Today, April 30th, we have put an end to the fourth season of the MKTP at Deir el-Bahari. These three weeks have been a very intensive period, without a single break, to reach the goals previously defined over the year. The lack of weekends and a non-stop daily pace from 6 AM to 4:30 PM together with the afternoon-evening work have transformed 21 days into the work of 35 days, which is the amount of time we originally planned to work in the site. The team members, exhausted, have demonstrated a great capacity to adapt themselves to the circumstances and achieve all the goals. Today, all of us had different sensations and feelings, with an immense happiness at closing the tombs and knowing that we have fulfilled all our objectives, but a bit of sadness because of the colleagues, duties, and stories that once more we are leaving behind.
Today´s session has been, on the one hand, intensive and strenuous, and on the other, sad and melancholic. Our morning started very soon with the early arrival of the crew working for the TV producing company Windfall Films. Having breakfast at 5:30 AM with two cameramen and a producer around us in the dining room and after three weeks of hard work and much fatigue is uncomfortable and undesirable, but the Windfall producers nicely asked if they could film some footage with our team having breakfast and getting ready to go to the site. They would like to offer a good description of the everyday life in an archaeological mission in Egypt to the general public, and for this reason they wanted to film us as soon as possible. It is surprising to notice that our meals, working sessions, and goals of the day are not very different from those of any other person who wakes up, gets breakfast, and goes to his workplace, but our own working place, surrounding landscape, archaeological atmosphere, and the intensive schedule make our experience really fascinating and different from any other job in the world. After breakfast, the cameramen and producers accompanied us to the site and filmed our arrival and journey to the site up in the hill of Deir el-Bahari. Once in the site, they filmed the moudir Antonio speaking about several mummies found in the courtyard of the mortuary complex of Ipi in the last two seasons.
This morning we have initiated our archaeological work with fifteen men only. These workers should complete a series of archaeological duties in the complex of Ipi and some other minor tasks for the protection and conservation in the tombs of Djari and Dagi. Protecting the structures and decoration of both monuments in Asasif –for instance, the mortuary garden of Djari and the paintings on the pillars of Dagi– is crucial for their excavation and documentation in the next season. We plan to have a two-month season next time, what should allow us to do much work than in previous seasons. The presence of only ten men at the complex of Ipi and a few more in the other monuments is an indication that this is the beginning of the end. From today until Monday, when we will be closing all the monuments, we will continue working on the tombs and will prepare the transportation of materials, tools, and devices back to our storage. As we have completed the epigraphic preliminary work in the tomb of Dagi (TT 103), we have already requested the inspector to seal the door of Dagi´s tomb, which we expect to reopen again in the next year.
Another productive Friday: 50 workers in Ipi, conservators in Djari and the beginning of the epigraphic work in Dagi´s tomb
Again, we have worked one more Friday to make up for the lost time when we were waiting for the arrival of the permissions. Work today was very intensive considering that the local workers agreed to leave at 11 AM to put an end to their day and to be able to attend the religious services at their nearby mosques. Our local workers play a fundamental part in our research and constitute the human group that really deals with so much excavation material, transportation of large amounts of sand and debris, and with all the discoveries with which the experts work every day. On Fridays, due to the religious services, this deserved break comes after a short session working for the MKTP colleagues from 6:30 to 11:00 AM. This little effort implies a higher salary that they appreciate a lot and for which “they do not lose sleep”, their smiles, and good mood. We also appreciate their efforts because with their willingness to help we can make up a little bit for the lost days at the beginning of the season.
The incorporation of four more experts in the last days has allowed us to step on the gas pedal and open new lines of investigation and fieldwork, mainly on the complexes of Ipi, Djari and Dagi. The appearance of our superb colleague Salima Ikram always means cheerfulness, wittiness, and fun in our work. We must appreciate that a professor of her experience, prestige and commitments could dedicate time to her work at the MKTP, although we think that the mummification deposit materials deserve her interest and for sure she is happy to examine them. Besides, the younger students and PhD candidates try to follow her everywhere in the site to learn from her experience as much as possible on questions such as the mummification process, the embalming techniques, and the most ritual-oriented practices associated with the mummification.
Today was the last day of work of our specialist on Middle Kingdom ceramics, Kei Yamamoto. Together with Hazem, Kei has been working successfully on the analysis, drawing, and preparation of the mummification deposit jars from Ipi´s tomb. We will miss him very much! In the next days, several other members will initiate their return to their homes and institutions, to continue with their home lives but with much data and experience to work on the project during the year. While Mohamed continues working on the western sector of the middle courtyard of Ipi to try to define some issues about the wall in this area, Kelly has focused on the eastern sector where some mudbrick might have been left here because of a Middle Kingdom or more probably later structure.
For the first time this season, the team has worked intensively on the five open fronts that the MKTP faces in the areas of Deir el-Bahari and Asasif. The fronts of the team include the tombs of Henenu and Ipi in the northern hills, the tomb E1 in the eastern sector of the same hills, the tomb of Djari in the lower section of Asasif, and the tomb of Dagi in the upper section of Asasif, almost at Qurna. These five sectors are very significant for our research interests because they represent the cemeteries disposed for various social and professional groups. In fact, a simple view to the tombs of Henenu (TT 313) and Dagi (TT 103), respectively a royal treasurer and a vizier under Mentuhotep II´s rule, reveals some distribution of the cemeteries. Both tombs, one in the northern hills and the other in Asasif, were the first ones to be built just in the limits of the construction of the royal complex. The position and relationship of both officials seem to indicate their contemporaneity and capacity as two of the most prestigious individuals in the court of Mentuhotep that could get buried in the nearby cemetery.
Today the MKTP has given a step forward with the incorporation of a new tomb to our concession. Not only we have continued with the archaeological activities in the tombs of Henenu (TT 313) and Ipi (TT 315), and have conducted the initial preparations for the installation of a metal door in the new tomb E1, in the eastern sector of the Deir el-Bahari hills, but we have also initiated the study and conservation of the courtyard and inner section of the tomb of Djari (TT 366). All these activities running in parallel imply a large group of specialists and local workers distributed in several teams located at various areas in the necropolis of Deir el-Bahari and Asasif. No doubt, this situation makes us one of the missions at Luxor with more open fronts. Our strategy, which aims at obtaining significant information from the key sectors of the Middle Kingdom Theban necropolis, should allow us to achieve much but being cautious and considering carefully our work, information obtained, and future outcomes.
Despite the fact that we have almost reached 38º C, today the weather gave us a deserved break: the team enjoyed a nice cold breeze that mitigated the effect of the rays of the sun god Ra, eldest of the gods.
One of the goals in the MKTP is the excavation of several mortuary complexes in the areas of Deir el-Bahari and Asasif to increase the amount of information about these monuments, their Zeitgeist, and the period which they were built. The excavations of Henenu (TT 313) and Ipi (TT 315) are serving this goal, adding new evidence to what the previous archaeologists achieved or what they did not take into consideration. Therefore, the information obtained in the courtyards of Henenu and Ipi will be very helpful: courtyards with inner divisions, subsidiary tombs, later constructions, mummification deposits associated with the tombs, walls of several types and a whole series of architectonic features without identification or interpretation that need more analysis and study. Further analysis in the tombs of Djari (TT 366) and Dagi (TT 103), recently incorporated into our concession, will offer even more information about the necropolis of Asasif during the late Eleventh Dynasty and the early Middle Kingdom.