On the Threshold of the House of Eternity: Door Leaves and Tomb Doors

By Kelly Accetta

How many doors do you think you have opened, closed, or passed through in your life? The answer is likely in the tens of thousands. If someone asked you to describe them, you could only probably do so accurately for a dozen or so. Yet doors are one of the most important parts of architecture throughout history.

Fig. 1: The modern steel door of the tomb of Henenu (TT 313)

Doors as architectural features have appeared in almost every culture that has constructed buildings, both ancient and modern. They originated from a need for an entrance and exit from the structures humans created for shelter and protection.1 The movable barrier (at first perhaps a fabric mat or animal skin, later, door leaves) which closed the gap enabled the door to be both an opening and a wall; it served as protection from the weather, dust, animals, or other people.2 Over time, the designs of doors have incorporated technological advancements and a plethora of security measures.3 This has changed the form, but the basic function remains the same: all of the advancements are, or have been, attempts to control movement, by either facilitating it or preventing it.      

Doors in ancient Egypt were no different. Architectural deterioration of Egyptian monuments – including natural weathering, purposeful destruction, theft and re-use of materials – means that once-imposing barriers now stand leafless, empty, and open. As a result, the physical and psychological importance of doors sometimes goes unnoticed by modern day tourists, scholars, and archaeologists.

This paper briefly examines door leaves in the funerary context of ancient Egypt. It focuses on construction, surviving examples, and what the loss of door leaves means for the interpretation of the tombs being excavated by the Middle Kingdom Theban Project (MKTP) team.

Overview of research4

Door leaves are very rarely researched independently, and as such it is necessary to examine studies which include information on doors and door leaves as a part of a larger scope of research.

The most significant studies on doors and doorways to date are by Koenigsberger,5  focusing on physical construction, and Brunner,6 examining symbolic and religious meaning. Although not exclusively dedicated to doorways, two of Hölscher’s publications7 contain specific information on the construction and decoration techniques of doors, both in the temple and in the palace. Several other treatises on Egyptian architecture also dedicate a section to doors and door leaves.8

For tomb doors specifically, a few studies stand out. Hirsch9 attempted to create a typology of doorway decoration layouts for Old and Middle Kingdom royal mortuary complexes, whilst Harpur10 focused on specific designs used in the entry decoration of non-royal tombs of the Old Kingdom. Hornung11 and Roehrig12 examined the size and placement of doors in tombs in the Valley of the Kings.

Doors in the funerary context

Although door leaves were (and are) physical things which played a tangible role in the real world, they also existed as magical things in the worldview of the ancient Egyptians.

Doors and doorways were mentioned in almost all funerary literature, including the Pyramid and Coffin Texts, the Amduat, the Book of Gates, the Book of Two Ways, and the Book of the Dead.13 When illustrated, they most often are represented by the frame of the door,14 but in several depictions, including in the Book of Gates, the door leaf is shown quite clearly, including details of the pivots.15

Fig. 2: Scene from the Book of the Dead of Ani, showing a door leaf with pivots 16

In these texts, doors usually appeared as transition devices between the ‘hours’; and the ‘Doors of Heaven’ on the western and eastern horizons as the entry and exit, respectively, into the underworld.17 These doors served as a division in space and time. Doors in the later texts typically bear names and were considered guardians of access to each hour. The only way to move forward through the underworld was to correctly name the door, so that it would open and permit entry.18 Many private tombs included these texts in the decoration of the walls, including Amenemope19 and Senenmut.20

Fig. 3: Scene from the Book of the Dead of Ani, showing doors and their guardians and doorkeepers21

Neither the god nor the deceased opens the door for themselves in the funerary texts. Instead, the door is opened and closed by one of the guardians or doorkeepers.22 In one instance in Chapter 125 of the Book of the Dead, the deceased is questioned by the physical door itself; which is magically animate,23 indicating that the Egyptians may have viewed the door as an entity with its own agency, rather than just a tool to be used. It asks the deceased to name each of its parts individually, then present the name of the door as a whole,24 demonstrating that the Egyptians acknowledged the separate parts of the door and their individual roles in movement and access.

From these texts, it is clear that the door is an important site of transition, representative of the movement between worlds, and embodies all of the danger that represents.25 Spells, names, and other defenses are crucial for the deceased to successfully enter into the afterlife. This meaning was duplicated in the real world, both in funerary and non-funerary contexts.26 It is surmised from these texts and other depictions that rituals for the deceased were performed at the tomb door, including the opening of the mouth ceremony.27 An offering table and basins were carved in the stairs just before the entrance door of the tomb of Khety (TT311), which Winlock suggested “were provided for the offering of any pious passerby who might find the tomb door locked”.28

Fig. 4: Scene from the Book of the Dead of Ani, showing the Opening of the Mouth ritual before the door of the tomb29

The door leaf

A door is composed of two main physical aspects: a frame which gives it shape, and a barrier which serves as the arbiter of movement between spaces.

In ancient Egypt, the barrier originated as a matting cover, rolled up and secured against the lintel when opened, and unrolled when closed.30 This is thought to have been the origin for the stone drum motif which appeared below the lintel in Old and Middle Kingdoms31 and false doorways.32     

Over time, this barrier evolved into the ‘door leaf’ (),33 although matting or textile covers continued to be used simultaneously, and both are still used today in Egypt. The most commonly used material for the door leaf was wood, but unfortunately, few wooden door leaves survive. Those remaining are made of pliable woods such as cedar and sycamore fig.34 The leaf was made (rarely) from a single plank, or (more commonly) several planks put together with dowels or strips of metal between the planks.35 Since so few door leaves from ancient Egypt survive, much of the information about their material and decoration comes from textual records.

Fig. 5: Door leaf from the Ebony Shrine of Hatshepsut, showing the decoration (left) and construction (right) of the leaf36

Egyptian door leaves were installed using pivots. Although ancient Egyptians knew of the hinge, as is evidenced on hinged-lid boxes, they did not use them for door leaves, probably due to their weight. The pivot pegs were either carved as part of the leaf itself, or alternately were attached like large dowels. Sockets (pivot holes) in the threshold and lintel/soffit (ceiling) held the door leaf in place behind the exterior face. Due to the placement of the sockets behind the door frame, which blocked the path of the leaf, the door leaf opened inward only, and typically toward the right. The exception to this rule is small shrine doors, which had jambs set wider than the opening, and leaves that opened outward.

Figs. 6a-b: Sockets in the soffits of doorways at Medinet Habu

Double and single door leaves were used for doorways within the same building or tomb, as evidenced by surviving pivot holes. It is still possible to determine the number of leaves for each doorway by examining the sockets in the soffit (if surviving) and the threshold. Double leaves have also been associated with symbolic importance, as they appear on shrines, naos, and often along the main axis of temples.

Surviving tomb door leaves in collections and publications

Very few door leaves survive, from any context. Door leaves from temples and possibly tombs were presumably taken and repurposed or sold off, as their materials (gold leaf and plating, electrum, copper, wood, etc.) were valuable. This was also true in situations where the door leaves may have been less elaborately decorated: lack of architectural wood from domestic contexts suggests that when people moved, they took this valuable material with them.

This isn’t to say there are no examples of wooden door leaves. Around a dozen or so have been discovered during excavation, the most significant of which are described below in detail, and a selection of others cited afterwards. They are all presented in chronological order. For door leaves in museums, where possible, a link has been supplied to the online catalogue entry (see endnotes).


A wooden door leaf was discovered intact at the tomb of Nefermaat at Meidum, best known as the tomb containing the beautiful ‘Meidum Geese’ (JE 34571/CG 1742). It was found at the end of the corridor leading to the burial chamber, and was installed with wooden jambs and lintel. The door itself measures approximately 73 cm wide, and is composed of two large vertical boards held together with horizontal wooden strips. It is undecorated, and from its construction may open inward and to the left – the second, narrower wooden strip may have incorporated the pivots.

It is not mentioned where this door leaf was subsequently or is currently stored.


The lower two-thirds of a door leaf was discovered during the excavation north of the tomb of Khnumhotep and Niankhkhnum at Saqqara in 1970.39 This door leaf is unique from others discovered before or since, not because it has a secure context (several do!) but rather because it demonstrates the life cycle of this type of material. The leaf, along with two lintels, was found beneath the Causeway of King Unas, having been reappropriated to serve as filler to level the causeway. This act is truly striking, as wood was quite a valuable material, even in the Old Kingdom when many Egyptologists now believe the climate was less harsh and thus more hospitable to the growth of vegetation. For it to be used as filler and not re-used in other wooden art or architectural features may indicate that the builders of the causeway were more concerned with efficiency than cost.

Returning to the leaf itself, it measures 140 cm tall, 86 cm wide and is 5.5 cm thick. It was decorated on one side with three registers in raised relief, the top of which is half-missing. As might be assumed from its reuse, the surface is also damaged in places, and there is no evidence of colour. From the publication and accompanying image, it is not clear where the pivots were attached, but we can probably assume they were on the true right when looking at the decorated side, as the border is thicker on this side.40 The decorated side is presumably the front. As all of the figures are depicted facing the left, they would thus be oriented to be ‘entering’ the tomb when the door leaf was opened.

The top register, which is far larger than the bottom two, seems to depict the tomb owner, wearing a leopard skin robe, and his wife; depicted smaller between their legs are four figures which the excavator, Moussa, suggests are the deceased’s children. The second and third registers show men and women, right hand on breasts, the men carrying scepters in their left hands. They are all named, but whether they are relatives, children, or embodiments of concepts is unclear. At the far right of the third register are four women engaged in baking – each showing a different stage of preparation. These two registers may perhaps show the funerary cult of the deceased – with offerings being prepared and visitors to the tomb – Moussa does not offer any suggestions to interpretation.

Like the above leaf, it is not mentioned where this leaf is currently.

Tomb MMA 509(a) (MMA 23.3.174a-h)

During the 1922-1923 Metropolitan Museum excavations led by Herbert Winlock, the team excavated an unattributed tomb numbered MMA 509(a).41 At the entrance to the tomb the lower half of a door leaf still stood in place. It serves as our only intact example of the period from Thebes. Winlock wrote:

“Originally the caretaker of the tomb had kept it bolted and sealed-we found broken seals on the floor under it-but thieves had cut the bolt off and broken into the tomb ages ago. A fall of rock had caught the door as it stood ajar and half buried it, wedged in place. Wasps had honeycombed it for wood fiber to make their paper nests; ancient quarrymen had come and carted away the great stone door-jambs from before it; and later generations of Egyptians had been carried in their coffins over the top of it to be buried inside. The wasps, the quarrymen, and the later undertakers among them had destroyed the upper half, but we found the lower half still in place, and bracing it with a stick as we dug the fallen rock away, we were able to photograph it as it stood.”42

The leaf itself is formed of seven vertical boards of sycamore fig wood connected both by dowels between the boards as well as strips of wood horizontally across the back of the boards. It is coated in gesso.  Although it is only a fragment, it stands 215 cm tall, and is 151 cm wide and 11 cm thick.43 Although the jambs and lintel are lost, it would be reasonable to assume the door may have been twice the height.

Fig. 7: The reverse of the door leaf from MMA 509(a) on display in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York

The largest preserved piece (MMA 23.3.174a,44 see image above) is undecorated aside from white gesso, but several of the smaller fragments (MMA 23.3.174b-h45) preserve incised hieroglyphs, including part of the name of King Mentuhotep in a cartouche. Unfortunately the name of the tomb owner is not preserved.

From the in-situ photograph, also published by Winlock, we can see the leaf was open inward and to the right when found.46 The surviving lower pivot confirms this is the direction the door leaf would have opened. It is preceded by a raised stone threshold with indentations for the jambs of the doorway, but there is no socket visible on the right side. It is likely, then, that there was a separate stone socket, or a second threshold slab which contained the socket.

The leaf was acquired by the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1923 as a result of partage; it is currently on display in Gallery 106.

Sennedjem (TT1; Cairo JE 27303)47

The most complete surviving wooden door leaf is from the burial chamber of the tomb of Sennedjem (TT1) at Deir el-Medina (Cairo, JE 27303). It was discovered on January 31, 1886 by local residents who, inspired by Maspero’s new policy which offered compensation for the discovery of new sites, took trowels to the hills nearby their houses.48 Unfortunately, in their desire to preserve the door leaf (which was bolted from the inside) but gain access to the burial chamber beyond, the lintel and jambs of the doorway were irrevocably damaged.49

The leaf itself is made of sycamore fig. No strips are visible on either side of the door, which indicates this leaf was constructed using dowels between the boards – a far more complex technique.50 It is vividly painted on both sides, in the same colour scheme as the surrounding walls. The exterior of the leaf has two registers of decoration: the top shows Sennedjem, his wife, and his daughter presenting offerings and libations to a seated Osiris-Khentyatmentiu flanked by Ma’at, the lower register shows the seven sons of Sennedjem venerating a seated Ptah-Sokar-Osiris flanked by Isis.51 The orientation of the figures on the door leaf is purposeful: the gods and goddesses are on the left facing right, whilst Sennedjem and his family are on the right facing left. When the door leaf is opened, this orientation now presents as the deceased walking into the burial chamber to venerate the gods, who are already seated (or standing) inside.52

The decoration on the interior face of the leaf would only have been visible from the burial chamber when the door was closed. As such, the decoration is designed to blend with the scheme of the rest of the room, which is decorated with texts and vignettes from the Book of the Dead. At the top of the leaf is a vignette of Sennedjem, seated with his wife behind him, playing a game of senet. He has no opponent, instead, on the other side of the senet table is a round-topped table bearing food offerings. Below this scene is eleven columns of text. The text is from the Book of the Dead and is a combination of the postscript to Spell 72 and the introduction to Spell 17.53 Both texts center on the deceased’s ability to go out and return from the tomb; appropriate to the context of the door leaf.54 Spell 17 mentions going out to play a board game beneath a canopy, it is from this the vignette above derives; its placement on the interior of the door leaf, visible only to the deceased as he ‘leaves’ the tomb, is also purposeful.

Fig. 8: The interiior of the door leaf of the tomb of Sennedjem

Despite claims that the door was bolted from the inside, and thus necessitated the destruction of the frame in order to access the room, Bruyere notes that the bolt was actually installed on the exterior of the door leaf and would have slid into a hole in the left jamb, and then was tied and sealed. Unfortunately, he also mentions that “[l]e loquet et le sceau ont disparu en 1886”.55

Although many parts of the tomb, funerary equipment, and even the door frame itself were distributed to various museums around the world as a part of partage, this leaf remains in the Cairo Museum.

Khonsuhotep (BM EA705)56

Another leaf, nearly intact except for its upper pivot, is BM EA705. This 204 cm tall leaf is formed of six planks of sycamore fig, arranged vertically, which are held together by pegs and wooden strips horizontally across the back.

It is decorated with only a single vignette, centered on the top half of the exterior face of the leaf (based on the location of the pivot if the door opened to the right). The vignette is carved and some traces of white paint survive inside the incised lines. It shows a New Kingdom high priest of Amun called Khonsuhotep offering and adoring a seated Osiris flanked by Hathor of the West. Interestingly, the orientation of the figures is the reverse of that on Sennedjem’s door leaf. This may be because the leaf formed the external door to the entire tomb, and wished to portray the deceased as emerging from the tomb when the leaf was opened. Scholars at the British Museum also believe that this is the tomb’s external door due to its large size, thickness, and lack of painted decoration.

The leaf was purchased by Giovanni d’Athanasi from an antiquities dealer on behalf of the Earl of Belmore in 1817-18. Due to the decontextualization nothing else is known about Khnosuhotep, as his tomb has not been identified. In fact, it cannot be certain that the door comes from a tomb at all, however the excellent preservation and decorative theme heavily favours a funerary context. Additionally, an entry in the diary of the Earl’s physician, Dr Richardson, mentions that the door leaf was “found near one of the tombs that have been cut in the southern aspect of the mountain above the village of Gornou, a little to the west of the road that leads into the valley of the tombs of the kings”.57

The leaf was given by the Earl of Belmore to Henry Salt, who deposited the leaf with the British Museum.


A few others are mentioned in Porter & Moss, which are either only briefly mentioned in publications or museum catalogues. These include: “wooden door-wing[s]” from the Old Kingdom Saqqara tombs of Kaemhest (now in the Cairo Museum – JE 47749)58 and Kahersetef (half in Cairo – CG 1568; half originally in Musee Guimet, Paris);59 the door of the burial chamber of the Middle Kingdom tomb of Ukhhotep in Meir;60 a New Kingdom incised fragment held at the Musées royaux d’art et d’histoire in Brussels (E.05281) which is listed in Porter & Moss as being a door leaf, but on the museum’s online catalogue as simply a ‘wooden panel’;61 and “several wooden doors” listed as coming from Lepsius tomb no. 27 in Assasif,62 final storage location unknown. Koenigsberger also lists a door from Illahun (Cairo Museum No. 20/5/24/4)63 as an example of unusual leaf construction, and a large wooden door from the tomb of Sennefer, cited as being Berlin Museum No. 20368.64

Surviving royal examples not from tombs include the upper part of a door panel likely from the funerary temple of Tuthmosis I, now at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (MMA 22.2.26),65 and one of two door leaves from the ebony shrine of Hatshepsut, found at Deir el-Bahari and now in the Cairo Museum (CG 70001, JE 30740).66

The doors of Ipi (TT 315) and Henenu (TT 313)

Two of the tombs which the Middle Kingdom Theban Project (MKTP) are currently working on are those of Middle Kingdom officials Ipi (MMA 516 / TT 315) and Henenu (MMA 510 / TT 313). Unfortunately, neither of these tombs preserve their stone (or wood) doorways or wooden door leaves. The roughly chiseled entryways which remain resemble in quality those of contemporary Treasurer Khety (MMA 508 / TT 311) and 26th Dynasty addition Vizier Nespakashuty (MMA 509 / TT 512), with which they are aligned. The latter tombs preserve evidence of well-formed stone blocks which would have served to line the rough walls of the tomb,67 and gaps at the entrance also seem to indicate that stone, mudbrick, or wooden doorframes would have been assembled separately.

Fig. 9: Entrance to the tomb of Ipi at the start of MKTP excavations

Whether there were internal doors in the tombs of Ipi or Henenu is unclear. Both tombs include a cult chapel below or behind which a corridor leading to the burial chamber was hidden. Winlock’s plans of Khety’s tomb, which also has this layout, show that he believed there was a second doorway between the corridor and the chapel.68 At the time of writing, we have found no physical indication of doorways in this location in the tombs of Ipi or Henenu, such as sockets or wooden door leaf fragments. Henenu’s tomb features a well-formed frame shape at the rear of the cult chapel, carved into the living rock so as to leave a large recess before it. It seems likely that something was installed here; whether that something was a doorway, a false door, or thick blocking stones to hide the corridor beyond is not yet known.

Fig. 10: The recessed frame-shaped wall in the cult chapel room of Henenu

The tomb of Ipi does preserve one block at the entrance which has been identified by archaeologist Mohamed Osman as a potential threshold. It shows evidence of two impressions which Osman suggests may be sockets for door leaves, and preserves a single layer of mudbrick on the eastern edge which may be the remains of a mudbrick door jamb. Possibly the threshold was formed of two stone blocks, and the bulk of the the jambs rested on a block (now lost) in front of this surviving one.

Fif. 11: Drawing showing the potential threshold block at the entrance to the tomb of Ipi

The author is somewhat hesitant to agree that the two impressions are door sockets simply because the shape and orientation of the sockets is not consistent with the majority of sockets studied by the author. The author suggests that the deeper cavity on the right side may actually be the socket, as it is similar in shape to other stone door sockets.69 This would indicate a single leaf opening to the right, which is more in line with other evidence seen in tomb doors.

Fig. 12: The reconstructed door sockets of the Red Chapel of Hatshepsut at Karnak. Note the similarity in shape to the potential socket in the Ipi threshold stone

Since we have no direct evidence from either tomb, the best approximation for what the main entrance door leaves would have looked like lies with MMA 23.3.174a, as it is the closest both in date and location to our tombs. For our hypothetical reconstruction, we can supplement with information from other door leaves examined above.

All surviving leaves are from doorframes which fill the size of the corridor, rather than built at a smaller size into a dividing wall between rooms. It is likely, then, that the frames at the entrance to the tombs of Ipi and Henenu would have been monumental, this being in proportion to the ceiling height of the tomb corridor. The leaves would also be monumental. As all of the leaves presented above, with the exception of shrine door leaves, are single leaves, the entrance doors to Ipi and Henenu’s tombs would likely also have a single leaf. They probably opened inward and to the right, as did the majority of other leaves recovered.

Decoration was in all probability incised, and perhaps gesso or plaster was added. Painted scenes do not seem likely for an external doorway – the only painted example from the above is the leaf to the burial chamber of Sennedjem and this comes from a later period, as well. Based on the other leaves discovered, the decoration may have included at least one scene of the deceased making or receiving offerings, possibly including his wife and children. The name of the king which Ipi and Henenu served may also be included in the decoration, as on MMA 23.3.174a. The back of the leaf was probably undecorated, held together with dowels and horizontal bands of wood.

For the internal doors we have two options – either decorated like that of Sennedjem or undecorated and utilitarian like that of Nefermaat. However, neither example comes from the same period as our tombs, and without a firm grasp of the decoration scheme of the tombs of Henenu and Ipi, it is impossible to suggest what any hypothetical internal door leaf may have looked like.

Conclusions and future work

Considering how important doors were to the funerary context in ancient Egypt, it is frustrating that the ravages of time and looters have removed much of the physical proof of the doorways in the tombs of Ipi and Henenu. Moving forward, we have three steps to take in order to find out more about the doorways of these two tombs.

Firstly, to have specialists studying the artefacts found throughout the tomb complexes. In the tomb of Henenu, hundreds of fragments of carved and painted stone have been found both inside the tomb and in the courtyard. Although many of the fragments appear to be from stelae and sarcophagi,70 there is a chance that some may be from stone door frames. Our epigraphers71 will look for this evidence in the phrasing and texts used on each fragment.

Secondly, in future seasons we would like to examine the entrances to other surrounding contemporary tombs to see if there is physical evidence beyond sockets or frames that may help us determine where the doorways in our tombs existed and what they looked like. Despite the fact that many of these tombs were excavated in the past, not every excavator focuses or publishes information regarding the doorways, and so a brief in-person survey will be invaluable.

Thirdly, we will excavate in the archives. Archival evidence from the original excavation from Winlock is invaluable, as archaeological publishing in the past was not as scientific and thorough as that of today, and as such much is still accessible only to researchers in-person.

Although we may never be able to fully reconstruct doorways and their leaves in these two tombs, it is important to recognize that their absence means that we need to be careful when interpreting access, movement, and meaning of the spaces they originally divided and united.

Note: Unless expressly indicated to the contrary, photos in this article are copyright of The Middle Kingdom Theban Project © MKTP. Figs. 1 and 7 are courtesy of Antonio Morales; figs. 2-4 are courtesy of the University of Heidelberg; fig. 5 proceeds from Koenigsberger, Die Konstruktion der Ägyptischen Tur; figs. 6 and 12 are courtesy of the author; fig. 8 belongs to Wikimedia Commons; and figs. 9-11 are courtesy of Mohamed Osman.


[1] Jéquier, Manuel d’archeologie egyptienne, 111.

2 Clery, Doors, 14; Latour “Where are the missing masses?”, 228.

3 Neufert and Neufert, Architects’ Data, 117–19, 186-7.

4 The author, although by no means attempting to assert herself as an authority equal to the scholars noted here, wrote her PhD dissertation on the construction and decoration of temple doorways in New Kingdom Thebes. During her research, she also briefly examined tomb, domestic, and military doors for comparative purposes.

5 Koenigsberger, Die Konstruktion der Ӓgyptischen Tur.

6 Brunner, “Tür und Tor”; id. “Die Rolle von Tür und Tor im Alten Ägypten”.

7 Hölscher, The Mortuary Temple of Ramses III, Part I includes architectural investigations of specific doorways in the temple and palace; The Mortuary Temple of Ramses III, Part II,especially 34-37, focuses on construction and decoration.

8 Including: Jéquier, Manuel d’archeologie egyptienne, 65–76, 111–28; Spencer, Brick Architecture in Ancient Egypt, 131, 133; Clarke and Engelbach, Ancient Egyptian Construction and Architecture, 162–9; Arnold, The Encyclopedia of Ancient Egyptian Architecture, 74–6 especially; and Goyon, Golvin, Simon-Boidot, and Martinet, La construction pharaonique, 370–73.

9 Hirsch, “Bemerkungen zu Toren in den Tempeln des Alten und Mittleren Reiches”.

10 Harpur, Decoration in Egyptian Tombs of the Old Kingdom, 43–58.

11 Hornung, “Struktur und Entwicklung der Gräber im Tal der Könige”, 60–62.

12 Roehrig, “Gates to the underworld: the appearance of wooden doors in the royal tombs in the Valley of the Kings”.

13 Hornung, The Ancient Egyptian Books of the Afterlife.

14 For example: BM EA10478,4; BM EA10470,11

15 Hornung and Abt, The Egyptian Book of Gates, 90, 94-95, 140 (amongst other examples). An example showing leaves from the Book of the Dead of Nakht is BM EA10471,17

16 Budge, The book of the dead: the Papyrus Ani in the British Museum, 21-22

17 Brunner, “Die Rolle von Tür und Tor im Alten Ägypten”, 140.

18 In the Amduat, the text provided the deceased with the means “to know the gates and the ways upon which the great god [Re] passes” (Warburton, The Egyptian Amduat, 12–13). The Book of Gates literally gives the names of the doors and their doorkeepers for each hour (Hornung and Abt, The Egyptian Book of Gates).

19 Ockinga, The Tomb of Amenemope (TT148) I, 109–12.

20 Dorman, The Tombs of Senenmut, 119–24, pls. 66–71. 21 Budge, The book of the dead: the Papyrus Ani in the British Museum, 10-11

21 Budge, The book of the dead: the Papyrus Ani in the British Museum, 10-11

22 For instance in the Book of Gates, these are the serpent guardians (Hornung and Abt, The Egyptian Book of Gates, 26).

23 Leprohon, “Gatekeepers of this and the other world”, 84.

24 Von Dassow, The Egyptian Book of the Dead, pl. 116; Ockinga, The Tomb of Amenemope (TT148) I, 116–17.

25 This is not a purely Egyptian worldview. See Van Gennep, Rites of Passage; and Porter, “Thresholds and the Old Testament”.

26 Doors as a transition between worlds is also interpreted in the division between sacred/profane in temples, and public/private in domestic settings.

27 An excellent overview of some of these rituals is Mouron, “Les rites aux portes de la tombe”. An example from the Book of the Dead of Ani is BM EA10470,6, which shows the procession culminating in front of the tomb door.

28 Winlock, “The Egyptian Expedition 1922-1923”, 15.

29 Budge, The book of the dead: the Papyrus Ani in the British Museum, 5-6

30 Koenigsberger, Die Konstruktion der Ӓgyptischen Tur, 14.

31 Lansing and Hayes, “The Egyptian expedition: the excavations at Lisht”, 10.

32 Harpur, Decoration in Egyptian Tombs of the Old Kingdom, 48; Arnold, The Encyclopedia of Ancient Egyptian Architecture, 76.

33 Spencer, The Egyptian Temple: A Lexicographical Study, 179–82.

34 Koenigsberger, Die Konstruktion der Ӓgyptischen Tur, 15.

35 Koenigsberger, Die Konstruktion der Ӓgyptischen Tur, 16–17; Clarke and Engelbach, Ancient Egyptian Construction and Architecture, 162.

36 Naville, The Temple of Deir el Bahari II, pl. XXVI.

37 Information about this door comes from Petrie, Wainwright and MacKay, The Labyrinth, Gerzeh and Mazghuneh, 25, pl. xvi (1).

38 The leaf itself does not name Itj.sn as it is broken off at the top. However, the discovery with two lintels which both mention Itj.sn suggests the leaf would also belong to this man.

39 All information about this door leaf is from Moussa, “Lintels and lower parts of a leaf”. No further information regarding its current whereabouts or research could be found during the time of writing in lockdown. If you know more, please get in touch!

40 It should be noted that this is an assumption and will need to be verified by examining the leaf or the tomb doorways. In the tomb of Khnumhotep and Niankhkhnum, which, like the tomb of Itj.sn was ransacked for filler for the Unas causeway, there is a doorway which preserves decoration of baking activities on the thickness. The socket in this doorway indicates the door leaf opened in and to the left. In English, a good summary can be found on Osirisnet under ‘THE ENTRANCE OF THE FIRST CHAMBER’ heading

41 Allen (“Some Theban officials”, 20) suggests this tomb may belong to the Vizier Bebi, who served near the end of the reign of Mentuhotep II.

42 Winlock, “The Egyptian Expedition 1922-1923”, 15. An edited version of this also appears in Winlock Excavations at Deir el Bahari 1911-1931, 70.

43 https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/544250

44 Ibidem.

45 https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/743015

46 Winlock, “The Egyptian Expedition 1922-1923”, 15, fig. 5.

47 An excellent reconstruction of this leaf and more information about the tomb can be found in: Shedid, Das Grab des Sennedjem.

48 Bruyere, La tombe n°1 de Sen-nedjem, 1; Bierbrier, The tomb-builders of the pharaohs, 139.

49 Bruyere, La tombe n°1 de Sen-nedjem, 2.

50 Koenigsberger, Die Konstruktion der Ӓgyptischen Tur, 17.

51 Bruyere, La tombe n°1 de Sen-nedjem, 22-23.

52 A clear visualization of this change in orientation can be seen in an animation of the opening of the tomb door created by Jon Hirst for Osirisnet and viewable here: https://www.osirisnet.net/popupImage.php?img=/tombes/artisans/sennedjem1/photo/sennedjem_jh_04.gif&lang=en&sw=1366&sh=768

53 Bruyere, La tombe n°1 de Sen-nedjem, 23, 52-53.

54 For an English translation to these spells see Faulkner, Ancient Egyptian Book of the Dead, 40 (for Spell 17) and 87 (for Spell 72’s postscript).

55 Bruyere, La tombe n°1 de Sen-nedjem, 22.

56 All information on this door leaf was taken from the new British Museum Collection Online platform, launched 28 April 2020: https://www.britishmuseum.org/collection/object/Y_EA705

57 Richardson, Travels along the Mediterranean, II, 2-3; https://www.britishmuseum.org/collection/object/Y_EA705, “Acquisition notes”.

58 Porter & Moss (III) 1981, 542.

59 Porter & Moss (III) 1981, 693.

60 Porter & Moss (IV) 1968, 249; Kamal, “Rapport sur les fouilles”, 109.

61 Porter & Moss (I) 1964, 818: https://www.carmentis.be:443/eMP/eMuseumPlus?service=ExternalInterface&module=collection&objectId=81290&viewType=detailView

62 Porter & Moss (I) 1964, 623; Lepsius, Denkmäler aus Aegypten und Aethiopien Text III, 248

63 Koenigsberger, Die Konstruktion der Ӓgyptischen Tur, 17.

64 Koenigsberger, Die Konstruktion der Ӓgyptischen Tur, 16. The author could not track this leaf down – if you know its location, please get in touch.

65 https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/544474

66 Naville, The Temple of Deir el Bahari II, 1-4, pls. XXV-XXIX; Porter & Moss (II) 1972, 355-356.

67 Winlock, “The Egyptian Expedition 1922-1923”, 16-18; Pischikova “Reliefs from the Tomb of the Vizier Nespakashuty”, 58.

68 Winlock, “The Egyptian Expedition 1922-1923”, 16.

69 The author noted this shape existed, albeit sometimes greatly eroded, in many of the temple doorways studied as part of her dissertation.

70 See Gracia Zamacona “Imagining Henenu”; Morales et alii, “The Middle Kingdom Theban Project: preliminary report 2017”; and id., “The Middle Kingdom Theban Project: preliminary report 2018” for more detail.

71 Great thanks to epigraphers Carlos Gracia Zamacona and Dina Serova for their work so far on the material from TT 313 and TT 315.


Allen, J. P., 1996. “Some Theban officials of the early Middle Kingdom”, in Studies in honor of William Kelly Simpson 1, ed. P. Manuelian. Boston: Dept. of Ancient Egyptian, Nubian and Near Eastern Art, Museum of Fine Arts, 1-26.

Arnold, D., 2003., The Encyclopedia of Ancient Egyptian Architecture, trans. S. Gardiner & H. Strudwick; eds. N. Strudwick & H. Strudwick. London: I.B. Tauris. Benderitter, T., A. G. de Beler, C. Mariais, A. Guilleux, and J. Hirst, 2005-2020. “Deir el-Medina, Tomb TT1, Senedjem, son of Khabekhnet and Tahennu”.

Benderitter, T., J. J. Hirst, C. Brualla, A. Guilleux, J. Bodsworth, H. Groesz, and T. Chapman, 2007-2020. “The mastaba of Niankhkhnum and Khnumhotep”.

Bierbrier, M., 2016. The tomb-builders of the pharaohs. Cairo: American University in Cairo Press.

The British Museum, 2020. “The British Museum. Catalogue of the Collection online

Brunner, H., 1986. “Tür und Tor”, in Lexikon der Ägyptologie VI: Stele–Zypresse, eds. W. Helck & W. Westendorf. Wiesbaden: Otto Harrassowitz, 778-87.

Brunner, H., 1988. “Die Rolle von Tür und Tor im Alten Ägypten”, in Das hörende Herz: kleine Schriften zur Religions- und Geistesgeschichte Ägyptens, ed. H. Brunner. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 248–70.

Bruyère, B., 1959. La tombe n°1 de Sen-nedjem à Deir el Médineh. Mémoires publiés par les membres de l’Institut français d’archéologie orientale 88. Le Caire: Institut Français d’Archéologie Orientale.

Clarke, S. and R. Engelbach, 1990. Ancient Egyptian Construction and Architecture. New York (NY): Dover Publications.

Clery, V., 1979. Doors. Harmondsworth: Penguin.

Dorman, P. F., 1991. The Tombs of Senenmut: The Architecture and Decoration of Tombs 71 and 353. Publications of the Metropolitan Museum of Art Egyptian Expedition 24. New York (NY): Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Faulkner, R. O., 2005. Ancient Egyptian Book of the Dead. New York: Barnes & Noble.

Goyon, J-C., J-C. Golvin, C. Simon-Boidot, and G. Martinet, 2004. La construction pharaonique du moyen empire à l’époque gréco-romaine: contexte et principes technologiques. Paris: Picard.

Gracia Zamacona, Carlos 2019. “Imagining Henenu”, Near Eastern Archaeology 82 (2), 75-81.

Harpur, Y., 1987. Decoration in Egyptian Tombs of the Old Kingdom. Studies in Orientation and Scene Content. London: KPI.

Hirsch, E. N., 1996. “Bemerkungen zu Toren in den Tempeln des Alten und Mittleren Reiches”, in Wege öffnen: Festschrift für Rolf Gundlach zum 65. Geburtstag, ed. M. Schade-Busch. Wiesbaden: Harrossowitz Verlag, 88–97.

Hölscher, U., 1941. The Mortuary Temple of Ramses III, Part I.The Excavation of Medinet Habu, Volume 3. Chicago (IL): Oriental Institute.

Hölscher, U., 1951. The Mortuary Temple of Ramses III, Part II. The Excavation of Medinet Habu, Volume IV. Chicago (IL): Oriental Institute.

Hornung, E. and T. Abt, 2014. The Egyptian Book of Gates. Zurich: Living Human Heritage.

Hornung, E., 1978. “Struktur und Entwicklung der Gräber im Tal der Könige”, Zeitschrift für ägyptische Sprache und Altertumskunde 105, 59–66.

Hornung, E., 1999. The Ancient Egyptian Books of the Afterlife, trans. D. Lorton. London: Cornell University Press.

Jéquier, G., 1924. Manuel d’archeologie egyptienne; Les elements d’architecture. Paris: Auguste Picard.

Kamal, A., 1912. “Rapport sur les fouilles exécutées dans la zone comprise entre Déîrout, au nord, et Déîr-el-Ganadlah, au sud”, Annales du Service des Antiquités de l’Égypte 12, 97-127.

Koenigsberger, O., 1936. Die Konstruktion der Ӓgyptischen Tur. Glückstadt: Verlag von J. J. Augustin.

Lansing, A. and W. C. Hayes, 1933. “The Egyptian expedition: the excavations at Lisht”, Bulletin of the Metropolitan Museum of Art 29 (11.2), 4–41.

Latour, B., 1992. “Where are the missing masses?”, in Shaping Technology/Building Society: Studies in Sociotechnical Change, eds. W. Bijker & J. Law. Cambridge (MA): MIT Press, 225–58.

Leprohon, R., 1994. “Gatekeepers of this and the other world”, Journal of the Society for the Study of Egyptian Antiquities 24, 77–91.

Lepsius, R. and K. Sethe, 1900. Denkmäler aus Aegypten und Aethiopien: Text, Dritter Band III, Theben. Nach den Zeichnungen der von Seiner Majestät dem Könige von Preussen, Friedrich Wilhelm IV., nach diesen Ländern gesendeten und in den Jahren 1842-1845 ausgeführten wissenschaftlichen Expedition. ed. E. Naville and L. Borchardt. Leipzig: J. C. Hinrichssche Buchhandlung.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2020. “The Metropolitan Museum of Art Collection”.

Morales, A. J. et alii, 2018. “The Middle Kingdom Theban Project: preliminary report on the University of Alcalá Expedition to Deir el-Bahari, fourth season (2018)”, Studien zur Altägyptischen Kultur 47, 183-221.

Morales, A. J. et alii, 2017. “The Middle Kingdom Theban Project: preliminary report on the University of Alcalá Expedition to Deir el-Bahari, third season (2017)”, Studien zur Altägyptischen Kultur 46, 153-190.

Mouron, G., 2017. “Les rites aux portes de la tombe: l’exemple des nécropoles de l’Ancien Empire égyptien”, in Rites aux portes, ed. P. M. Michel. Bern: Peter Lang, 23-32.

Moussa, A., 1972. “Lintels and lower parts of a leaf of a wooden relief-sculptured door of the Old Kingdom from Saqqara”, Mitteilungen des Deutschen Archäologischen Instituts, Abteilung Kairo 28, 289-291.

Naville, E., 1897. The Temple of Deir el Bahari II: The Ebony Shrine, Northern Half of the Middle Platform.London: Egypt Exploration Fund.

Neufert, E. and P. Neufert, 2012. Architects’ Data, Fourth Edition. Chicester: Wiley-Blackwell.

Ockinga, B., 2009. The Tomb of Amenemope (TT148), Vol I. The Australian Center for Egyptology, Report 27. Oxford: Oxbow.

Petrie, W. M. F., G. A. Wainwright, and E. Mackay, 1912. The Labyrinth, Gerzeh and Mazghuneh. British School of Archaeology in Egypt and Egyptian Research Account [21] (18th year). London: School of Archaeology in Egypt; Bernard Quaritch.

Pischikova, E., 1998. “Reliefs from the Tomb of the Vizier Nespakashuty: Reconstruction, Iconography, and Style”, Metropolitan Museum Journal, 33, 57-101.

Porter, B. and R. L. B. Moss, 1960. Topographical bibliography of ancient Egyptian hieroglyphic texts, reliefs, and paintings I: the Theban necropolis. Part 1: private tombs, 2nd revised ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press; Griffith Institute.

Porter, B. and R. L. B. Moss, 1964. Topographical bibliography of ancient Egyptian hieroglyphic texts, reliefs, and paintings I: the Theban necropolis. Part 2: royal tombs and smaller cemeteries, 2nd, revised and augmented ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press; Griffith Institute.

Porter, B. and R. L. B. Moss, 1972. Topographical bibliography of ancient Egyptian hieroglyphic texts, reliefs and paintings II: Theban temples, 2nd, augmented and revised ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press; Griffith Institute.

Porter, B. and R. L. B. Moss, 1974. Topographical bibliography of ancient Egyptian hieroglyphic texts, reliefs, and paintings III: Memphis. Part I: Abû Rawâsh to Abûîr, 2nd, revised and augmented ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press; Griffith Institute.

Porter, B. and R. L. B. Moss, 1981. Topographical bibliography of ancient Egyptian hieroglyphic texts, reliefs and paintings III: Memphis. Part 2: aqqâra to Dahshûr, 2nd, revised and augmented ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press; Griffith Institute.

Porter, B. and R. L. B. Moss, 1934. Topographical bibliography of ancient Egyptian hieroglyphic texts, reliefs, and paintings IV: Lower and Middle Egypt (Delta and Cairo to Asyû). Oxford: Clarendon.

Porter, J., 1993. “Thresholds and the Old Testament”, in Boundaries & Thresholds: papers from a Colloquium of the Katharine Briggs Club, ed. H. Davidson. Stroud: Thimble, 65–75.

Richardson, R., 1822. Travels along the Mediterranean, and parts adjacent, in company with the Earl of Belmore, during the years 1816-17-18: extending as far as the second cataract of the Nile, Jerusalem, Damascus, Balbec, &c., &c. London: Cadell.

Roehrig, C., 1995. “Gates to the underworld: the appearance of wooden doors in the royal tombs in the Valley of the Kings”, in Valley of the sun kings: new explorations in the tombs of the pharaohs. Papers from the University of Arizona International Conference on the Valley of the Kings, ed. R. H. Wilkinson. Tuscon, AZ: University of Arizona Egyptian Expedition, 82–107.

Royal Museums of Art and History, Brussels, 2020. “Carmentis: Online museum catalogue of the RMAH”.

Shedid, A. G., 1994. Das Grab des Sennedjem: ein Künstlergrab der 19. Dynastie in Deir el Medineh. Mainz: Philipp von Zabern.

Spencer, A. J., 1979. Brick Architecture in Ancient Egypt. Warminster: Aris & Phillips Ltd.

Spencer, P., 1984. The Egyptian Temple: A Lexicographical Study. London: Kegan Paul International.

Van Gennep, A., 1961. Rites of Passage, trans. M. B. Vizedom & G. L. Caffee. Chicago (IL): University of Chicago Press.

Von Dassow, E. (ed.), 1994. The Egyptian Book of the Dead: The Book of Going Forth by Day, being the Papyrus of Ani (Royal Scribe of Divine Offerings), trans. R. O. Faulkner & O. Goelet Jr. San Francisco: Chronicle Books.

Warburton, D. A., 2007. The Egyptian Amduat: the Book of the Hidden Chamber, eds. E. Hornung & T. Abt. Zurich: Living Human Heritage.

Winlock, H. E., 1923. “The Egyptian Expedition 1922-1923: the Museum’s excavations at Thebes”, Bulletin of the Metropolitan Museum of Art 18 (12.2), 11-39.

Winlock, H. E., 1942. Excavations at Deir el Bari: 1911-1931. New York: Macmillan.


Principales alteraciones y métodos de limpieza de pintura mural egipcia

Por Ana M. Herranz

En el Middle Kingdom Theban Project tenemos la suerte de contar con restos de pintura mural pertenecientes a las tumbas de Djari (TT 366) y Dagi (TT 301), así como policromía conservada en el sarcófago de Ipi (TT 315) y en fragmentos de estelas y de sarcófago documentados en la tumba de Henenu (TT 313). Asímismo, han aparecido restos de cartonaje pintado, sobre todo de Época Baja y del periodo grecorromano, cuyas condiciones y policromía también han necesitado de las tareas de nuestro equipo de restauradores.

Si bien las vicisitudes de la quinta campaña 2020 han impedido la elaboración de un estudio pormenorizado de las pinturas de Dagi (i.e. documentación de su naturaleza, estado actual de conservación, realización de mapas de deterioro, propuesta de tratamiento y un plan de conservación preventiva, todo ello pendiente a realizar en la próxima campaña), el presente artículo tiene como objetivo esbozar un breve marco general de las principales alteraciones presentes en las pinturas murales de las tumbas de este tipo y los métodos de limpieza más comunes para las mismas.

La conservación y estado de estas pinturas depende de varios factores, como la calidad de los materiales originales y su envejecimiento, el modo de aplicación (generalmente técnica en seco con enlucido de yeso o temple), las vicisitudes históricas de la tumba (i.e. si ha sido expoliada, ocupada, excavada o permanecido intacta hasta hoy día) y el diferente grado de estabilidad del medio que las rodea. Generalmente, aquellas documentadas en tumbas expoliadas, ocupadas en la antigüedad o excavadas en el siglo XX, como en los casos de las tumbas de Dagi y Djari, presentan una serie de agentes, mecanismos de deterioro y alteraciones que pueden resumirse en el siguiente cuadro:

Fig. 1: Tabla de agentes, mecanismos de deterioro y alteraciones

Los productos y sistemas de limpieza han de cumplir los criterios generales de intervención, varían en función del estudio previo de cada caso particular y siempre han de ser testados sobre la capa de suciedad con el objetivo de no dañar o solubilizar la capa pictórica inmediatamente subyacente. Asimismo, en ocasiones es necesario recurrir a tareas de preconsolidación (especialmente si la misma presenta descohesión y pulverulencia) o de engasados, consolidación y adhesión de morteros que forman las capas de preparación para evitar desprendimientos (Pawlicki, 1999: 64; Pearce, 1969: 40; Mora y Sbordoni, 1993: 72).

El ennegrecimiento típico sobre la policromía está compuesto de una mezcla de diversos depósitos como cúmulos de suciedad y polvo, eflorescencias y costras salinas, excrementos de murciélagos o capas de hollín (formado por yeso y residuos de incineración como grasas, aceites y resinas) que acidifican el soporte, perjudicando y causando la pérdida de los aglutinantes y pigmentos. En función de la naturaleza de estos depósitos, a veces tan sólo es necesario recurrir a una limpieza mecánica en seco con herramientas como brochas, pistolas de aire, cepillos, gomas, esponjas Wishab, espátulas de madera, bisturíes, etc. siempre valorando tanto el grosor de la capa de suciedad como el nivel de adhesión que presente con respecto a la capa pictórica.

Sin embargo, en ocasiones los métodos mecánicos implican un riesgo de erosión sobre las pinturas debido a su frágil estado (Pearce, 1969: 40) o sencillamente no resultan efectivos por sí solos, siendo necesario recurrir o combinarlos con limpiezas químicas mediante el uso de disolventes orgánicos o mezclas que habrán de ser previamente testados sobre cada tipo de alteración.

Algunos casos comunes para la eliminación de tierras adheridas, hollín o guano son el empleo de agua desmineralizada, disoluciones hidroalcohólicas (Moreno Cifuentes, 2009: 305) o mezclas de agua con otros disolventes como amoniaco a baja concentración, etanol y acetona (Capriotti, 2004: 172), mediante suaves pasadas con hisopos o esponjas. Los disolventes comúnmente utilizados como el xileno, tolueno y algunos solventes clorados (Pearce, 1969: 40) son los más empleados para la eliminación de capas ennegrecidas de naturaleza orgánica como grasas, resinas y aceites o costras negras formadas esencialmente por hidrocarburos y provenientes en su mayoría por el efecto de las hogueras de un período posterior de ocupación de las tumbas, de lámparas de aceite o candiles (Mora y Sbordoni, 1993: 76).

Paralelamente, la interacción química entre disolventes y componentes de la policromía (aglutinantes, pigmentos, fina capa de enlucido, etc.) puede controlarse mediante la interposición de elementos protectores como, por ejemplo, el papel japonés o mediante el uso de metodologías con papetas de celulosa o arcilla cargadas con disolventes que limiten la penetración y actuación de estos a un nivel muy superficial, logrando la eliminación de costras negras o incrustaciones muy resistentes controlando tanto la concentración de los disolventes empleados como el tiempo de exposición de la papeta sobre la superficie. 

Durante la tercera campaña (2017) se realizaron pruebas de limpieza sobre la policromía del sarcófago de piedra de Ipi, el cual todavía presenta una capa de hollín de densidad variable que cubre gran parte de sus caras internas. Como se puede observar (fig. 2a), esta capa de aspecto negruzco afecta de forma irreversible a los componentes de la policromía, haciendo muy dificultosa –y en ocasiones ilegible– la identificación de la iconografía y epigrafía del sarcófago. En cuanto al test de limpieza llevado a cabo en 2017, destaca la aplicación de una papeta similar a la denominada Papeta AB57 sobre la pared este (fig. 2b), previa consolidación con resina acrílica. La composición de ésta, basada en la formulación original del I.C.R. de Roma (Ashurst y Dimes, 2007:134), consistió en 500 ml de agua desionizada, 5 g de bicarbonato de amonio, 2 g de sal bisódica (EDTA) y carboximetilcelulosa, tal y como figura en el informe de la restauradora Rawda Abdelhady. Tras su aplicación, se documentó una eliminación de hasta un 60% de la capa de costra negra sin causar alteraciones sobre el texto e iconografía subyacentes.

Figs 2a-b: Foto comparativa: a) zona no intervenida (pared este); b) zona de aplicación y testeo (pared este)

Estas capas de suciedad generalmente se componen de una mezcla heterogénea de productos de naturaleza orgánica e inorgánica que con el paso de los siglos endurecen formando concreciones muy adheridas a la superficie y no resultan fáciles de eliminar sin dañar la capa de policromía subyacente. En este sentido, cabe mencionar que en los últimos años se ha venido aplicando la técnica láser para la eliminación de este tipo de capas negras de suciedad, especialmente en casos en los que las pinturas presentan un estado tan frágil que hace imposible la aplicación de cualquier otro método mecánico o químico de limpieza, obteniendo resultados bastante efectivos (Brinkmann y Verbeek, 2016; Graue, Brinkmann y Verbeek, 2011)

Naturalmente, en la mayor parte de los casos los equipos no disponen de este instrumental, lo que obliga a recurrir a los métodos tradicionales, no sin antes realizar una serie de ensayos que aseguren la no interferencia con los pigmentos y morteros, optándose en otros casos por una simple limpieza superficial y un plan de conservación preventiva por la inexistencia de un método que sea seguro para las pinturas (Tavier y Madden, 2016).

En próximas campañas, la prioridad del programa de conservación se centrará, entre otras actuaciones, en el estudio de la naturaleza de las pinturas murales documentadas tanto en la tumba de Dagi como en la tumba de Djari, en su diagnóstico y su tratamiento. Éste seguramente englobará, además de la limpieza, labores de consolidación matérica y estructural de pigmentos, morteros y enlucidos, así como un plan de conservación preventiva para garantizar la estabilidad de las mismas.


Brinkmann, S. / Verbeek, C. 2016. “Cleaning of Ancient Egyptian Wall Paintings in the Tomb of Neferhotep TT 49”, en Verbeek, C. / Brinkmann, S. (eds.), CTT – Conservation of Theban Temples and Tombs. Symposium Proceedings. February 2016, Luxor. Edit Digitale Publikation.

Caprioti, G. 2004. “Conservation of the Wall Paintings in the Royal Tomb of Amenophis III”, en Yoshimura, S. / Kondo, J. (eds.), Conservation of the Wall Paintings in the Royal Tomb of Amenophis III: First and Second Phases Report. Tokyo, Akht Press.

Moreno Cifuentes, M.A. 2009. “Misiones arqueológicas españolas en Egipto: el proyecto de conservación y restauración”, Boletín de Bellas Artes 37, 211-252

Graue, B./ Brinkmann, S. / Verbeek, C. 2011. “PROCON TT 49: Laser cleaning of ancient Egyptian wall paintings and painted Stone surfaces”, en Radvan, R. / Asmus, F.F. / Castillejo, M. / Pouli, P. / Nevin, A. (eds.), Lasers in the Conservation of Artworks VIII. Boca Raton, CRC Press, 67-74.

Mora, P. / Sbordoni, L. 1993. “The Nefertari Conservation Program”, en Corzo, M.A. / Afshar, M. (eds.), Art and Eternity: The Nefertari Wall Paintings Conservation Project, 1986-1992. Singapore. Getty Conservation Institute

Morales, A.J et alii. 2017. “The Middle Kingdom Theban Project: resultados preliminaries de la mission de la UAH en Deir el-Bahari. Tercera campaña (2017)”, Boletín de la Asociación Española de Egiptología 26, 143-168.

Pawlicki, F. 1998. “Deir el-Bahari. Hatshepsut Temple Conservation and Preservation Project 1995/1996”, en Polish Archaeology in the Mediterranean VIII. 59-67.

Pearce, G. 1969. “The Conservation of Wall Paintings in Tomb 35 at Dra Abu el-Naga”, Expedition 11/3, 38-43.

Tavier, H / Madden, B. 2016. “The Conservation of the Tomb Chapel of Sennefer TT 96 A”, en Verbeek, C. / Brinkmann, S. (eds.), CTT – Conservation of Theban Temples and Tombs. Symposium proceedings. February 2016, Luxor. Edit Digitale Publikation.

Nota: A no ser que se indique expresamente otra información, las fotos de este artículo son propiedad del Middle Kingdom Theban Project © MKTP. La primera figura es una tabla realizada por la autora del artículo; las imágenes de las figuras 2a y 2b han sido realizadas por el equipo restaurador del proyecto.


Bringing it all together: Curious finds from the tomb of the bowman Neferhotep (TT 316 / MMA 518)

By Dina Serova

Finds are often dispersed and discussed out of context. Especially early archaeological publications and excavation reports of the early 20th century tend to focus on high-culture objects suitable for a wider public. In many cases, it was not only the methodology or excavation technique, but rather a matter of pre-selection and individual preference that ensured further documentation, study and, in particular, the transportation of an object to an archive or museum where it would be kept, mended and, at best, exhibited.

From today’s perspective, archaeologists often face this very problem: not only is our knowledge about life and death in antiquity fragmentary but also is the archaeological record upon which we base our understanding of the past. Thus, we often find ourselves recollecting and reassembling information in order to (re-)construct the past – in fact conducting “archive digging” before we can start a real excavation in the field. In this context, studying the remains of human activities in a space such as Deir el-Bahari, it is pivotal to assess such dispersed and sometimes rather neglected finds in order to understand their inner logic and significance.

The potential of this approach and possible resulting problems can be best illustrated using the example of tomb TT 316/MMA 518 (see fig. 1 below), which was first excavated in 1918-1919, with a later season in 1922-1923 (see Morales et al. 2018, 208-209, 212, 217; Allen 2015, 26, n° 1; Soliman 2009, 126-128; Kampp 1996, 573; Porter & Moss 19602, 390; Winlock 1942, 71-72, pl. 35; Winlock 1923, 19-20). However, it was not before 1923 that the first publication of the fieldwork results appeared in the framework of a short report (Winlock 1923, 11-39).

Fig. 1: Hand-made plan of TT 316/MMA 518 (by MKTP architect, Fourth Season – 2018)

Being one of the many rock-cut tombs in the northern cliff close to the temple of Mentuhotep-Nebhepetre, TT 316/MMA 518 can be ascribed to an individual named Neferhotep, who was an iry-pedjet “bowman”. His name and title were inscribed on both of his block-statues uncovered in a small hidden statue chamber, only about two meters above the entrance to his tomb (Schulz 1992, 305-308, Nr. 170-171; Bothmer 2004, 135-137). These two ‘cuboid’ statues (Cairo JE 47708 and JE 47709) (figs. 2-3), made from calcite alabaster and silicified sandstone (quartzite), fit very well into the general observation that Middle Kingdom officials could own more than one of these objects and wished for their placement close to their burials (Schulz 2011, 4). However, whether Neferhotep was a true administrative official is questionable, as his title indicates a rather middle ranking position in the military service and no other titles have been recorded. Nevertheless, the prominent location of his tomb and some of the objects accompanying his burial can be considered as products belonging to the upper levels of society (Miniaci 2017, 276) and must have been accessible to him and his family members.

Fig. 2: Cairo JE 47709 (drawn after Schulz 1992, pl. 77a)

Fig. 3: Cairo JE 47708 (drawn after Schulz 1992, pl. 77b)

Apart from the block-statues just mentioned, Winlock and his workmen found several other objects, which so far have neither been fully collated nor studied in detail as an assemblage (cfr. however Morris 2017, 298-299; Miniaci 2017, 252; both with differing foci), but aroused curiosity and caused lively debates among scholars. Before reviewing the finds in more detail, it seems worthwhile to first approach the tomb zooming in from the outside to the inside at considering its topographical and architectural setting.

In 2018, the MKTP reinitiated the study of the so-called “Eastern Sector” at Deir el-Bahari. The team conducted a survey of several tombs and their surroundings within this area. This resulted –among other things– in an updated plan of TT 316/MMA 518 showing the layout and the distribution of the passages and chambers (Morales et al. 2018, 208-209, fig. 10; and fig. 1 above). In general, the slope in front of TT 316/MMA 518 is slightly steeper than that of its immediate western neighbors (cfr. e.g. TT 315), and leads to a small rectangular courtyard. As the others, the tomb is not oriented towards the temple of Mentuhotep-Nebhepetre, but towards the monumental processional road leading to it. Somewhere in the forecourt, Winlock uncovered a small mud-brick shrine and a limestone offering-table (Cairo JE 47713). Its hieroglyphic inscriptions indicate that it was dedicated to Neferhotep’s mother, called Nebetitef, and to a woman called Merit, daughter of Hennu, who was probably his wife. In addition, there was another offering-table made of wood that is not mentioned in Winlock’s report, but noted by Porter & Moss (19602, 390). Currently, it is not clear where exactly these finds and the shrine, which Winlock jestingly described as a “chicken-coop” (Winlock 1923, 20), have to be located. In theory, one should expect here also remnants of offering deposits such as pottery or other small finds from waste disposal.

Approaching the tomb façade, it is discernable that it was sharply cut into the limestone bedrock, while the entrance was framed by a massive mud-brick casing, which is quite fragmentary and deteriorated nowadays. In addition to the aforementioned statue chamber above the entrance, there is a small hole in the mud-brick structure on the right side. “Thrown out from the tomb” (Winlock 1923, 20) – so probably right at its entrance – Winlock found the remains of a quiver partly made with pierced and decorated leather together with several arrows. The quiver remains were very fragmentary and seem to not have found their way to a museum storage. In one of the passages, that have a quite unusual shape and orientation due to a layer of harder rock which made the tomb builders slightly change the tomb layout (Morales et al. 2018, 212, 217), Winlock found a fragmentary hippopotamus figurine (Cairo JE 47711: fig. 4) and a nude female figurine with truncated legs (Cairo JE 47710: fig. 5), both made of blue faience. The contents of the burial chamber are not known. Whether it housed the human remains of Neferhotep’s relatives (e.g. his wife) beside his own burial is so far not confirmed on material basis.

Fig. 4: Faince hippopotamus: Cairo JE 47711 (drawn after Morris 2017, 298; own reconstruction)
Fig. 5: Faince female figurine: Cairo J 47710 (drawn after Morris 2017, 298; own recontruction)

The archive of the Metropolitan Museum of Art holds a number of objects associated with TT 316/MMA 518 which were never explicitly mentioned by their excavators and await further investigation. Some are even lacking inventory numbers and could only be recorded on the basis of MMA expedition photographs and tomb cards (see Morris 2017, 299).

Among them are for instance a pair of clappers made of ivory (fig. 6), whose upper parts are not preserved but can be reconstructed as hand-shaped. That we are indeed dealing with clappers and not with “magic wands” is indicated by small pierced holes at their lower ends, which can often be observed with these objects. It is very likely that originally there was a string holding both pieces together. This allowed to carry or to deposit them without losing the counterpart. Clappers were important magical devices and noise-making instruments in apotropaic cults and rituals providing rhythm and accompaniment to dancing, singing and/or recitations (Morris 2017, 285-335).

Furthermore, TT 316/MMA 518 contained another set of ritual objects: a nude female figurine with truncated legs made of imported ebony (New York MMA 26.3.307: fig. 7) and a hippopotamus figurine made of wood (fig. 8). Thus, we face four figurative objects in total: two female and two hippopotamus figurines.

Fig. 6: Hand-shaped clappers: unknown inventory num. (drawn after Morris 2017, 298; own reconstruction)
Fig. 7: Ebony female figurine: New York MMA 26-3-307 (drawn after Morris 2017, 298; own reconstruction)
Fig. 8: Wood hippopotamus: unknown inventory num. (drawn after Morris 2017, 298; own reconstruction)

Nude female figurines with truncated legs have long time been interpreted as sexually attractive dancers, entertainers and “concubines” providing amusement to the (male) deceased, and thus procuring his physical regeneration in the afterlife. Since such figurines were also found in tombs of children and women, the initial interpretation of these objects needed reevaluation and has shifted towards the aspect of “fertility”. In this way, nude female figurines were ascribed to the female life sphere being votives and guarantees to secure conception, pregnancy and birth as well as the continuity of the family and the whole household. “Fertility figurines” were and are often seen as individual protective measures against dangers and problems relating to human reproduction. In recent studies, this approach has even been overstressed in terms of general physical health and medico-magical applications.

In contrast, however, it was proposed lately to return to the initial hypothesis to understand nude female figurines of the Middle Kingdom as representations of dancers and female ritualists associated with the cult of Hathor (Morris 2011, 71-103). These figurines were identified as miniature embodiments of this goddess and particularly as khener dancers, which were thought to have an exhilarant effect on the deceased by showing their genitals during acrobatic ritual dances. This refers to the famous episode in the “Contendings of Horus and Seth” (P. Chester Beatty I, rto. 4,2) where Hathor uncovers her lower body in front of her father Ra when he has withdrawn himself after a dispute in the divine council. From the text, we learn that Hathor’s act evokes Ra’s laughter and uplifts his spirit so he can go back to council. Which emotion exactly (arousal; amusement; joy; anger; fear) provoked his reaction is not explained in the text, but scholars read this episode in a rather one-sided way. Apart from erotic/sexual or satirical interpretations, we know from ethnographic sources that the exposure of female genitalia is/was a highly provocative and disparaging act of communication or even as a threatening gesture in several African cultures (Serova in prep., 198-202). In short, the meaning of the text passage in question has to be reconsidered and interpreted with more caution. Also the significance and conceptualization of Hathor in the Middle Kingdom has not yet been focused on. A finer distinction and detailed study of the references to this goddess in the textual sources of this time period (particularly the Coffin Texts) might illuminate other aspects than those of sexuality, joy, music and dance. The association of female figurines with clappers and hippopotamus figurines in archaeological contexts might in general point to an apotropaic function.

Hippopotamus figurines made from faience are quite popular and widely distributed in the late Middle Kingdom. As ferocious and dangerous animals living in a liminal area (the marshes, the Nile and water basins), hippopotami and composite forms (hippopotamus-lion) are often attested as individual objects (Miniaci & Quirke 2009, 346-348) and less frequently as iconographic features e.g. on “birth tusks” (Quirke 2016, 327ff., 416-419). As has been put forward recently, faience figurines often represent vivid and dynamic beings, so the hippopotami can be represented squatting, standing as well as in movement walking, rearing and roaring (Miniaci 2017, 272). Such faience hippos have often been interpreted as pacified models of their real counterparts as well as symbols of fertility and rebirth. In such a “pacification” of these wild animals might lie their emic significance, which leads to the development and exploitation of their apotropaic qualities. Also the blue-greenish shimmer of their voluminous bodies combined with the floral or vegetal decoration on their skin evoke an association with the Nile inundation and luxuriant vegetation – thus “fecundity” in its broader sense.

All these objects (clappers, female figurines, and hippopotami), especially in their combination, are part of a typical funerary assemblage of a (later) Middle Kingdom burial in Thebes. This observation is another indication not to date the tomb of Neferhotep to the Eleventh Dynasty as initially proposed by Winlock. In addition, its architectural features (Seyfried 1987, 243) and the iconography as well as the style of the block-statues (Bothmer 2004, 135-137; Schulz 1992, 305, n° 3) strongly indicate a later date between the end of the Twelfth to the early Thirteenth Dynasty.

There is a number of objects, which raise several questions because of their date and function besides the fact that their original find spot within the tomb area is unknown. For instance, a “club” made of wood (New York MMA 26.3.304: fig. 9) was found somewhere in the structure. Not being merely a long stick (82 cm in length), the object shows interesting traces of working. It is not only quite heavy and made of hard wood, it is also “diamond-shaped in cross section” and has “sharp striking edges along two sides” (Hayes 1953, 283). Also the handle of the “club” was carefully prepared to fit into the palm of the hand when grasping. Hayes dated the object to the Middle Kingdom (Hayes 1953, 279, fig. 181; 283) and compared it to other wooden weapons of that time. In this context, it seems likely, that the “club” is to be associated with the quiver find. Both objects fit very well with the designation of the tomb owner as “bowman”, whereas the “club” might represent further links to specific combat-related functions and tasks. However, the punch of such a weapon cannot be compared with lances with metal or flint applications.

Fig. 9: Wood club: New York MMA 26.3.304 (drawn after MMA photograph; online collection search)

In addition, two curious “polishing stones of baked earthenware” (New York MMA 26.3.308 and 26.3.309), each ca. 13 cm in length –a size well-fitting for craft activities– can be mentioned. Whether these objects can be identified as the “bell-shaped burnishers” mentioned by Hayes (1953, 291) which were used to polish flat surfaces such as coffin planks remains unclear. According to Hayes, the “burnishers” had a slightly convex-shaped underside and were “stained by a dark resinous substance” possibly originating from the worked material. Another object found in TT 316/MMA 518 is an 11 cm long shell (New York MMA 26.3.305). Generally, shells could be used as small and natural containers, for example for ink (Hayes 1953, 296), or as amulets and bodily ornamentation (Hayes 1953, 195). Although not verifiable without consulting the original objects or at least having photographs of these objects, it is tempting to juxtapose the polishing stones with the shell as working materials and/or implements that were disposed of after their use for example in the final preparation of the burial.

Furthermore, some gold fragments (New York MMA 26.3.306) were discovered. They have been dated to the time between the Eleventh and Eighteenth Dynasty probably based on the fact that they might derive from gilded objects which were more common in the New Kingdom. Whether this precious metal was part of a shabti box or belonged to a fan handle of gilded wood is so far unclear.

The last piece to be mentioned is a 6 cm large rearing cobra head made of faience (New York MMA 26.3.311), which according to the MMA online database has been found in the debris of Neferhotep’s tomb. The object has also been attributed to the Eighteenth Dynasty. It was suggested by Winlock to reconstruct it as a piece of decoration on the forehead of an anthropoid coffin. However, it is not very common to find such an uraeus on a private coffin or mummy mask, since the rearing cobra is to be considered a divine and royal symbol in the Middle and New Kingdoms (but cfr. Hayes 1953, 310, fig. 201). Also, representations of snakes made of faience are not to be found among the Middle Kingdom quartz ceramics (Miniaci 2017, 241-257). In fact, it is very likely that we are dealing with one of the many forms of faience amulets that are widely distributed in Egypt from the first Millennium BCE onwards. A more detailed study of this object and the others would surely clarify most of these questions.

Although many questions still remain unanswered concerning the finds from Neferhotep’s tomb, studying the archival data and collating it with information found in its first publications has proved to be fruitful. Further investigation of the original objects in the Metropolitan Museum of Art will hopefully help to complete our understanding of the tomb assemblage, providing a solid ground for future re-excavation as well as re-examination of the tomb TT 316 / MMA 518 and its courtyard.


Allen, S. J. 2015. “An Offering to Mentuhotep, Son of Mentuhotep-anhu, Found at Thebes – MMA 26.3.316”, in: A. Oppenheim, O. Goelet (eds.), in The Art and Culture of Ancient Egypt: Studies in Honor of Dorothea Arnold, BES 19, 25-40.

Behrmann, A. 1989. Das Nilpferd in der Vorstellungswelt der Alten Ägypter I. Europäische Hochschulschriften, Reihe 38: Archäologie 22. Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang.

Bothmer, B. V. 2004. “Block statues of the Egyptian Middle Kingdom II: The Sculpture of Teta’s Son”, in B. V. Bothmer (ed.), Egyptian Art: Selected Writings of Bernard V. Bothmer. New York: Oxford University Press, 121-142.

Bruyère, B. 1939. Rapport sur les fouilles de Deir el Médineh (1934-1935) Troisième partie: le village, le décharges publiques, la station de repos du col de la Vallée des Rois. FIFAO 16. Cairo: IFAO.

Hayes, W. C. 1953. Scepter of Egypt I: A Background for the Study of the Egyptian Antiquities in The Metropolitan Museum of Art: From the Earliest Times to the End of the Middle Kingdom. Cambridge, Mass.: The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Kampp, F. 1996. Die thebanische Nekropole: zum Wandel des Grabgedankens von der 18. bis zur 20. Dynastie. Theben 13. Mainz: Zabern.

Keimer, L. 1948. Remarques sur le tatouage dans l‘Égypte ancienne, MIE 53. Cairo: IFAO.

Miniaci, G. 2017. “Unbroken Stories: Middle Kingdom Faience Figurines in Their Archaeological Context”, in G. Miniaci, M. Betrò, S. Quirke (eds.), Company of Images: Modelling the Imaginary World of Middle Kingdom Egypt (2000-15000 BC). Proceedings of the International Conference of the EPOCHS Project held 18th-20th September 2014 at UCL, London. Leuven: Peeters, 235-284.

Miniaci, G./Quirke, S. 2009. “Reconceiving the Tomb in the Late Middle Kingdom: The Burial of the Accountant of the Main Enclosure Neferhotep at Dra Abu al-Naga”, BIFAO 109, 339-383.

Morales, A. J. et al. 2018. “The Middle Kingdom Theban Project. Preliminary Report on the University of Alcalá Expedition to Deir el-Bahari. Fourth Season (2018)”, SAK 47, 183-221.

Morris, E. F. 2011. “Paddle Dolls and Performance”, JARCE 47, 71-103.

Morris, E. 2017. “Middle Kingdom Clappers, Dancers, Birth Magic, and the Reinvention of Ritual”, in G. Miniaci, M. Betrò, S. Quirke (eds.), Company of Images: Modelling the Imaginary World of Middle Kingdom Egypt (2000-15000 BC). Proceedings of the International Conference of the EPOCHS Project held 18th-20th September 2014 at UCL, London. Leuven: Peeters, 285-335.

Porter, B./Moss, R. L. B. 19602. Topographical Bibliography of Ancient Egyptian Hieroglyphic Texts, Reliefs, and Paintings I: The Theban Necropolis 1: Private Tombs. Oxford: Oxford University Press/Griffith Institute.

Saleh, M./Sourouzian, H. 1986. Die Hauptwerke im Ägyptischen Museum Kairo: offizieller Katalog. Mainz: Philipp von Zabern.

Schulz, R. 1992. Die Entwicklung und Bedeutung des kuboiden Statuentypus: eine Untersuchung zu den sogenannten „Würfelhockern“. HÄB 33-34. Hildesheim: Gerstenberg.

Schulz, R. 2011. “Block statue”, in W. Wendrich (ed.), UCLA Encyclopedia of Egyptology 1/1; [29.05.2020].

Serova, D. Nacktheit im Alten Ägypten: Lexeme, Episteme und (Re-)Konstruktionen, unpublished PhD Thesis, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin.

Seyfried, K. J. 1987. “Entwicklung in der Grabarchitektur des Neuen Reiches als eine weitere Quelle für theologische Konzeptionen der Ramessidenzeit”, in J. Assmann, V. Davies, G. Burkard (eds.), Problems and priorities in Egyptian archaeology. London/New York: Kegan Paul, 219-253.

Soliman, R. 2009. Old and Middle Kingdom Theban tombs. Egyptian Site Series. London: Golden House.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York), Online Collection: [29.05.2020].

Quirke, S. 2016. Birth Tusks: The Armoury of Health in Context – Egypt 1800 BC. Middle Kingdom Studies 3. London: Golden House Publications.

Vandier, J. 1958. Manuel d’archéologie égyptienne III: les grandes époques – la statuaire. Paris: Éditions A. et J. Picard & Cie.

Ward, W. A. 1982. Index of Egyptian Administrative and Religious Titles of the Middle Kingdom: With a Glossary of Words and Phrases Used. Beirut: American University of Beirut.

Winlock, H. E. 1923. “The Museum’s Excavations at Thebes”, BMMA 18/12, 11-39.

Winlock, H. E. 1942. Excavations at Deir el Bari: 1911-1931. New York: Macmillan.

Note: Unless expressly indicated to the contrary, photos in this article are copyright of The Middle Kingdom Theban Project © MKTP. Figs. 2 to 9 are illustrative drawings (with reconstructions) produced by the author, Dina Serova.


Conocer la obra para conservar adecuadamente

por Ana M. Herranz


Una de las primeras y casi más importantes fases que forman parte del proceso de restauración de cualquier obra es la fase de documentación y de estudios previos, donde el conservador suele recurrir a todas aquellas tecnologías de investigación posibles, contando y colaborando con un equipo de carácter multidisciplinar que dota al trabajo de un carácter eminentemente científico. El objetivo de esta fase previa a la intervención es la obtención de información acerca de la técnica de ejecución de la obra y de los materiales que le constituyen, del estado de degradación que presenta y de sus causas de alteración, dependiendo de todo esto la correcta elección de los productos y metodologías para su futura intervención.

En el caso de Egipto, la tarea de documentación y estudio previo es especialmente importante puesto que las condiciones de los objetos, relieves y pinturas no suelen ser buenas y las medidas que se pueden aplicar por parte del especialista son muy limitadas. Por ejemplo, las pinturas murales halladas en las tumbas de Djari (TT 366) y Dagi (TT 103) no han sido documentadas a nivel de restauración y conservación desde su descubrimiento por parte de la Expedición del Museo Metropolitano de Arte de Nueva York en los años 20, lo que supone una dificultad añadida en su estudio, documentación y recuperación.

Métodos y aplicaciones

Toda esta valiosa información se obtiene a través de los métodos de examen y análisis científicos aplicados a la conservación, aportando cada uno de ellos, según lo que se busque o pretenda, información de diverso grado y precisión. En general, casi todos ellos se basan en la respuesta registrada tras la interacción de una radiación electromagnética sobre los materiales de la obra a analizar.

Los métodos de examen generalmente proporcionan una información física, morfológica y óptica, mientras que los denominados métodos de análisis nos aportan, a través de un instrumental complejo y en ocasiones inaccesible, datos de carácter cualitativo y cuantitativo. No obstante, ambos métodos resultan indiscutiblemente complementarios y la elección de cada uno de ellos dependerá de la información deseada. Obviamente, el grado de aplicación de los métodos de análisis durante las campañas arqueológicas en Egipto es mínimo, lo que obliga al especialista a obtener la información precisa por medios más accesibles y sencillos, en ocasiones relegando parte de la información por la dificultad de acceder a análisis más complejos.

La gran utilidad de los métodos de análisis radica, por ejemplo, en proveer la identificación de los elementos químicos y el porcentaje de los mismos en una muestra o superficie, o en la identificación de un compuesto determinado. Estas técnicas son realmente útiles para saber de qué está compuesto un mortero o enlucido, cuáles son los pigmentos y aglutinantes utilizados en una policromía, cuál es la naturaleza de un barniz o la de una aleación metálica, así como el tipo de productos de alteración que puede presentar una obra. Son, entre otros, la fluorescencia de rayos X (FRX), el microanálisis por dispersión de energía de rayos X (EDX), la difracción de rayos X (DRX), la espectrometría de infrarrojos por transformada de Fourier (FTIR), etc.

Sin embargo, como se indicó anteriormente, las misiones arqueológicas en el extranjero se ven limitadas en función de los recursos disponibles y el ámbito geográfico donde se desempeñe su actividad, no siendo posible recurrir a este tipo de análisis. En este caso, los métodos científicos de examen con radiaciones visibles e invisibles suelen ser más accesibles, económicos y útiles, documentando en muchos casos hechos bastante significativos que ayudan a conocer la naturaleza de la obra y de su estado de degradación.

Acciones tan simples como aplicar una luz tangencial o rasante sobre la superficie de una obra aportan útil información acerca de su textura, destacan las irregularidades y deformaciones de la capa de policromía, así como hacen visibles otras alteraciones a simple vista no perceptibles como arañazos, abrasiones o grietas desapercibidas. Esta información puede ampliarse y registrarse mediante la fotomacrografía, consiguiendo incrementos de los detalles de hasta diez veces, o la fotomicrografía, mediante observación de un fragmento o muestra bajo un microscopioestereoscópico. Con este microscopio se podrían obtener aumentos que pueden llegar hasta cien o doscientas veces, mostrando el estado de posibles barnices sobre la policromía, la adherencia de la capa pictórica, características físicas de los productos de alteración como costras, polvo, etc. Todo ello, a falta de una microscopía electrónica más sofisticada, ayuda a determinar el grado de afectación de un objeto, las áreas de máxima o mínima fragilidad y otros datos acerca de los productos de alteración que afectan al original.

Figs. 1-2: Observación bajo microscopio estereoscópico de un textil europeo: galones de cobre oxidados enrollados en fibras de lino, a 14 y 24 aumentos

También resultan interesantes otros métodos como la fluorescencia visible inducida por radiación ultravioleta, especialmente para determinar la existencia de algunos materiales como aglutinantes, pigmentos o barnices que, al ser excitados con una radiación UV (mediante exposición de la superficie con una lámpara de Wood, por ejemplo), emiten fluorescencia con diferentes tonalidades.

Otros métodos de examen, en este caso con radiaciones invisibles, suelen ser los exámenes con infrarrojos y con rayos X. Si bien en muchas de las misiones tampoco se dispone de instrumental necesario para realizar algunos de ellos (técnicas radiográficas como exámenes de rayos X, tomografías, etc.), otros pueden ser aplicados con pocos recursos (una cámara y un filtro adecuado), como el caso de la fotografía infrarroja, que mediante la exposición de una radiación IR sobre una superficie seleccionada nos permite conocer el estrato inmediatamente subyacente a ésta, concretamente si se compone de pigmentos a base de carbono, pudiéndose documentar dibujos previos realizados sobre preparaciones, hilos metálicos en textiles, etc., destacando igualmente su utilización para la documentación de tatuajes en momias egipcias o como método auxiliar para esclarecer y facilitar lectura de textos erosionados o perdidos en diversos soportes. Un ejemplo de la aplicación de la fotografía infrarroja en el yacimiento es el trabajo preliminar realizado sobre las paredes del sarcófago de caliza del visir Ipi (TT 315), cuya iconografía polícroma y textos en tinta negra requieren una restauración extensa para devolverles una condición adecuada y para que, además, el equipo de epigrafistas pueda continuar trabajando con las mismas.

Fig. 3: Imagen preliminar obtenida durante las pruebas de aplicación del método de fotografía infrarroja en las superficies del sarcófago de Ipi (realizada por los restauradores del equipo Rawda Abdelhady y Mohamed Hussein)

Asimismo, resulta muy interesante la técnica de luminiscencia inducida VIL (Visible Induced Luminiscence Digital Imaging), que permite determinar la existencia del pigmento azul egipcio (filosilicato de calcio y cobre) incluso en caso de existir restos microscópicos del mismo, gracias a sus propiedades químicas. En este caso, el procedimiento se efectuaría aplicando una fuente de luz libre de radiación IR (mediante una lámpara LED) sobre la superficie a examinar, captando la imagen resultante con filtro y cámara adecuada. La identificación del pigmento azul egipcio se manifiesta mediante un color blanquecino y muy brillante, pudiéndose documentar bajo las capas de barniz oxidado que tienden a confundirle con pigmentos pardos o negros, diferenciándose igualmente de otros posibles pigmentos azules como la azurita (carbonato básico de cobre).

Fig. 4: Imágenes obtenidas por diversos métodos: a) estudio fotográfico; b) luz visible; c) fluorescencia visible inducida por radiación ultravioleta; d) técnica de luminiscencia inducida VIL; e) fotografía infrarroja; f) falso color IR (en A. Abdrabou, M. Abdallah y H.M. Kamal 2017, 56)

La aplicación, complementariedad y comparación de todos estos métodos resulta, por consiguiente, un inestimable recurso para comprender la naturaleza de los bienes arqueológicos. No sólo son necesarios para avanzar dentro del campo de la investigación arqueológica (mediante el conocimiento de los materiales utilizados y posible datación del bien cultural en función de éstos, la técnica de ejecución de la obra, el contexto y el estudio comparativo, etc.), sino que también resultan imprescindibles para la comprensión del estado de degradación del bien y para establecer un planteamiento adecuado en los tratamientos durante la posterior fase de ejecución en la restauración mediante el uso, por ejemplo, de materiales y productos que no alteren físico-químicamente al bien cultural o que sean similares en su composición, entre otros criterios que contribuyen a garantizar el respeto hacia el bien cultural original.


Abdrabou, A./Abdallah, M./Kamal, H.M. 2017. “Scientific investigation by technical photography, OM, ESEM, XRF and FTIR of an ancient Egyptian polychrome wooden coffin”, Conservar Património 26, 51-63.

Bader, N./Al-Gharib, W. 2013. “Assessment of deterioration and conservation of a polychrome wooden coffin from Al-Arish Museum, Egypt”, International Journal of Conservation Science 4, 397-412.

Boust, C. 2017. “DATABASE: Pigments under UV and IR radiations”, en Scientific imaging for cultural heritage / Images scientifiques pour le patrimoine.

Dyer, J./Sotiropoulou, S. 2017. “A technical step forward in the integration of visible-induced luminiscence imaging methods for the study of ancient polychromy”, Heritage Science 5 (24).

Espinosa Ipinza, F./Rivas Poblete, V. 2011. “Fluorescencia visible inducida por radiación UV. Sus usos en conservación y diagnóstico de colecciones. Una revisión crítica”, Conserva 16, 27-38.

Gómez, M.L. 2014. La Restauración. Examen científico aplicado a la conservación de obras de arte. Madrid: Cátedra.

Matteini, M./Moles A. 2001. Ciencia y Restauración. Método de investigación. San Sebastián: Nerea.


A puzzling model letter from Deir el-Bahari: ostracon Cairo JdE 49911

Por Antonio J. Morales

The mortuary complex TT 314 and the tomb of Harhotep

In the two seasons (1921-1923) conducted by the MMA Expedition in the mortuary complex TT 314 (MMA 513), Herbert Winlock found what he described as “ka-servants’ scrap-baskets […] some pieces of broken pots on which the ka-servant had jotted memoranda with a bit of charcoal” (Winlock 1942, 57). One of these “broken pots” consisted on an ostracon with a model letter written by Harhotep the justified (!)… How could we explain the authorship of this document? What practices of writing in the necropolis could we draw from the composition of model letters, the training of missive phraseology, and the involvement of the dead in the documents? The model letter found by Winlock –currently, Cairo Museum ostracon JdE 49911– might offer a window into some of the writing practices at the Middle Kingdom necropolis of Deir el-Bahari.

The tomb of Harhotep was discovered by Gaston Maspero in February 1883 in the northern escarpment of Deir el-Bahari’s amphitheatre, dug just in the courtyard of tomb TT 314 (Maspero 1889, 134-135; Morales/Osman 2018). As Maspero observed, the underground structure of this tomb –from its passage entrance to its mortuary chamber– was situated in the north-eartern corner of the courtyard in TT 314: “a steep passage roughly hewn out of the rock led down a descent of nearly 30 meters to a sort of vestibule, from which trough an opening on the right it fell abruptly into the chamber where the little edifice now in the museum was erected” (Maspero 1908, 101). This particular –the fact that the tomb of Harhotep was not located inside the rock-cut tomb TT 314– should make scholars consider the possibility that Harhotep were not the owner of the main complex, TT 314.

Fig. 1: View of the courtyard and façade of the mortuary complex TT314 (center) in the northern hills at Deir el-Bahari

In 1921, digging in the courtyard of TT 314, Herbert Winlock initiated the re-excavation of the tomb (Winlock 1922, 36; Winlock 1942, 57). Regarding the entire complex TT 314, it presents the fundamental architectural elements of the Middle Kingdom elite tombs in the area: a rectangular enclosure wall with entrance at the feet of the hills, a small chapel in the entrance area (dedicated to the memory of the deceased), subsidiary burials and chapels (we know at least five shafts, among them the tomb of Harhotep), the tomb façade cut in the rock (covered with mudbrick), and the rock-cut structure. In the search for Harhotep’s tomb, Winlock discovered a “cranny” where some baskets were left behind: there, remnants of a papyrus scroll with hymns and a papyrus fragment with an account of grain mixed with the aforementioned broken pots (Winlock 1922, 36-37). Among them, eleven fragments of a light-coloured globular pot with charcoal rough writing on the outside and inside took the attention of the excavators. Together, they formed a complete text mentioning Harhotep, probably the owner of the nearby tomb (James 1962, 78-79, pls. 20-20A).

Fig. 2: View of the recto, ostracon Cairo Museum JdE 49911
Fig. 3: View of the verso, ostracon Cairo Museum JdE 49911

The mortuary complex TT 314 is currently investigated by the Polish Mission at Deir el-Bahari and its Projekt Asasif. In recent years, the Polish Mission has focused on the excavation of the lower section of the courtyard in TT 314, revealing a mudbrick chapel situated at the entrance of the complex (Chudzik/Caban 2019; Chudzik 2015: esp. 243-244). Unfortunately, the mudbrick structure and its associated findings therein have not contributed to confirm the name of the owner of the mortuary complex TT 314. Further excavations in the complex by the Polish Mission will no doubt shed light on the ownership of TT 314 and the grounds for Harhotep’s burial in its courtyard.

The model letter: ostracon Cairo Museum JdE 49911

Examination of the single ostracon recovered by the MMA expedition during its search for the tomb of Harhotep might shed light on some of the writing practices conducted by scribes, officiants, and relatives in this Middle Kingdom cemetery and its surroundings. The necropolis must have been a place of transient personal and administrative affairs as the remains of scribal materials, papyri, wooden boxes with ink, clay, sealings, and ostraca indicate (Allen 2002, 4-6; Wente 1990, 8-9). The document, therefore, add one more glimpse about the practices and experiences of the living in the land of the dead (Baines and Lacovara 2002).

Fig. 4: Reconstruction of ostracon JdE 49911 through high-resolution photography

Ostracon JdE 49911 displays nine columns of hieratic text in its recto and four columns in its verso (figs. 2-3). The text is written with charcoal, using large signs in both sides, although the size of the last two columns of the verso seem exceptionally large (see fig. 3). Two other features capture the attention of the observer: on the one hand, column 4 of the recto shows traces of an earlier text, perhaps a rectified mistake with a personal name; on the other, the hieratic text of the verso is written in retrograde writing. Added to this, column 4 of the verso puts end to the text with the phrase “Harhotep, justified”.

The straightforward beginning of the inscription in cols. 1-2 of recto (“Harhotep speaks to”) follows the traditional opening attested in letters sent to equals. A much more formal “his humble servant” could have evidenced a solemn address to a superior (Wente 1990, 9-10). Then, it follows (cols. 6-7) another conventional form of greeting (“How are you? How are you? Are you alive, prosperous, and healthy?”) and a exclamatory wish for the support and favour of a god –in this case, Amon-Re– for the document’s recipients: “You (pl.) are in the favour of Amon-Re every day, (says) Harhotep, justified”. The presence of Amon-Re –instead of other classical mentions such as Ptah-South-of-His-Wall, Herishef, and Montu– might indicate a date well into the Twelfth Dynasty, which matches suitably with the period of Senwosret I, the king to whom Harhotep seems to have served. The accentuation of the good desires by the writer (“as the scribe Harhotep says”) responds to common phraseology attested in the Book of Kemit (“as I, your humble servant, desire”: Wente 1990, 15).

Fig. 5: Preliminary facsimile for the recto section of ostracon JdE 49911
Fig. 6: Hieroglyphic transcription of the hieratic text in the recto section of ostracon JdE 49911
Fig. 7: Transliteration and translation of the text in recto and verso in ostracon Cairo Museum JdE 49911

Indeed, the mention of “Harhotep, justified” reveals a relationship between the worlds of the living and the dead. Considering that we count with letters addressed even to coffins (Frandsen 1992), we should not be surprised about the complexities of these documents and the involvement of the dead. In this regard, Julia Troche indicates that “Letters to the Dead are primarily written in hieratic upon ceramic vessels, favoring either a circular pattern, spiraling from the bowls’ rim to its center, or columns” (Troche 2018, 2; also Donnat 2014). However, this document is not a Letter to the Dead… Then, how do we explain the presence of Harhotep, the justified, in the document and the addressing of an unknown writter, perhaps in Harhotep’s name, to three other individuals (recto cols. 2-5: “Udjaa, ‘Ab-ikhu, and Harhotep-em-peref’s son, Hotep”)? According to James, “the nature of the material and the character of the text –which consists solely of formal epistolary phrases– make it probable that the document is the casual scribble of a visitor to the tomb of Harhotpe or of a workman who was working on the site” (James 1962, 79). The hypothesis seems sound: a potsherd used by an officiant, perhaps a visiting relative, who made up a text while in the necropolis to practice phraseology commonly used in missives; in his trial, he did not only draw from typical phrases but he might also have composed the list of addressee from well-known individuals. In fact, all the names are attested in the Middle Kingdom (e.g. ‘Ab-ikhu in Allen 2002, pls. 52-53, l. 14), and the allussion to Harhotep through one of them (Harhotep-em-peref) might even be indicative of kin relationship. As James himself puts it, ““[i]n model letters of this kind, the scribes undoubtedly used names of their own invention or of relations and friends to people their texts” (James 1962, 99).

And as the text concludes with “Harhotep, justified”, how do we explain such a reference at the end of this brief study? Some space in the lower section of col. 3 in the verso allows for the parenthetic particle jn (“to say”) to appear. Therefore, one could read “You (pl.) are in the favour of Amon-Re every day, (says) Harhotep, justified”. At first, the recto references to “Harhotep”, the author communicating to three addressees, and to the “scribe Harhotep”, might indicate that the owner of the tomb himself, a relative of his, or a worker of his staff –someone with the same name or invoking his master’s name– could have written the ostracon. However, the maa-kheru epithet in the verso calls for other interpretations. One possible solution would be to consider that the epithet maa-kheru –as some scholars have already pointed out– might not always imply a deceased person (Harrington 2013, 15-16). Another explanation would be that the epithet were added by a member of Harhotep’s staff after his master’s death.

However, two further interpretations offer interesting alternatives. On the one hand, a possible interpretation would relate to the well-known phenomenon of the tomb visitors’ graffiti or Besucherinschriften. As Navrátilová has noted, tomb visitors left behind graffiti, “a type of communication with the world of the dead and in some cases perhaps a kind of response to the ‘Calls to the Living’” (Navrátilová 2010, 4). As a similar device of communication between two realms (living and dead), an ostracon supposedly written by the tomb owner on behalf of his visitors would not only allow our scribe to practice his schooling but would also offer his staff the opportunity to commemorate its master’s prestige and care for visitors (Harrington 2013, 137-138). Here, as a social and magical resource, writing becomes a motivating factor in worship practices and memorial construction at the necropolis. Regarding the appreciation by the living, compositions such as the eulogy to prestigious men found in pChester Beatty IV state its significance:

A man has perished: his corpse is dust,

and his people have passed from the land;

it is a book which makes him remembered

in the mouth of a speaker. More excellent

is a roll than a built house, than a chapel

in the west”(Parkinson 1991, 150)

On the other hand, one might want to consider the ostracon not only as a scribal exercise for personal instruction and the tomb owner’s commemoration, but as an actual tribute to this local master and a motivated text to achieve his mediation (Baines 1987, 86-88). In terms of cult, ostraca of this type might have worked locally as exercises of communication, social cohesion, memory celebration, and personal reverence. In this sense, to the preserved Letters to the Dead asking the deceased to act explicitly as a mediator, one could think on this document as a constructed answer by the tomb owner to visitors requesting his attention.


Allen, J.P. 2002. The Heqanakht Papyri (Publications of the Metropolitan Museum of Art Egyptian Expedition 27). New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Baines, J. 1987. “Practical religion and piety”, Journal of Egyptian Archaeology 73, 79-98.

Baines, J./Lacovara, P. 2002. “Burial and the dead in ancient Egyptian society: respect, formalism, neglect”, Journal of Social Archaeology 2, 5-36.

Chudzik, P. 2015. “The tombs of Asasif: archaeological exploration in the 2013/2014 season”, Polish Archaeology in the Mediterranean 24/1, 239-246.

Chudzik, P./Caban, M. 2019. “Observations on the architecture of the tomb of Horhotep in western Thebes”, Études et Travaux 30, 221-229.

Donnat Beauquier, S. 2014. Écrire à ses morts. Enquête sur un usage de l’écrit dans l’Égypte pharaonique. Grenoble: Jérôme Millon.

Frandsen, P.J. 1992. “The letter to Ikhtay’s coffin: O. Louvre Inv. No. 698”, in R.J. Demarée/A. Egberts (eds.), Village Voices. Proceedings of the Symposium “Texts from Deir el-Medîna and their interpretation”. Leiden, May 31-June 1, 1991. Leiden: CNWS Publications, 31-49.

Harrington, N. 2013. Living with the Dead. Ancestor Worship and Mortuary Ritual in Ancient Egypt. Oxford-Oakville: Oxbow Books.

James, T.G.H. 1962. The Hekanakhte Papers and Other Early Middle Kingdom Documents (Publications of the Metropolitan Museum of Art Egyptian Expedition 19). New York: Oxford University Press.

Jürgens, P. 1990. “Der Tote als Mittler zwischen Mensch und Göttern im Berliner Sargtexte-Papyrus: Ein Zeugnis inoffizieller Religion aus dem Mittleren Reich”, Göttinger Miszellen 116, 51-63.

Maspero, G. 1908. Guide to the Cairo Museum. Cairo: Imprimerie IFAO.

Maspero, G. 1889. “Trois années de fouilles dans les tombeaux de Thèbes et de Memphis”, in G. Maspero (ed.), Mémoires de la Mission Archéologique Française au Caire. Vol. 1. Paris: Ernest Leroux Éditeur, pp. 133-242.

Morales, A.J./Osman, M. 2018. “Individual and Zeitgeist: textual and iconographic selections in the chapel of Harhotep (CG 28023)”, in L. Hudáková/P. Jánosi/U. Siffert (eds.), Art-facts and artefacts: visualising the material world in Middle Kingdom Egypt. London: Golden House Publications, pp. 85-99.

Navrátilová, H. 2010. “Graffiti spaces”, in L. Bareš/F. Coppens/K. Smoláriková (eds.), Egypt in transition: social and religious development of Egypt in the first millennium BCE. Proceeding of an international conference, Prague, September 1-4, 2009. Prage: Charles University in Prague, 305-332.

Parkinson, R.B. 1991. Voices from Ancient Egypt. An Anthology of Middle Kingdom Writings. London: British Museum Press.

Troche, J. 2018. “Letters to the Dead”, in J. Dieleman/W. Wendrich (eds.), UCLA Encyclopedia of Egyptology. Los Angeles: UCLA.

Wente, E.F. 1990. Letters from Ancient Egypt (Writings of the Ancient World 1). Atlanta: SBL Press.

Winlock, H.E. 1922. “Excavations at Thebes: The Egyptian Expedition 1921-1922”, The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 17, no. 12, part 2, pp. 19-49.

Winlock, H.E. 1942. Excavations at Deir el-Bahri 1911-1931. New York: The Macmillan Company.

Note: Unless expressly indicated to the contrary, photos in this article are copyright of The Middle Kingdom Theban Project © MKTP. Figs. 2 and 3 were taken by Mohamed Osman with permission of the Cairo Museum authorities. Fig. 4 was produced afterwards from high resolution modelling. Figs. 5-7 present the author’s preliminary drawing, transcription, transliteration, and translation of the text in the ostracon.


Un fragmento del sarcófago de Henenu (segunda parte): Determinando dioses y diosas

Por Carlos Gracia Zamacona

El Metropolitan Museum of Art de Nueva York conserva una fotografía (MMA M7C.137) de un fragmento de un sarcófago de Henenu procedente de su tumba (TT313), inscrito con el capítulo 222 de los Textos de las Pirámides que comentamos en una publicación anterior en esta web (véase Un fragmento del sarcófago de Henenu, primera parte).

Fig. 1: Fragmento del sarcófago de Henenu (PT 222). Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (Foto nº M7C.137)

Los que sigue es una nota muy breve sobre lo que una escritura figurativa como la egipcia nos puede enseñar sobre la mentalidad de una civilización.

Al hilo de el creciente interés por la identidad en la civilización occidental actual, desde hace unos veinticinco años los estudios sobre la categorización/clasificación en Egiptología han aumentado considerablemente (Nyord 2015). Dentro de este contexto hay que entender sin duda los llamados estudios de género, que han alcanzado un protagonismo muy recientemente en la civilización occidental, lo cual se refleja igualmente en la actividad egiptológica. En este punto, un signo muy particular de nuestro fragmento nos viene a recordar que, en toda investigación histórica, tan importante es hacer explícitas las categorías de análisis del investigador como determinar cuáles son las categorías implícitas de la civilización investigada que nos revelan los datos de la investigación. Las palabras egipcias suelen derrarse con un signo (llamado “determinativo” o, según una tendencia reciente, “clasificador”) que indica la pertenencia de dicha palabra a un grupo de palabras con sentidos relacionados de manera muy amplia: por ejemplo, un hombre sentado con la mano en la boca determina acciones que se hacen con ese órgano, como hablar o comer. Los nombres de dioses suelen estar determinados o por un signo que representa a un hombre sentado envuelto con túnica y con barba, o, más tarde, por un halcón sobre un estandarte. Los nombres de las diosas suelen ir determinados por una serpiente o por un huevo. Sin embargo, en el fragmento del sarcófago de Henenu que comentamos aquí, encontramos algo especial. El determinativo de los nombres de dioses es el signo habitual del hombre sentado con túnica, peluca y barba (x+5, x+7, x+9); sin embargo, el determinativo de diosa es una figura similar, pero con el pelo largo. Se podría pensar que es el signo habitual para determinar a la mujer (una mujer sentada con túnica y peluca larga), pero… tiene barba (x+9, x+10)

Fig. 2: Determinativos de los nombres de dioses y diosas en el fragmento de sarcófago de Henenu con PT 222 (de la fotografía nº M7C.137 del Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York). El autor.

Hasta aquí lo que se ve en el fragmento del sarcófago de Henenu. A continuación lo que puede pensar un egiptólogo occidental (me tomo a mí mismo como especimen).

Primera hipótesis: el prototipo de divinidad egipcia es masculino, por lo que el atributo masculino (la barba) se generaliza luego a todas las divinidades. Pero entonces, ¿por qué el determinativo habitual de los nombres de las diosas es una cobra o un huevo, que no tienen barba? (Es verdad que la divinidad en forma de serpiente del cuento del Náufrago lleva barba, ¡pero es que allí la serpiente es un dios, no una diosa!). Parece que las categorías del investigador (en este caso, femenino/masculino) no casan bien con los hechos.

Segunda hipótesis: el contexto en que aparecen estos nombres, con esos determinativos, es mortuorio. En efecto, el texto está escrito en un sarcófago. Y en un sarcófago descansa el difunto que, en la mentalidad religiosa egipcia se identifica con Osiris (y con Ra) para sobrevivir a la muerte. Ahora bien, un atributo de Osiris es la barba. Y también el sudario (o las vendas) que envuelven su cuerpo. La barba en las divinidades es señal de su poder divino y, en la esfera de la muerte, el actualizador de ese poder es Osiris: no porque sea una entidad masculina, sino porque es la divinidad que triunfa sobre la muerte. Esta podría ser la categoría implícita de la civilización estudiada que los datos nos muestran.

Tercera hipótesis (que se desprende de la anterior): Sin embargo, ¿podemos estar seguros de que hemos descubierto una categoría? ¿No puede tratarse de una adaptación funcional de la escritura al contexto en que aparece? Una adaptación pragmática para que el poder de la escritura sagrada funcione de verdad como se pretende: para hacer revivir al muerto.

Que nosotros, occidentales, no creamos en la resurrección o que creamos en ella a través de otros medios (no en la activación de unos signos escritos) sólo es relevante para nosotros: nada dice sobre los antiguos egipcios. Por supuesto, en investigación sólo hay una manera de comprobar una hipótesis: realizar un estudio exhaustivo del uso de los determinativos de divinidad en diferentes contextos y a lo largo del tiempo, algo que está aún en proceso (Shalomi-Hen 2000 & 2006; Gracia Zamacona, en prensa).


Gracia Zamacona, C. En prensa. “Modulating semograms: Some procedures for semantic specification and re-categorization in the Pyramid Texts and other mortuary texts”, en J. Cervelló / M. Orriols (eds.), Signs, language and culture: the semograms of the Pyramid Texts between iconicity and referential reality (33 páginas).

Nyord, R. 2015. “Cognitive Linguistics”, en J. Stauder-Porchet, A. Stauder / W. Wendrich (eds.), UCLA Encyclopedia of Egyptology. Los Angeles.  

Shalomi-Hen, R. 2000. Classifying the divine: Determinatives and categorisation in CT 335 and BD 17 (Göttinger Orientforschungen IV/38-2). Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz.

Shalomi-Hen, R. 2006. The writing of gods: The evolution of divine classifiers in the Old Kingdom (Göttinger Orientforschungen IV/38-4). Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz.

After the publication of this short study on Henenu’s fragment, Dr. Olaf Kaper (Professor of Egyptology, Universiteit Leiden) kindly informed us that this fragment is currently at  the Allard Pierson Museum, Amsterdam. The piece has received the number APM 8539. It made it to Amsterdam via the art market in Luxor, and was published together with another fragment by Harold Hays in 2014: “Pyramid Texts in Amsterdam”, in Haring, B. J. J., O. E. Kaper, and R. van Walsem (eds), The workman’s progress: studies in the village of Deir el-Medina and other documents from Western Thebes in honour of Rob Demarée, EgUi 28, pp. 95-98. We appreciate very much this information and thank Prof. Kaper for sharing this details with us. 


“La escena del arado” de la tumba de Djari y las intenciones del artista

Por Iria Souto Castro

La tumba de Djari y la localización de la escena

La tumba de Djari (TT366, MMA820) en la necrópolis tebana, localizada al borde de la planicie de el-Asasif (Roehrig 1995, 262) fue descubierta durante la campaña de excavación de 1929-1930, llevada a cabo por la expedición del Museo Metropolitano de Arte liderada por Winlock (1942). La tumba generalmente se data a finales del reino de Nebhepetre Mentuhotep (II). Se limpió y trabajó en la siguiente campaña arqueológica de 1930-1931, pero aparentemente, Winlock no estudió en detalle esta tumba y, de hecho, sus descripciones muestran cierta aversión por las decoraciones que siguen un estilo poco elaborado y “provincial” (Winlock 1942, 204).

A pesar de la falta de descripciones sobre la tumba de Djari, Catharine Roehrig (1995, 263) enfatiza una característica importante de esta tumba: ‘it has more of its decoration preserved in situ than any other Theban tomb of the period’. De hecho, Roehrig proporciona detalles de la localización de las escenas pertenecientes al patio de acceso, al corredor interior y a aquellas que decoran los ataúdes encontrados en el área meridional del patio. También incluye correcciones en la localización siguiendo la información de Porter y Moss (Roehrig 1995, 268-269).

El objeto de análisis en este estudio trata de la escena del  ‘arado del ganado’ (cattle ploughing) que puede compararse con una escena similar (‘arrastre del ataúd’) en el muro oeste de la fachada de Djari (Roehrig 1995, 267, fig. 6a). La escena del ‘arado del ganado’ se localiza en el pilar B en la entrada a la tumba desde el patio (véase fig. 1); Roehrig la describe como ‘ploughing’ (1995, 269).  

Fig. 1: Plano de la tumba de Djari con la localización de la escena de ganado (modificado a partir de Roehrig 1995, 264, fig. 3)

Análisis e interpretación iconográfica de la escena

Cuando se trata de analizar la pintura mural antigua egipcia hay una serie de técnicas y conceptos que es necesario destacar. Para comenzar, cuando se concebía una escena que se deseaba representar, ‘líneas proporcionales y cuadrículas se empleaban para construir las figuras y planificar las composiciones’ (Robins 1976, 249; Hartwig 2016, 28), dibujándolas en color rojo sobre la superficie mural. Cada objeto representado se perfilaba resaltando su contorno y sus líneas. De hecho, la línea es una de las principales características de la pintura egipcia. Dentro del contorno preliminar, la pintura se aplicaba en bloques sólidos, mezclados o capas semi-transparentes con bases de varios colores. Estos pigmentos tenían también un significado simbólico (Hartwig 2016, 28); por ejemplo, en función del contexto y período, los colores ocres como el amarillo y el rojo podían adquirir connotaciones relacionadas con aspectos solares (Kees 1943, 446-449).

El canon de proporciones empleado en las cuadrículas varía según el período y la región en la que el artista aplicaba sus conocimientos. Así, el arte pictórico del Reino Medio (en este caso la XI dinastía), el área tebana parece beber de las convenciones artísticas del Primer Período Intermedio. En el caso de la tumba de Djari, en las figs. 2 y 3 de este artículo pueden apreciarse unas proporciones mucho más alargadas empleadas en las escenas que representan producción de bienes o comida, que Roehrig (1995, 265) denomina escenas con un estilo ‘much freer’, en contraposición con las escenas ‘ceremoniales’ que pueden encontrarse en la tumba de Djari. Este estilo que Winlock (1942, 204) denomina ‘provincial’ habría permitido al artista expresarse de un modo más ‘informal’ alejado del arte convencional de la corte (Roehrig 1995, 265).

Por otra parte, centrándonos en la escena a analizar y su problemática a la hora de interpretarla,  nos encontramos ante una representación pictórica del ganado guiado por dos figuras masculinas que aran la tierra. Esta escena se localiza en un registro inferior del segundo pilar localizado en el este del patio de acceso a la tumba (fig. 1). Según Winlock (1942, 204), el dibujante confundió ‘ridículamente’ las 8 patas de ambos animales representados. Sin embargo, un análisis más detallado proporcionado por Roehrig (1995, 265) muestra que tal ‘confusión’ es producto del ojo humano y del espectador occidental, ya que la línea perfilada de la vaca coloreada con pigmentos blanco y negro de su parte trasera no se habría conservado, así como la línea de las patas delanteras.           

Roehrig sugiere una reconstrucción de ambos animales (fig. 3) que probaría que, en efecto, el dibujante no se habría confundido de un modo incompetente, sino que incluso habría ‘innovado’ en la escena, ya que si se compara ésta con otra de las representadas en la tumba de Djari (fig. 4), se puede apreciar que el artista intentó representar la idea de profundidad y perspectiva evitando el solapamiento tradicional de las figuras. El dibujante representó las partes trasera y delantera de la vaca pintada de negro de manera visible y más alargada, de modo que resultase observable para el espectador (fig. 5).

Fig. 2: Escena de arado de la tumba de Djari (Wilkinson & Hill 1983, 68, fig. 31.6.2)
Fig. 3: Detalle de la reconstrucción de ambas vacas (Roehrig 1995, 267, fig. 6c)
Fig. 4: Escena del arrastre del ataúd de Djari (Roehrig 1995, 267, fig. 6a)
Fig. 5: Vacas de la escena de ganado de Djari (Roehrig 1995, 267, fig. 6c)


El programa decorativo en tumbas de oficiales presenta cierto desarrollo a lo largo de los siglos y está caracterizado por transformaciones continuas. En este contexto, la XI dinastía jugó un papel importante, pues la descentralización del territorio egipcio durante el Primer Período Intermedio llevó a la diversificación en el programa decorativo a nivel regional, así como al desarrollo de estilos locales (Hudáková 2016, 47).

Escenas similares a las de la tumba de Djari, con ese estilo ‘más libre’ que describe Roehrig, pueden encontrarse en la tumba de Iti en Gebelein (también de la XI dinastía) o en la Ankhtifi  (del Primer Período Intermedio) en Mo‛alla (Roehrig 1995, 265). Estos dos ejemplos podrían encasillarse en un estilo característico del Alto Egipto durante el Primer Período Intermedio, denominado Intermediate style (Hudáková 2016, 48). Dicho estilo se caracterizaría por representar figuras humanas desproporcionadas con cuerpos alargados y cabezas de menor tamaño; uso limitado en la paleta de colores y un perfilado ‘torpe’ de las figuras (Smith 1949, 229; Hudáková 2016, 48). Sin embargo, a pesar de las similitudes entre la tumba de Djari y las escenas de las tumbas de Iti y Ankhtifi, la peculiar ‘innovación’ introducida en la escena de arado en la tumba de Djari, así como en la del arrastre de su ataúd, no se atestigua en otras tumbas de Tebas, ni en Gebelein o Mo‛alla (Roehrig 1995, 268).

Conclusiones: las intenciones del artista, ¿innovación versus tradición?

Tal y como concluye Roehrig (1995, 268), una plausible explicación para el uso de la peculiar técnica que aplica el artista en esta escena, podría ser que el dibujante buscó ‘experimentar’ en la tumba de Djari con un estilo ‘libre’ pero que combinase la tradición del Primer Período Intermedio con nuevas formas de composición y de representación. Esto se habría debido a la lejanía de este estilo regional con respecto al arte ‘oficial’ de la corte. De hecho, otras escenas de estilo similar en la tumba de Djari, como por ejemplo, la de los dos hombres atando a un toro (Roehrig 1995, 266, fig. 5) representan este ‘estilo intermedio’ que aporta cierto toque ‘cómico’ en ocasiones (Winlock 1942, 204) a la interpretación de las escenas. Roehrig (1995, 268) apunta además que las escenas del arrastre del ataúd en el muro oeste (fig. 4) y de la entrada de la tumba (fig. 5) habrían sido realizadas por diferentes artistas, lo cual da lugar a debatir si más de un artista tebano habría adoptado esta convención artística. Sea como fuere, estas escenas muestran las peculiaridades que resultaban quizás del resultado de la experimentación en un arte de transición que pretendía combinar convenciones tradicionales del arte egipcio con ciertas innovaciones, dependiendo de factores como la región de procedencia o formación de los artistas y el peso de la influencia del arte ‘oficial’ en las mismas. 


Hartwig, M. 2016. “Method in ancient Egyptian Painting”, en V. Angenot and F. Tiraditti (eds.) Artists and Painting in ancient Egypt, Proceedings of the colloquium held in Montepulciano, August 22nd – 24th, 2008. Montepulciano: Studi Poliziani di Eggitologia 1, pp. 28-56.

Hudáková, L. 2016. “Dying and mourning between the Old and middle Kingdoms. Some peculiar scenes from Thebes, el-Moalla and Gebelein”, en L. Hudáková, P. Jánosi and A. Kahlbacher (eds.), Change and Innovation in Middle Kingdom Art, MKS 4. London: GHP, pp. 47-63.

Kees, H. 1943. “Farbensymbolik in Ägyptischen religiösenTexten. Nachrichten von der Akademie der Wissenschaften”, en Göttingen, philologisch-historische Klasse 11, pp. 413-479.

Robins, G. 1976. Proportions and style in ancient Egyptian Art. Austin: University of Texas Press.

Roehrig, C. 1995. “The Early Middle Kingdom Cemeteries at Thebes and the Tomb of Djari”, in J. Assmann et alii (eds.), Thebanische Beamtennekropolen, SAGA 12, Heidelberg, pp. 255-269.

Smith , W.S. 1949. A History of Egyptian Sculpture and Painting in the Old Kingdom. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Winlock, H. E. 1942. Excavations at Deir el-Bahari: 1911-1931. New York: The McMillan Company.


Un fragmento del sarcófago de Henenu (primera parte): El ensalmo Textos de las Pirámides 222

Por Carlos Gracia Zamacona

La tumba de Henenu (TT313) contiene fragmentos de uno o dos sarcófagos de caliza. Lo que sigue es una lectura y breve comentario de un fragmento de sarcófago tal y como se conserva en una foto (MMA M7C.137) del Metropolitan Museum de Nueva York.

El fragmento (fig. 1) corresponde a un pasaje del texto conocido como capítulo 222 de los Textos de las Pirámides (Pyr. §§ 199a – 213b; Allen 2013, II, PT 222; Allen 2015, 43), uno de los más utilizados en la literatura mortuoria, principalmente durante los reinos antiguo y medio (c. 2500 – 1500 a.Jc.) (Kahl 1999, 94). El texto trata de la conversión del difunto en una entidad brillante y benéfica, que mantenía la identidad post mortem del difunto. Los egipcios llamaban a esta entidad aj; siglos más tarde, esta palabra iba a encontrar un curioso hueco en el copto de los cristianos, con la forma ij “demonio”.

Fig. 1: Fragmento del sarcófago de Henenu (PT 222). Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (Foto nº M7C.137)

La conversión en aj se producía en el contexto del circuito solar (movimiento aparente del sol a lo largo del día) que servía como analogía de la muerte (ocaso solar, con el dios Osiris momificado) y la vida (amanecer solar, con el dios Osiris brotando como una planta) a través de la identificación de Osiris con el dios Ra, el sol que desaparece y aparece cada día. Tras superar el juicio en el tribunal de Osiris (enfrentándose a su propio corazón), el difunto alcanzaba el estatus de aj. En el punto oriental del circuito solar, el nuevo aj, acompañando a (o identificándose con) Osiris-Ra en su viaje nocturno, accedía a una zona luminosa (ajet), el horizonte, y dejaba atrás el mundo de los humanos (vivos y muertos) regido por el tiempo cíclico (nejej), pasando así al mundo de las divinidades regido por el tiempo lineal (dyet). Al alcanzar este estatus (pseudo-)divino, el difunto se convertía en una entidad útil para sus familiares vivientes, con los que se mantenía en contacto y a quienes podía ayudar a cambio de sus atenciones. Las pruebas de tales contactos tras la muerte son claras: los vivos escribían letras a los muertos (Sethe y Gardiner 1928; Donnat 2012) en trozos de cerámica o cuencos que depositaban en las tumbas; en las casas de los vivos y en zonas de las necrópolis había áreas de contacto como las capillas y elementos de comunicación como las así llamadas “casas del ba” (Leclère 2001) (el ba es una parte del difunto con aspecto de ave que podía entrar y salir de la tumba) o las estelas a los difuntos, en muchas de las cuales éstos impetraban a los vivos que recitaran una invocación por ellos.

En la imagen se aprecia el texto original (en hierático, un sistema taquigráfico de la escritura jeroglífica), al que añado ahora una transcripción en jeroglífico monumental (el que se usaba normalmente esculpido en piedra en templos y tumbas), usando el editor de jeroglíficos JSesh (véase fig. 2 abajo). Se notará que utilizo el término “jeroglífico” como adjetivo y como nombre porque es el uso habitual en español, aunque, como nombre, el término correcto sería “jeroglifo” (como el francés hiéroglyphe, el inglés hieroglyph o el alemán Hieroglyphe).

Fig. 2: Transcripción jeroglífica (Jsesh) del fragmento del sarcófago de Henenu con PT 222 (según la fotografía nº M7C.137 del Metroplitan Museum of Art, New York). El autor.

Por lo que respecta a la lectura propuesta aquí, el lector interesado puede contrastarla con la  traducción y transliteración (transcripción al alfabeto latino de la lectura) publicadas en el informe arqueológico de la cuarta campaña. ¡Buena lectura!


Allen, J.P. 2013. A new concordance of the Pyramid Texts I-VI. Providence: Brown University.

Allen, J.P. 2015. The ancient Egyptian Pyramid Texts (Writings from the ancient world 23). Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature.

Donnat, S. 2012. Écrire à ses morts: Enquête sur un usage rituel de l’écrit dans l’Égypte pharaonique. Grenoble: Millon.

Gardiner, A.H. y Sethe, K. 1928. Egyptian letters to the dead mainly from the Old and Middle Kingdoms. Londres: Egyptian Exploration Society.

Kahl, J. 1999. Siut – Theben: Zur Wertschätzung von Traditionen im alten Ägypten (Probleme der Ägyptologie 13). Leiden: Brill.

Leclère, F. 2001. Les “maisons d’âme” égyptiennes: une tentative de mise au point. En B. Muller (ed.), “Maquettes architecturales” de l’antiquité: regards croisés (Proche-Orient, Égypte, Chypre, bassin égéen et Grèce, du Néolithique à l’époque hellénistique). Actes du colloque de Strasbourg, 3-5 décembre 1998. París: Boccard, 99-121.

Morales, A.J. et al. 2018. The Middle Kingdom Theban Project: Preliminary report on the University of Alcalá expedition to Deir el-Bahari, fourth season (2018). Studien zur Altägyptischen Kultur 47: 183-221.

Pyr. = Sethe, K. 1908-1922. Die altägyptische Pyramidentexte I-IV. Leipzig: Hinrichs.


Jars, wrappings, and natron bags: the embalming deposit of Ipi (TT 315)

By Mohamed Osman

In 2016, during the systematic cleaning and investigation of the upper courtyard in the tomb of Ipi (TT315), a concentration of significant amount of mummification materials –mainly loose bandages and natron bags along with a few fragments of pottery– was found right on the stone floor in the eastern area. By that time, archaeologists considered that this context perhaps represented the remains of the embalming cachette that Herbert Winlock found during his excavations at the complex in 1923. Such a supposition found evidence to support it in the publications and archival materials produced by Winlock. Later, the project archaeologists benefited from identifying some materials belonging to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, mainly video recordings of the embalming cachette discovery showing the extraction of some of the 67 jars found inside, whose contents seem to have been left in the area. It is here where the MKTP archaeologists found them almost one century later.

The MKTP researchers were aware that Winlock took a few jars to New York at the end of his season at the complex. What our researchers did not know was the whereabouts of the rest of the jars. The question was simple: if he took a few to the Met, what did he do with the others? All that our team members knew was the actual location of the subterranean embalming cachette.

Then, in 2017, our archaeologists working at the complex of Ipi decided to reopen the shaft that led to the embalming cachette, investigate its conditions, and incorporate the structure into the updated GIS plan for the complex. After descending half a metre within the shaft, a thick deposit of loose textile and bandages was found filling it and blocking the entrance into the chamber. Upon the removal of this layer, our archaeologist Mohamed Osman was surprised at finding 56 intact jars in the chamber. Obviously, these containers were redeposited by Winlock there after examining their contents. The rediscovery of the long-lost material was significantly impressive and important.

The cachette is basically a rectangular room approx. 6.4 m long and 1.7 m wide. The height of the ceiling varies between 70 cm and 2 m. The floor of the room shows a gradual ascend from the entrance to the end of the room in the east. As observed in the figure, the room was filled with the jars stacked in a few rows. Some of the recipients still contained natron bags stuck together at the bottom. Several other bags were found scattered on the floor of the room. The most astonishing discovery was a mummified organ associated to one of the jars. This organ proved to be a mummified human heart, a very unusual item to be found dissociated from the corpse to which it belonged. The expected place for the heart –if removed and mummified– was back in the chest as the Egyptians did not discard this organ during the mummification process unlike other organs. In addition, the body parts removed from the corpse used to be stored in the canopic jars, which were always kept in the burial chamber. This embalming cachette functioned as a place where the ancient embalmers of the vizier’s corpse deposited all the leftovers of the mummification process in order to keep it away from the tomb. Such a procedure aimed at keeping the remains not very far away from the tomb itself. Based on these beliefs, we understand the absolute significance of finding a mummified heart inside one of the jars used in the mummification process.

Another interesting find associated with the embalming cachette and the history of its discovery deals with the personal wax seal of Herbert Winlock, identified at the four sides of the entrance into the cachette room. It is possible that after he found the cachette he conceived some security measures in situ in order to keep the jars intact until he finished investigating the contents of the deposit. Upon his expeditious study, he must have decided to leave the rest of the deposit behind for the next generations to study such a collection more in detail.


Morales, A.J. / et alii. 2018. The Middle Kingdom Theban Project: Preliminary report on the University of Alcalá Expedition to Deir el-Bahari. Fourth Season (2018). Studien zur Altägyptischen Kultur 47. 183-221.

Morales, A.J. / et alii. 2017. The Middle Kingdom Theban Project: Preliminary report on the University of Alcalá Expedition to Deir el-Bahari. Third Season (2017). Studien zur Altägyptischen Kultur 46. 153-190.

Winlock, Herbert. E. 1947. The rise and fall of the Middle Kingdom in Thebes. New York: Macmillan.

Note: Unless expressly indicated to the contrary, photos in this article are copyright of The Middle Kingdom Theban Project © MKTP – Patri Mora Photography. Figs. 1 and 2 present the plans in the excavated areas (upper courtyard and eastern section of it) by Mohamed Osman. Fig. 3 corresponds to photos taken by the Metropolitan Museum Expedition to Deir el-Bahari (The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Department of Egyptian Art Archives, MMA Theban Expedition Photos M3C 196 and M3C 202). Fig. 4 shows the first stage of excavation and study after its discovery in April 2017. Figs. 5 and 6 were taken by Mohamed Osman during the excavation process and the study of Winlock’s wax sealings.


Un caso excepcional: el corazón momificado del visir Ipi

Por Manuel F. Carrillo Rodríguez y Enrique Dorado Fernández

Durante la tercera campaña de excavación del Middle Kingdom Theban Project, en abril del 2017, se llevó a cabo uno de los descubrimientos más significativos hasta la fecha. En el contexto de los trabajos en la tumba del visir Ipi (TT 315), el arqueólogo egipcio Mohamed Osman descubrió en el sector nordeste del patio un pozo que, a pesar de su poca profundidad, escondía una cámara excepcional: el depósito de momificación intacto del visir Ipi. En este espacio oculto se habían depositado, en el interior de grandes vasijas de cerámica, los restos de vendajes, sudarios y bolsas de natrón utilizados en el proceso de momificación de su cadáver. Según las creencias religiosas egipcias, la momia de un individuo debía ser enterrada con su ajuar funerario en un lugar puro, por lo que todo ese excedente ritual y mortuorio de la momificación no podía ser depositado en la cámara funeraria. Sin embargo, estos materiales habían pertenecido al difunto o habían estado en contacto con su cuerpo, que ahora era considerado sagrado. Por ello, el egipcio entendía que estos restos no podían ser depositados en la tumba, junto a los restos más nobles, ni ser descartados irrespetuosamente.

En relación a una de esas jarras, apareció un paquete con aspecto similar a las bolsas de tela con natrón en su interior que, sin embargo, resultó identificado como “un corazón humano momificado”. En base al conocimiento actual que tenemos sobre las prácticas de momificación y su evolución histórica, podemos afirmar que durante el Reino Medio, el corazón –a diferencia de otras vísceras que se conservaban en los vasos canopos de la cámara funeraria– solía ser extraído para embalsamarlo y posteriormente ser reintroducido en el tórax –o incluso en el abdomen– o bien se dejaba directamente in situ en la cavidad torácica, sin tocar.

Esta ocasión, por tanto, es la primera en la que se ha documentado la aparición de un corazón separado del cadáver en el Reino Medio. Además, el hecho de haber permanecido separado del resto del cadáver y en un ambiente rico en sales de natrón es el que ha permitido que haya resultado extraordinariamente bien conservado. En general, desde una perspectiva forense general, puede decirse que se identifican perfectamente todas las estructuras anatómicas y las técnicas de momificación aplicadas al órgano. Aparecen las cavidades cardíacas y raíces vasculares envueltas indiferenciadamente en un solo paquete piriforme de lino, mientras que a la raíz aórtica se la ha dado un trato diferenciado, habiendo sido cuidadosamente envuelta en una venda de lino y taponada con un cilindro del mismo material, con lo que se le ha permitido conservar una morfología cilíndrica independiente.

El tratamiento tan sofisticado al que fue sometida esta pieza hace que podamos excluir que se tratase de un resto descartado por los embalsamadores. Por otro lado, el evidente parecido (en aspecto, forma y peso) que externamente presenta el corazón envuelto en sus vendas con los paquetes de natrón, ha llevado a suponer al equipo antropológico-forense que su depósito en la cachette de momificación fue fruto de un error al ser confundido el órgano empaquetado con los bultos de las sales de natrón.


Aufderheide, A.C. 2011. The Scientific Study of Mummies. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Cockburn, T.A. 2008. Mummies, Disease & Ancient Cultures (2nd edition). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Ikram, S. / Kaiser, J. / Walker, R. (eds.). 2015. Egyptian Bioarchaeology. Leiden: Sidestone Press.

Isidro, A. / Gonzálvez, L.M. / Huber, B. 2014. Corazón momificado de un individuo del antiguo Egipto. Revista Española de Cardiología 67/5: p. 407.

Janot, F. 2000. Les Instruments d’Embaumement de l’Egypte Ancienne. Le Caire: IFAO.

Wade, A.D. / Nelson, A.J. 2011. Heart Treatment in Ancient Egyptian Mummification. 38th annual meeting of the Canadian Association of Physical Anthropology. Saskatoon: Western Social Science (https://ir.lib.uwo.ca/anthropres/3/).

Nota: A no ser que se indique expresamente otra información, las fotos de este artículo son propiedad del Middle Kingdom Theban Project © MKTP – Patri Mora Photography. La primera foto representa una reconstrucción del pozo y cámara en la zona NE del patio de Ipi y ha sido realizado por Mohamed Osman.

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

Copyright 2020 MKTP ©  Todos los derechos reservados. Editor: Antonio J. Morales
(con la colaboración de miembros MKTP)
Cookies | Privacidad

Sitio Web realizado por MindHouse