already one of farewell.


Beginning of the end

Today was a particularly cold morning at the site. It is 18 December and the previous high temperatures have been gone for weeks now. But there is nothing better to warm up than climbing the mountain of Deir el-Bahari each morning and a good tea from Naggar.

The archaeological work at the tomb of Henenu has been completed today. David, Iria and Nisha have finished excavating the last squares. Fragments of cartonnage, mudbricks, ceramics and textiles have been found near the east wall, so this is an area to be taken into account for the next season.

Due to the amount of work at E1, Carmen has moved there for the last days of the campaign. The work is focused on extracting the sand and large stones that had collapsed into the descending corridor. Carmen is in charge of recording the materials that are being extracted. Meanwhile, Raúl is working with the total station and Sergio is directing the excavation.

At Ipi’s tomb, with the documentation completed, the work now focuses on sorting out the storage space inside the tomb. Bea is organising this year’s finds by type of material and context, placing them in boxes on the enormous shelves that occupy part of the tomb’s corridor. For their part, Enrique and Manuel have been studying the mummy that appeared yesterday in E1 and have continued with the skeletal remains found in the courtyard of Ipi.

The conservation team has finished the inventory of special objects from the tomb of Henenu and is continuing with those of Ipi. This allows them, above all, to plan the necessary treatments for the next season. Because many of these objects are fragile, they are also building boxes to store and protect them until they can be treated in the future.

After breakfast, Ella and Rawda returned to Dagi to store the most fragile and important wall painting fragments in boxes and to install a datalogger, which measures the temperature and humidity in the tomb. This will help them understand the environmental conditions there and how they may affect the wall paintings.

Activity at the Marsam continues as it has in recent days, with the whole team working to finish the reports due on 21 December. However, it is hard to forget that we are coming to an end of the season and there is an aura of early nostalgia surrounding the team, knowing that these are our last days together.


Without rest

Today was our last Friday in Egypt! Usually, today would be a rest day, but given recent events in E1 there has been an exception.

The E1 team, Raúl, Sergio and Carmen, together with Patri and Antonio, went to the site today. The GIS team, Didi, Nisha and David continued to work with the trimble around the Deir el-Bahari area.

In E1, the excavation of the descending corridor is beginning to produce a considerable amount of material, including a new mummy torso. The skeleton of what appears to be a dog or small jackal has also come to light.

Sergio has used the forensic anthropologists’ endoscope to try to see more of the interior of the corridor being excavated. However, everything is clogged with earth and stones. They estimate that it will be at least four metres long and it is very likely that the excavation will be completed in the next season.

The “lucky” ones who were able to rest today decided to do a quick visit to the Valley of the Kings. Rawda, Manuel, Enrique, Elsa, Reed, Ella, Iria and Bea visited the tombs of Tutankhamun, Ramses V and VI, Merenptah, Tausret and Siptah, among others. It was a quick visit, as with only a few days to go before the end of the sixth campaign there is a lot of work to do in the office, but the team members were still amazed by the tombs and thrilled to have a chance to explore this beautiful site.

Elsa is leaving tonight and only the last members of the MKTP will remain at the Marsam, until everyone leaves Luxor on 22 December. Until then, we will try to gather as much information as we can at the site. The work of an archaeological project such as ours is not limited to the two months of excavation, but continues throughout the year from our homes in Spain, the United Kingdom, the United States, Germany, Denmark, etc. And with all that we have done in this month and a half we are sure that we have plenty of work for 2022!.


A corridor at the end of the season

This December morning has dawned with the sky covered with hot air balloons. Some of them flew so low that we even had the feeling that they were going to land in Ipi’s courtyard.

Today there has been less activity at Ipi’s tomb as the workers have already moved to Henenu and E1. Mohamed has spent the day finishing the documentation of the subsidiary chamber and Bea has started to organise the storeroom, separating this season’s finds by materials and contexts and placing them on the large shelves that occupy part of the tomb corridor.

Today was Elsa’s last day at the site. In two weeks, she was able to analyse 247 bags of textiles, most of which came from the mummification deposit. Today, she finished studying some significant pieces, as well as a quick analysis of the textiles found in the shaft of the subsidiary chamber.

At the tomb of Henenu, the excavation of the middle courtyard has continued. Today, we have reached the east wall that limits the complex, where several stratigraphic units have been identified. Carmen is in charge of directing the excavation in this area. Meanwhile, David continues to supervise and document everything.

The conservation team has been working to finish all of their ongoing treatments, mainly on ceramics and cartonnage from the tomb of Ipi. They are starting to take an inventory of objects from the special finds boxes at both Ipi and Henenu in order to organize the objects they treated this season as well as the most important finds they will treat in seasons to come. They had already looked through the many beautiful cartonnage fragments at both tombs in order to prioritize their treatment, and will now design a storage system to ensure they are safe and secure until next season.

Since yesterday the activity at E1 has only increased. Today Sergio and Raul removed one of the contexts blocking the entrance to what we can now confirm is a descending passage. They have started to descend in the direction of this corridor which was filled with medium sized blocks, quite well placed. This suggests that it may have been the original backfill of the shaft. They have also been able to identify another context that could constitute the area through which tomb robbers gained access in antiquity. Most importantly, this corridor appears not to have been worked in modern times, which makes it a very promising area.

However, it is most likely that we will have to wait for the next season to solve all the unknowns hidden at the end of this corridor. Even so, we will work as much as possible during the three days we have left at the site, and who knows if there are more surprises in E1?


The surprise of the E1

In an archaeological excavation everything can change in a second. At the most unexpected moment we can locate a new structure or find a new object. Today, E1 gave us a good surprise.

Marisa’s “death” has allowed Sergio and Raúl to excavate the chamber more quickly. As a result, they have been able to locate the entrance to what looks like a shaft or perhaps a descending corridor. This is very promising for all of us and, as always, it had to happen at the end of the campaign.

At the tomb of Henenu things are also getting interesting. Today, David, Iria, Nisha and Carmen have continued with the excavation of their respective grids, but now in the middle area of the courtyard. The area that Carmen is excavating also looks very interesting, not so much for the finds that are being documented, but for the shape that the rock is taking in that area.

Today, at Ipi’s tomb, the excavation has finished. Mohamed has concluded that it is indeed very likely that the shaft was divided into two compartments, a small entrance and then the main chamber, separated by an adobe wall. Bea has finished taking all the necessary samples from the entrance of the subsidiary chamber to send them to the laboratory next year.

Meanwhile, Manuel and Enrique have continued with the analysis of human bones, being able to calculate the height, sex and age of many of the individuals.

Lily left last night, so the conservation team is now down one member. Reed, Rawda and Ella have continued to work with Ipi’s cartonnage until breakfast. After that, Ella has finished all the projects she had started in Henenu, mainly concerning the treatment of cartonnage and shabtis. Reed and Rawda returned to Dagi to begin packing the most fragile and important of the wall painting fragments into boxes for safe storage.

We were originally going to return to Marsam at the usual time today. However, the news on E1 has made us stay until four o’clock again and make the most of our time at the site. It is true that we are exhausted, but if it is for this reason we don’t mind staying as long as it takes!


Textiles and mummies

Today some fronts have started to close on the site, while others are just opening up. The work in Ipi’s complex may be nearing its end, but at E1 things are just getting interesting.

At the tomb of Henenu, work continues in the upper courtyard. Today three complete squares have been excavated, reaching down to the bedrock. Several significant cartonnages have been found. David, Iria and Carmen are beginning to better understand the structure of this part of the courtyard.

Mohamed has finished excavating the shaft of the subsidiary chamber. Although Winlock had already excavated it, the documentation he produced on it is quite scarce. First of all, the profile he drew is totally different from the one we have found, and secondly, the large amount of mud bricks we have found leads us to think that the shaft may have been divided into two compartments.

Bea has been inside the tomb, taking samples of the botanical remains obtained from the entrance of this chamber. Next year we will request radiocarbon analysis for all these samples, which will help us to better date the complex.

Elsa has been working with some very special textiles that we found in the embalming cachette. This year we found very similar textiles in the courtyard, which Elsa found interesting. Meanwhile, Enrique and Manuel have been working with the mummified head of a person, inside which there was a plug of textile and resin.

Today a very important event took place in E1: we said goodbye to Marisa. The big rock that occupied a very important part of the chamber and slowed down the excavation has disappeared forever. Antar, together with several other workers, had to use a drill to turn Marisa into small fragments that could be easily thrown outside the tomb.

The conservation team has been working in the morning, as usual, in all the complexes. At Ipi’s tomb they are organising the box of special find  s, sorting them according to their state of conservation. After breakfast they went to Dagi where they are still working on a restoration plan for the wall paintings.

Today we also stayed at the site until four o’clock in the afternoon. If it were a normal day, the team would probably have taken a well-deserved rest. However, we are at the end of the season and the work is just piling up: writing reports, drawing up plans, maps, lists…. It is very likely that we will get very little rest for the rest of the week, but we can always do that when we return home.


An exciting visit

Today we were fortunate to have a visit from the cultural counsellor of the Spanish Embassy in Cairo, Cándido Creis Estrada, and his wife, Carla Cavero at the site. We were also visited by José Ramón Pérez-Accino, Mª Carmen Pérez Die and Cristina Pellejero, from the Project C2 of the Complutense University of Madrid.

Antonio showed them the Ipi complex, explaining its areas and the work that we have carried out during the last few years and during this campaign. The councillor showed special interest in the future exhibition of the embalming cachette in the Luxor Museum. The visit ended with chants from some of the workers praising the fraternal relationship between Spain and Egypt. We are very grateful to the advisor, his wife and the colleagues of the C2 Project for their time and hope they enjoyed the visit.

This has not delayed the fieldwork for a second, however, and today we remained at the site until four o’clock in the afternoon. In order to advance at a faster pace in the tomb of Henenu, Iria, Carmen and Nisha have begun to direct the excavation of their own grids in the upper courtyard. David, for his part, is in charge of supervising the excavation and documentation.

At Ipi’s tomb, Mohamed has continued the excavation of the subsidiary chamber pit, where he continues to find large quantities of human and animal bones, as well as textiles and painted wooden fragments.

Lily has finished cleaning the leaf garland, which ws a long process with amazing results. In the meantime, Rawda has been repairing some fractures in the jar found almost at the entrance of the subsidiary chamber. Also from this chamber are several ceramic vessels that Hazem has begun to draw.

The forensic doctors have continued with the analysis of the bones found in other campaigns. In addition, they have re-examined the vizier’s heart, taking some extra notes.

Today epigraphic work has also taken place in the courtyard of Ipi. Raúl has been working with the papyrus fragments, processing those hieratic inscriptions that are visible. Bea has been doing the same with the seal impression, also taking measurements and photographs of the object.

The afternoon has continued to be busy at the Marsam. The campaign is coming to an end soon and it is time to write all the reports. The office is now more crowded and, at the same time, quieter than ever.


Working and learning together

Despite the tiredness after the trip to Abydos, today the activity at the site has been more intense than ever. It is already noticeable that we are at the end of the campaign and we want to make the most of every second we have.

At Henenu’s tomb the excavation of the courtyard continues apace. Several grids have been opened in the upper part of the courtyard. Nisha has been in charge of taking measurements and drawing the profile of one of these grids. Meanwhile, David took photographs and documented the excavation. Iria has been working with the total station, taking points and dimensions. The shabtis also received a lot of attention at Henenu today, as Carmen was drawing some of the shabtis found in previous campaigns while Ella was in charge of the restoration of the most damaged ones.

Just when it seemed that the action of the entire site had turned to Henenu, the subsidiary chamber of the tomb of Ipi has provided another surprise. Winlock documented a shaft located on the Western side of the chamber that Mohamed located this morning. However, the profile seems quite different from the one drawn by the American and, in addition, very interesting materials are being found such as large quantities of textiles, which are already being analysed by Elsa.

Enrique and Manuel continue to analyse bags of bones, separating them into animal and human remains. Today they have been able to locate the remains of birds in several very interesting contexts.

At E1, Sergio and Raúl have continued with the excavation of the chamber. The new strata that are appearing are still quite difficult to excavate due to the numerous rocks (most of them large) that flood the chamber. Several workers are needed to break them up and move the fragments out of the tomb.

After breakfast Sergio stayed at Ipi’s tomb together with Hazem and Didi. The three of them are trying to create a geolocation database to share the information that is being collected thanks to the trimble with Alberto Gonzalez Garcia-Saavedra, a new member of the MKTP who is working with the GIS team from Spain.

As it was Jaume´s last day, he spent his time on site finishing his ongoing conservation projects at Ipi. Lily also spent the morning at Ipi, as she began cleaning up the garland of leaves we found at the entrance to the subsidiary chamber. After breakfast, Reed, Rawda and Lily went to Dagi’s tomb where they documented more fragments from the tomb wall.

In the afternoon at the Marsam, Rawda gave a talk on a new technique that has started to be used in the world of conservation: hyperspectral imaging. Rawda thinks that this technique could be used on the Ipi sarcophagus with good results. Hyperspectral imaging can process information from the entire electromagnetic spectrum and therefore traces of decoration or marks from the artist which are invisible to the human eye might be seen.

In this job you have to be constantly learning new techniques and methodologies to improve. That’s why every campaign we like to have our specialists give us a few classes on a specific topic. We are lucky to have great researchers and we are very fortunate to be able to learn from each other.


Trip to Abydos

On Friday 10th December, the dream of many members of the team came true. After several seasons of trying, we were finally able to make a two-day trip to Abydos.

It was a journey of more than four hours by bus along the desert route. This route allowed us to contemplate the beauty of the Egyptian desert, very different from what we are used to seeing in the Theban necropolis.

As it is such a long trip, we decided to make the most of the day by stopping at the necropolis of El-Hawawish. It is a little-known necropolis where elite members of the fifth and sixth dynasties are buried, located in the city of Akhmim.

Raúl studied these tombs for his doctoral thesis, so we were fortunate to have the benefit of the explanations of an expert in the field. We were all delighted to hear him talk about the funerary rituals that took place in the Old Kingdom and their participants.

We also took the opportunity to quickly visit the temple of Meritamon, the daughter-wife of Ramses II, where we enjoyed the colossal statues of both of these royal figures.

From Akhmim we continued on to Sohag, where we spent the night. There we dined in a delicious Syrian restaurant before returning to our hotel where we played cards and danced and sang some songs. We didn’t stay up too late though, because Abydos awaited us in the morning!

Abydos is located some 91 kilometres northwest of Luxor, in the present-day city of El Araba, and is a site whose archaeological remains extend over an area of around 8 square kilometres. For four millennia Abydos saw everything from the burial of the first Egyptian kings to the construction of great temples, along the way becoming one of the most important religious centres in the country, with Osiris as its main god.

One of the projects digging there is led by American Josef W. Wegner. It is a combined expedition of the University of Pennsylvania, Yale University and the Institute of Fine Arts at New York University that has been working at the site since the 1990s. Their 2021 campaign had just started a few weeks ago, so we had the immense honour of receiving a guided tour of the site.

Wegner began by showing us the excavations taking place in the southern area. We were also fortunate to have Nicholas Picardo (Harvard University) show us part of the Wah-Sut settlement that is currently being excavated.

We then went to the tomb of Senwosret III. It is an immense complex, more than fifty metres underground, full of passages and impressive chambers. We saw the sarcophagus and the canopic chest, and the internal areas that Wegner plans to excavate in the near future. It was quite an experience and for many members of our team it rated as the most spectacular place they had ever seen.

Afterwards we said goodbye to Wegner and visited the temple of Ramses II, the Osireion and the temple of Seti I. The latter is one of the most impressive cultural complexes in ancient Egypt and we spent at least a couple of hours visiting every chapel, nook and cranny, beginning with the royal list of Abydos!

The trip ended with a visit to Shunet el-Zebib. This is an immense mud-brick complex dating from the second dynasty, the reign of Khasekhemuy, whose function is still debated in Egyptology.

From the processional wadi of Abydos we set off for home. As it was Sergio’s birthday, the trip turned into quite a party, with singing and even attempts at belly dancing on the bus. This did not stop when we arrived at the Marsam because, as always, the wonderful employees of the hotel were waiting for us with cake and their now legendary happy birthday songs. 

It might cost us a bit more to go to the site tomorrow as we are all a bit tired from our adventure, but it was certainly worth it. It was undoubtedly one of the best experiences of this campaign.

MKTP - Middle Kingdom Theban Project - Recuperando el pasado

El proyecto

El Middle Kingdom Theban Project tiene como objetivos la excavación, estudio y publicación de varias tumbas de la necrópolis del Reino Medio en Deir el-Bahari (Henenu, Ipi, Neferhotep, E1) y de las tumbas de Dagi (TT 103) y Djari (TT 366) en la necrópolis de Asasif.

MKTP - Middle Kingdom Theban Project - Ministerio Egipcio de Antigüedades

Con la colaboración del Ministerio Egipcio de Antigüedades y las autoridades del Alto Egipto, Luxor y la Orilla Occidental.

Las tumbas

Las tumbas de Henenu (TT 313) e Ipi (TT 315) se encuentran en la colina norte de la necrópolis de Deir el-Bahari, donde fueron enterrados algunos de los oficiales más importantes de Mentuhotep II y principios del Reino Medio. 

La cámara funeraria de Harhotep (CG 28023) fue localizada en el patio de la tumba TT 314 y constituye uno de los ejemplos más interesantes en arquitectura, iconografía y epigrafía del yacimiento. 

En la planicie de Asasif, las tumbas de Dagi (TT 103) y Djari (TT 366) también representan monumentos a la memoria de altos cargos tebanos del reinado de Mentuhotep II que ayudaron a construir un gran estado.

MKTP - Middle Kingdom Theban Project - Patrocinadores - Ministerio de Ciencia e Innovación
MKTP - Middle Kingdom Theban Project - Patrocinadores - Gobierno de Castilla-La Mancha
MKTP - Middle Kingdom Theban Project - Patrocinadores - Fundación para el Conocimiento madri+d
MKTP - Middle Kingdom Theban Project - Patrocinadores - Ministerio de Cultura y Deporte
MKTP - Middle Kingdom Theban Project - Patrocinadores - Fundación Palarq
MKTP - Middle Kingdom Theban Project - Patrocinadores - Parque Científico y Tecnológico de Castilla-La Mancha
MKTP - Middle Kingdom Theban Project - Patrocinadores - Asociación Española de Egiptología
MKTP - Middle Kingdom Theban Project - Patrocinadores - Asociación de Amigos de la UAH

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