The South Asasif Conservation Project team has just opened its eleventh season in the South Asasif tombs of Karakhamun (TT223), Karabasken (TT391), and Irtieru (TT390). We will be working until September and are looking forward to a productive season. Watch this page for weekly updates from team members, along with images and video clips of the work.
The exhibition “South Asasif Necropolis: Journey Through Time” opened at the Luxor Museum on the 8th of September.
Thank you to the Ministry of Antiquities, H.E. Minister Khaled El-Enany, Dr. Moustafa Wasiry, Qurna Inspectorate, especially Fathy Yassin, Ramadan Ahmed Ali and Ezz El Noby, Dr. Sanna Ahmed Ali and the curators of the Luxor Museum.
Congratulations to our team members and sponsors on this great achievement. Labels were written by Elena Pischikova, John Billman, Kenneth Griffin, Meg Gundlach, Erhart Graefe and Julia Budka. Special thank you to Marion Brew (lead archaeologist of the Project), Mariam Ayad, John Taylor and Fathy Yassin for consultations and attributions. Conservation and installation of the objects was executed by Abdelrazk Mohamed Ali, Ali Hassan Ibrahim, Mohamed Bedawy, Mohamed Abdu Hakim and Taib Said. The exhibition was designed by Katherine Blakeney and curated by Elena Pischikova. The exhibition was sponsored by the ASA Restoration Project (General Director Anthony Browder and Chief Financial Officer Darren McKnight) and the South Asasif Conservation Trust (Dir. John Billman)
The exhibition commemorates the long journey of the South Asasif necropolis through the millennia as uncovered by the South Asasif Conservation Project. The large temple-tombs of the necropolis manifest the revival of monumental decorated tombs in the 25th Dynasty. They were still active as temples through the Ptolemaic period and became a burial ground for officials and their families from the Twenty-sixth Dynasty to the Ptolemaic Period. A monastery scriptorium in the Coptic period and home to modern families, the South Asasif necropolis continues its immortal life to the present day.
The creation of the exhibition was a long and challenging process.
Behind the Scenes Tour
Katherine Blakeney hand painted the installation piece in our back yard.
The installation piece is assembled, painted, and positioned in the showcase. Now what?
Any set must be properly lit before it can come to life. Katherine Blakeney and Abdelrazk Mohamed Ali pursue illumination.
The faience army prepares for battle with the help of Abdelrazk Mohamed Ali and Ali Hassan.
Katherine Blakeney, Ali Hassan and Taib Said celebrate the birth of the second ramp.
Abdelrazk Mohamed Ali in deep conversation with Ptah-Sokar-Osiris
Attaching numbers to the ramp turned out to be a feat worthy of a contortionist. It’s a good thing Katherine Blakeney spends so much time at the gym.
Anthony Browder and Darren McKnight arrive with digital frames for our slideshow and labels.
The team assembles, eager to share the contents of our mystery case with the world.
The big reveal, in the presence of H.E. Minister Khaled El-Enany.
Our exhibition has been unleashed upon the world to begin a life of its own.
Another hidden face waits to be discovered around every corner.
Keep following our blog for an in-depth look at the highlights of the exhibition and more behind-the-scenes secrets!
The South Asasif Conservation Project has developed numerous projects within the Project. Today you will hear from the leaders of two of these endeavors, Annie Haward, Franseca Jones and Taylor Bryanne Woodcock.
Part I: Reconstructing BD 17 in the tomb of Kharakhamun (TT 223)
Annie Haward and Francesca Jones
Annie Haward and Francesca Jones returned for another 4-week season at South Asasif on the 3rd of June. Their arrival coincided with the Eid Holiday, so the first few days were pleasantly spent settling into a shared flat with the team’s Marion Brew, and going out for dinner with other colleagues while acclimatizing to the temperature change from the UK.
Then work started in earnest with a 3:45 am alarm call to be on site by 5:00 am for a seven hour working day. This early start was essential to cope with the summer temperatures, rising to 46° in the week prior to our arrival and due to rise to this again during our stay.
This was an exciting season for us, as work started with conservators Mohamed Shebib and Ahmed Hamdan to restore the south wall of the First Pillared Hall of Karakhamun, which had once held Chapter 17 of the Book of the Dead.
The work involved retrieving the fragments which had been boxed in column order the previous year, and checking them against our digital reconstruction typed in JSesh. Annie Photoshopped the photos of the original fragments into the suggested reconstruction. The preliminary reconstruction is based on the Lepsius version and other sources correlated with the remains of the text in situ. (see bibliography)
The main challenge was in taking detailed measurements of the hieroglyphs and spaces between them in each column to determine the exact placing of each fragment. This is essential work – largely carried out by Annie as fragments sometimes ‘float’ in a column with no adjacent wall text to assist with the exact location. It involved calculations down to the last half centimetre. The conservators were very careful that we all agreed with the positioning.
To fix one of the largest pieces (carved with hieroglyphs from columns 11-15) – which could then be used to place adjacent fragments – the conservators needed to consolidate the wall. The poor state of the limestone in this area explained why so much of the surface text had broken away from the wall in small pieces. In fact, the back of the limestone was so fragmented, Shebib and Ahmed had to put in long steel retaining bolts, epoxied into place, and then cover with a fresh face of new limestone. “Pockets” for the original fragments were carved into this casing stone, the fragments were inserted into the “pockets” and supported with lime plaster. All this took much longer than had been anticipated, but nevertheless progress was made in adding 6 fragments to the first 18 columns out of the total of 112.
While this construction work was going on, Annie and Francesca retreated to the comparatively quiet tomb of Karabasken for a few days, where Ken Griffin had left boxes of fragments that could possibly be from Chapter 17. These were checked to ensure all columns of the text could be identified with certainty, then the piece was recorded, numbered, assigned to the correct columns, traced, photographed and boxed with its fellow column fragments. We were pleased to find at least three ‘joins’ with pieces we had already assigned, but in the time available could not deal with all the ‘possibles’ which were left for another year. A small fragment showing only a duck’s neck caused us mystification, but Taylor managed to identify it for us using the hieroglyphs printed on her chilled water bottle container as a roast duck!
Approximately the first 20 columns of the wall have now been consolidated, and faced with beautiful white limestone slabs. Where the original text is missing, 6 of our fragments have been returned to their original positions on the wall. They were embedded by the conservators with such care and precision that one cannot tell that they had ever been lost. Our body of fragments to be replaced has been increased by 30 new pieces, giving a total identified of almost 200. In all a most successful 4 weeks work!
We would like to thank Ken Griffin for finding more pieces for us to work with and identifying parts of obscure hieroglyphs at a glance; and most of all our wonderful conservators, Mohamed Shebib and Ahmed Hamdan for all their hard work. We are looking forward greatly to 2020, when hopefully many of our remaining fragments of Spell 17 of the Book of the Dead will return to their rightful places on the South Wall of the First Pillared Hall of Karakhamun.
Chapter 17 Referenced Texts
UCL copy of Chapter 17 download (Transliteration and Translation)
(The version gives the Book of the Dead version as compiled from various sources by Naville in his standard edition of the New Kingdom and Third Intermediate Period papyri. The section numbering follows the edition by Allen 1974.)
Unpublished MS copy of the Karakhamun wall text
Faulkner, R. O.; Editor Andrews, C. (1985) The Ancient Egyptian Book of the Dead (London : Guild Publishing)
Lepsius, R. (1842) Das Todtenbuch Der Ägypter Hieroglyphischen Papyrus in Turin Mit Einem Vorworte Sum Ersten Male Herausgegeben (Leipzig : Bei Georg Wigand)
O’Rouke, P. (2016) An Ancient Egyptian Book of the Dead; The Papyrus of Sobekmose. Translation, Introduction and Commentary (Brooklyn : Thames and Hudson / Brooklyn Museum)
Quirke, S. (2013) Going Out in Daylight: Prt M Hrw – the Ancient Egyptian Book of the Dead: Translations, Sources, Meanings (London : Golden House Publications)
Verhoeven, U. (1999) Das Totenbuch des Monthpriesters Nespasefy aus der Zeit Psammetichs I.
pKairo JE 95714 + pAlbany 1900.3.1, pKairo JE95649
(pMarseille 91/2/1 (ehem. Slg. Brunner) + pMarseille 291. Harrassowitz Verlag)
Part II: Karakhamun’s Ceiling Project
Taylor Bryanne Woodcock
The South Asasif Conservation Project began clearing, restoring and reconstructing the tombs of Karabasken (TT 391), Karakhamun (TT 223) and Irtieru (TT 390) in 2006 – now the team is reaping the rewards of over a decade of hard work and tremendous skill, usually despite unbearable heat. It has been a huge honor for me to participate in several of the on-going projects at the SACP since I started in the summer of 2013.
This season I became the new head of the Karakhamun Ceiling Project, which I had assisted Katherine Piper with briefly in 2015. The monumental tomb of Karakhamun (TT 223) contained the earliest painted ceiling from the Kushite-Saite period, borrowing from the corpus of brilliantly painted New Kingdom ceiling patterns in the Theban Necropolis but also contributing unique designs to the landscape.
The decorative programme in the tomb of Karakhamun incorporated a vast painted ceiling in the First and Second Pillared Halls, decorated with patterns in red, blue, white, pink, orange, and yellow. When the tomb collapsed in the 1990s as the result of poor quality limestone, extensive quarrying, and heavy flooding, the decorated ceiling broke into thousands of painted limestone fragments which now give us a tantalizing glimpse of how the ceiling appeared over two thousand years ago. The ultimate goal of the Karakhamun Ceiling Project is a partial reconstruction of Karakhamun’s beautiful patterns, but even in its fragmented state, his ceiling has much to tell us about tradition, innovation, and symbolism in Kushite-period tombs.
This year thousands of ceiling fragments were moved to the Open Court of Karabasken to allot them the space they needed for study and reconstruction. This season, the Ceiling Project team (myself, along with Scott Allan, Laura Chilvers, and Aimée Vickery) sorted and documented over seven thousand painted limestone fragments, which granted us a preliminary understanding of the patterns from Karakhamun’s ceiling and of the possible surface areas that each pattern was allotted in the tomb based on the size and number of preserved fragments. We hope that similar find locations for fragments of the same pattern will help us to identify their original placement within the monumental pillared halls.
Ancient artists incorporated twenty painted patterns into the tomb’s two pillared halls: eight bead-net patterns, four checkerboard patterns, three floral patterns, two rhombus patterns, and several others. The patterns vary greatly in degrees of detail and in pattern consistency – some were clearly designed to cover a large surface area with easily-defined shapes, while others featured smaller, more delicate designs.
Next year, the reconstruction process of the Ceiling Project will begin in earnest and we hope to eventually display Karakhamun’s vibrant ceiling patterns at the site so that visitors can appreciate their color and design for generations to come. In the meantime, there is much that Karakhamun’s ceiling has to reveal about the origins and meanings of its patterns, and the behaviors of the individual artists who painted them.
Even though the numerous ceiling patterns of the Theban Necropolis have impressed visitors for centuries, they remain largely unstudied and unpublished. The ceiling patterns in the North Asasif tombs, such as Pabasa, may be better known but Karakhamun’s ceiling set the precedent for Kushite-Saite tomb ceiling decoration, acting as the bridge between New Kingdom and Late Period traditions. This new project at the South Asasif allows us the opportunity to study Kushite-Saite ceiling décor in the context of the Theban landscape through the need for careful preservation and reconstruction.
Reconstruction of the pillars of the First Pillared Hall in the tomb of Karakhamun is going incredibly well. the conservation team of Abdelrazk Mohamed Ali, Ali Hassan Ibrahim, Taib Hassan Ibrahim, Mohamed El Azeb Hakem, Hassan Dimerdash, Said Ali Hassan, Mohamed Badawy, Mohamed Shebib, Taib Said Mohamed and stonecutter Hussein Mohamed have finished the construction of five pillars. With three more under way we have a very good chance to reconstruct all the pillars by the end of the season.
Reconstructed pillars such as the north-east pillar NP5 give our epigraphers a chance to keep adding more fragments any time they make new identifications. Erhart Graefe started adding new fragments to the text of the Ritual of the Twelfth Hour of the Day on the first day of his arrival and keeps a very fast daily pace. Mohamed Badawy and other conservators are only happy to help.
Annie Haward and Francesca Jones of the BD 17 team are having an amazing season this year. This is the first season when they started placing identified and joined fragments of the south wall of the First Pillared Hall with the help of Mohamed Shebib and Ahmed Hamdan. More on the achievements of the BD 17 team will follow in their own blog entry next week.
Marion Brew is celebrating the first glimpse of the cavetto on the south wall of the court in the tomb of Irtieru (TT 390). The quality of bedrock in this area didn’t allow for precision in carving and the cavetto was carved in sections from better quality limestone. The sections were placed on a nicely carved bedrock “shelf” and bonded with mortar.
Inspectors Ahmed El Tayeb Mahmoud and Omar Fathy Hassan are assisting our architect Dieter Eigner in drawing the bricks of the superstructure in the tomb of Karabasken (TT 391). They are doing an amazing job measuring and recording every brick and area of mortar.
The diversity of our site allows every team member to find something really close to his or her heart. Salima Ikram is happily bonding with the skeleton of a cow.
Katherine Blakeney spends her days under the painted ceiling in the tomb of Irtieru.
Our new volunteer from Swansea University, Laura Chilvers found her first join of two painted ceiling fragments from the tomb of Karakhamun. She is assisting Taylor Woodcock in putting the thousands of ceiling fragments together and has fallen in love with even the smallest of them.
John Billman, a big admirer of objects, is enjoying the company of shabti fragments. John’s new assistant Aimee Vickery from Swansea University is learning the intricacies of stone fragment registration and doing a great job.
The team is happy and looking forward to every day of work.
Katherine Blakeney is also looking forward to coming home after work to her new toddler Cesar. Cesar is now in this precious period of kittenhood when everything that happens around him looks enormously exiting.
The team of the South Asasif Conservation Project is finishing May with some notable achievements and finds. The team members of the Project have worked on numerous exciting tasks.
- The conservation team is continuing the conservation of the pillars in the First Pillared Hall of the tomb of Karakhamun (TT 223). The photographs show Hassan Dimerdash and Ali Hassan injecting the original plaster layer on the fourth pillar in the south row and reinforcing the fragile area with lime mortar.
- The stone cutting team received help from conservator Abdelrazk Mohamed Ali with programing the new control box for the stone cutting machine. Blocks and slabs of new limestone cut to the specifications of the conservators are used for the casing of large lacunae on the pillars and reconstruction of missing areas.
- The architect and surveyor of the Project Dieter Eigner continued recording the superstructure of the tomb of Karabasken.
- This celebratory moment was inspired by the identification of a piece of mud brick as a mudbrick cavetto made for the first pylon of the tomb of Karakhamun.
The remains of the pylon were discovered by the archaeological team led by Marion Brew. Congratulations to our wonderful workmen, Marion Brew and Katherine Bateman.
- Taylor Woodcock returned to the site as the new leader of Karakhamun’s ceiling Project. We expect great results this season. Welcome back, Taylor.
- This season Mariam Ayad and a group of AUC students joined the Project to work on the digital epigraphy in the tomb of Irtieru (TT 390). Ahmed Osman and Bianca van Sittert assisted their professor in copying inscriptions on the doorframes and false door of the tomb. Inspector Ahmed Abdel Halim Ali Mohamed joined the epigraphic team. We are grateful to all the participants of this project and AUC for its support of our work. With Tayor Woodcock and Katherine Bateman being AUC alumni we had a merry AUC reunion at the site.
- Katherine Blakeney taught an informative workshop on the conventions for digital epigraphy that she developed for the South Asasif Conservation Project and provided a set of photographs of the carved fragments found in the tomb of Irtieru.
The site of the South Asasif is open for the 2019 season! Congratulations to our team members, sponsors and friends. We are going to have an incredible season! We are very grateful to the Ministry of Antiquities for supporting the work of the Project.
- Our first two weeks were fantastic! We are so happy to be back at the sit and reunite with the MoA conservation team led by Abdelrazk Mohamed Ali. We are lucky to work with these incredible professionals: Abdelrazk Mohamed Ali, Ali Hassan Ibrahim, Taib Hassan Ibrahim, Mohamed El Azeb Hakem, Hassan Dimerdash, Said Ali Hassan, Mohamed Badawy, Mohamed Shebib, Taib Said Mohamed and Reis Mohamed Ali. Our inspector Ahmed ElTayeb Mahmoud is an experienced archaeologist and an old friend of the Project. We are happy to work again with our colleagues from the Qurna inspectorate: Fathy Yassin, General Director of Antiquities of the West Bank of Luxor; Ramadan Ahmed Ali, General Director of the Foreign Missions Department, Ezz Elnoby, Director of the Middle Area, Ahmed Bogdady, Chief inspector of the Middle area, Abdel Nasser Ahmed Abd El Azim, General Director of Museums and Restoration in Upper Egypt, Bedawy Said Abdel Rahim, General Director of the Luxor Restoration Department and conservation inspector Samah Mohamed Abd El Rady.
- One of the goals of the season is the conservation and reconstruction of the collapsed pillars in the First Pillared Hall in the tomb of Karakhamun (TT 223). The pillars were found collapsed and buried under the fragments of the ceiling and large blocks of bedrock. Remains of only about 1m in height were found in situ. The conservators started consolidation and reinforcement of the lower parts of the pillars. Tens of thousands of fragments of inscriptions and vignettes found during the clearing of the tomb will be incorporated into reconstructions built of new limestone. The pillars were decorated with the texts of the Ritual of the Hours. The Hours of the Day were placed on the four pillars on the north side and the Hours of the Night on the four pillars on the south side of the hall, three hours on each pillar. They are arranged from east to west on the north side and from west to east on the south side following the solar cycle. The reconstruction of these texts is of utmost importance as they exhibit the earliest example of Stundenritual texts included into the decoration of an elite tomb and displayed on the pillars. The fourth side of each pillar was inscribed with one or two chapters of the Book of the Dead. The texts were reconstructed by Erhart Graefe ( Hours of the Day), Kenneth Griffin (Hours of the Night and BD), Miguel Molinero Polo and Raquel Agras (BD 85, 92). Identification of the fragments and digital reconstruction of the decoration is still a work in progress. (see bibliography)
Conservators Abdelrazk Mohamed Ali, Ali Hassan Ibrahim, Mohamed El Azeb Hakem, Hassan Dimerdash are at work consolidating the pillars and joining fragments of inscriptions in sand boxes.
- The so-called “stone tower” is erected in the court of Karakhamun higher than ever. It will serve to deliver blocks of new limestone to the First Pillared hall.
- Our leading archaeologist Marion Brew continues clearing the superstructures of the tombs of Karakhamun (TT 223) and Karabasken (TT 391). They will be recorded by the architect of the Project Dieter Eigner.
- Our assistant director, artist and photographer Katherine Blakeney is always ready to climb every mountain to record the architectural features of the tombs.
- New discoveries keep our excavation workmen, archaeologist Marion Brew and head of the registration department John Billman happy and busy.
- One of the best discoveries so far is a small fragment with the upper part of a G17 sign. The beautiful owl is carved in raised relief with precision and numerous details indicating feathers of different lengths and textures. Our conservator Mohamed Shebib with his photographic memory immediately remembered another fragment with the lower part of the bird found in 2015. The fragment is part of the decoration of the doorframe leading to the pillared hall in the tomb of Karabasken. What a great way to start the season!
Graefe, Erhart “Report on the work on the fragments of the “Stundenritual” (Ritual of the Hours of the Day) in TT 223″. In Thebes in the First Millennium BC. , edited by Elena Pischikova, Julia Budka, Kenneth Griffin, 295-306. Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing 2014.
Graefe, Erhart. “Second report on work on the fragments of the Stundenritual (ritual of the hours of the day) in TT 223”. In Tombs of the South Asasif Necropolis: New Discoveries and Research 2012-14, edited by Elena Pischikova, 91-95. Cairo; New York: The American University in Cairo Press, 2017, 91-95.
Griffin, Kenneth. “Toward a Better Understanding of the Ritual of the Hours of the Night (Stundenritual)” In Tombs of the South Asasif Necropolis: New Discoveries and Research 2012-14, edited by Elena Pischikova, 97-134. Cairo, New York: AUC Press, 2017.
Griffin, Kenneth. “A Preliminary Report on the Hours of the Night in the Tomb of Karakhamun (TT 223) “. In Thebes in the First Millennium BC: Art and Archaeology of the Kushite Period and Beyond, edited by Elena Pischikova, Julia Budka , Kenneth Griffin, 59-70. London: Golden House Publications, 2018.
Molinero Polo, Miguel. “The Textual Program of Karakhamun’s First Pillared Hall.” In Tombs of the South Asasif Necropolis: Thebes, Karakhamun (TT 223), and Karabasken (TT 391) in the Twenty-fifth Dynasty, edited by Elena Pischikova, 131-172. Cairo; New York: The American University in Cairo Press, 2014.
- Our excavation team made a heroic effort to finish clearing the superstructure of the tomb of Karabasken by the end of the extended 2018 season. The work was conducted under the supervision of Marion Brew and Reis Mohamed Ali. They were assisted by Katherine Bateman, Marcus Wallas and a team of our wonderful workmen.
The ancient bricks of the superstructure were temporarily covered with cotton fabric and new stamped mud bricks made by the Project. More permanent protection and reconstruction of the superstructure will be executed next season after it is recorded by the architect of the Project, Dieter Eigner.
We are grateful to the ASA Restoration Project and personally to Anthony Browder and Darren McKnight for the extension of the season and to TVAES for its support of the mud brick protection project.
- A few last moment joins were identified by Ken Griffin and added to the walls of the Second Pillared Hall. A small fragment with the outlines of lips and a nose joined with the figure of the goddess Maat leading Karakhamun to the realm of Osiris on the thickness of the entrance to the Second Pillared hall. Mohamed Shebib and Ken Griffin are celebrating the resurrection of the divine face.
Anthony Browder and Darren McKnight are triumphantly installing the back shoulder of Karakhamun’s brother Nesamenopet.
- Our amazing conservation team finished reconstruction of the monumental entrance to the First Pillared hall in the tomb of Karakhamun and started re-constructing the vaulted ceiling of the Tornische. The work was performed by an MoA conservation team: Abdelrazk Mohamed Ali, Ali Hassan Ibrahim, Mohamed Shebib, Taib Hassan, Abdelrahman Ahmed Ali, Taib Said, Mohamed El Azeb Hakem, Hassan Dimerdash, Tarek Mohamed Yusef, Mohamed Bedawy, Ahmed Kammel, Said Ali Hassan, Hussein Ahmed Hussein with the help and support of the Qurna inspectorate, directed by Fathy Yaseen Abd El Karim.
- Salima Ikram examined the contents of the canopic jars of Lady Amenirdis found earlier in the season and delivered the results to Marion Brew and Elena Pischikova, who look transfixed by Dr. Ikram’s magical performance.
- Afaf Wahba studied three mummified bodies found in the side room (IA) in the open court of the tomb of Karabasken. She was assisted by Hayley Goddard and Marcus Wallas. Observations made by the osteologists were recorded on camera by Katherine Blakeney.
- Karakhamun is closed until the 2019 season. The Second Pillared hall is covered with a roof and the pillars of the First Pillared hall are enclosed in wooden “boxes”.
- The South Asasif Conservation Project team has just finished its twelfth, and one of its most successful seasons. Congratulations and many thanks to our team members, sponsors, colleagues and friends. We are looking forward to continuing the work next year!
We would like to thank our Egyptian colleagues for their help and support during the 2018 season. Special thanks go to H.E. Dr. Khaled El-Enany, Minister of Antiquities, Dr. Moustafa Waziri, General Secretary of SCA, Dr. Mohamed Ismail, Former Director of the Foreign Missions Department, Dr. Nashwa Gaber, Director of the Foreign Missions Department, Mr. Mohamed Abd El Badia, General Director of the Center of Upper Egyptian Antiquities, Dr. Mohamed Abd El Aziz, General Director of Antiquities for Upper Egypt; Mohamed Yahia, General Director of Antiquities of the Luxor area. Mr. Fathy Yassin, General Director of Antiquities of the West Bank of Luxor; Mr. Baha, Director of Qurna Antiquities, Mr. Ramadan Ahmed Ali, General Director of the Foreign Missions Department (mission member), Mr. Ezz Elnoby, Director of the Middle Area (mission member), Mr. Ahmed Ezz, General Director of MoA storage, Ahmed Hassan, Director of MoA storage, Abd El Gawad, inspector of the MoA storage, Mr. Ahmed Bogdady, head inspector of the Middle area, Abdel Nasser Ahmed Abd El Azim, General Director of Museums and Restoration in Upper Egypt, Bedawy Said Abdel Rahim, General Director of the Luxor Restoration Department, Mr. Ahmed Ali Hussein Ali, Director of the Conservation Department of Qurna, General Director of Conservation Department of Upper Egypt, Abu El Hassan Ahmed, general engineer of Qurna Antiquities, Inspectors Hussein Ahmed Hussein, Mohamed Khalifa Mohamed, Mahmoud Yussuf Khalifa, Ahmed Kammel, Safaa Mohamed Abd El Motey, and Conservation Inspectors Mohamed Ali, Ali Taib Mohamed, Nawal Mohamed Fawzy, and Tarek Mohamed Yusef and security guards of the Qurna area. We are very grateful to Dr. Sanna Ahmed Ali, General Director of the Museums of Upper Egypt and Samia Abdel Aziz, Asma Nubi Ragabia Atia Ala for their help in installing canopic jars in the Luxor Museum.
- The main August event was the delivery and installation of the canopic jars of the Lady of the House Amenirdis in the Luxor Museum. We found these beautiful jars in the tomb of Karabasken (TT 391) in May 2018 (for more details see the previous blog post). The Qurna inspectorate, the Ministry’s museum sector and the direction of the Luxor Museum were extremely helpful in making this exhibition possible. The canopic jars are the first objects found by our archeological team to be put on display in the Luxor Museum. We are very grateful for this opportunity and are hoping to have a chance to show more in the future.
2. Marion Brew, Katherine Bateman, Katy Ball and Vibeke Berens are finishing excavation of the superstructure of the tomb of Karabasken. The extension of the season, made possible thanks to the ASA Restoration Project, gave our excavators enough time to unearth the remains of Karabasken’s monumental pylon. The impressive structure will be recorded by Dieter Eigner at the beginning of next season.
3. The offering scenes on the east wall and pilasters of the First pillared hall were bought back to life by our great team of Egyptian conservators. This area of the tomb suffered from fire, floods and later occupation. The top of the wall collapsed and the pilasters had less than a meter remaining in situ. The decoration was reduced to hundreds of small fragments scattered over the open court and first pillared hall. The architectural elements were re-built out of new limestone fixed on metal frames, and ancient fragments were inserted into pockets carved in the new limestone. Joins found between the original fragments or the fragments and the bedrock helped to reconstruct three registers of offering bearers on the pilaster, two large-scale offering scenes on the east wall and a procession of offering bearers on the south wall of the Tornishe.
- Ken Griffin, Mohamed Shebib, Taib Hassan, Said Ali Hassan and Markus Wallas are finishing the installation of the text of the Ritual of the Twelfth Hour of the Day and BD 92. The texts and vignettes were reconstructed by Erhart Graefe, Ken Griffin and Raquel Agras Flores. 45 fragments of the text of BD 92 were installed on the north face of the pilaster. 16 fragments of the vignette will follow soon. 28 fragments of the text and 28 fragments of the vignette of the Twelfth Hour on the west face are already on the pillar. The vignette of the Twelfth Hour contains one the most sophisticated images of Karakhamun in the whole tomb. The precision of carving, modeling and treatment of the details can be compared only with the “main” large scale figure of Karakhamun at the offering table on the north section of the east wall.
- Anthony Browder, Darren McKnight and Atlantis Browder assessed the damages to the granite sarcophagus of Karabasken in preparation for its reconstruction next season.
- John Billman is reviewing the finds of the season with pride and satisfaction.
- Karakhamun is getting a new roof! The wooden roof we are installing this year will provide great temporary protection for the tomb’s decoration for the period of reconstruction. Abdelrazk Mohamed Ali and Ken Griffin are demonstrating a window built into the roof.
More very soon!
We congratulate the team of the South Asasif Conservation Project on finding the canopic jars of the Lady of the House Amenirdis in the tomb of Karabasken (TT 391).
The discovery was recently announced by Dr. Mostafa Waziri. General Secretary of the Supreme Council of Antiquities.
It was an unforgettable day for (from left to right) Ali Hassan Ibrahim, Abdelrazk Mohamed Ali, Hussein Ahmed Hussein, Marion Brew, Katerina Ball and John Billman.
The set of canopic jars was found on the 7th of May, 2018 in an intrusive burial compartment in the pillared hall of the tomb of Karabasken by the archaeologists Marion Brew, Katerina Ball, Hassan Mohamed Ali and Reis Mohamed Ali. The room, accessed via a staircase carved between the 4th and 5th pillars of the southern side of the hall, was discovered in 2016.
The shaft in the south-east corner of the room and burial chambers were cleared in April-May 2018. The 3m deep shaft leads to two burial chambers oriented to the east and west of the shaft. Both chambers were roughly carved and undecorated.
The canopic jars were found in the eastern chamber in a nearly cubic cutting in the floor and photographed by Katherine Blakeney.
The happy moment of discovery was shared by Mohamed Shebib, inspector Hussein Ahmed Hussein, Abdelrazk Mohamed Ali, Katherine Blakeney and Reis Mohamed Ali.
The jars and lids, made of Egyptian alabaster, needed emergency conservation performed by a team of MoA conservators including Ali Hassan Ibrahim, Mohamed Shebib, Ali Taib Mohamed, Taib Said Mohamed, and Mohamed El Azeb Hakem. Mohamed Shebib is performing injections.
Canopic jars after conservation:
The Jars were measured and registered by John Billman.
Many of the mission members gave their hears to Duamutef with his mischievous smile and elongated eyes.
His erect jackal ears, connected by an area of negative space are elegantly indicated by two parallel incised lines. The jar was found in two pieces. The smoothness of the edges suggests this was the original construction and the pieces were joined in antiquity.
The canopic jars will be published in the 3rd volume of the AUC series Tombs of the South Asasif Necropolis.
Two exquisitely carved faces found their way back on the north-east pilaster in the First Pillared hall this week. They belong to offering bearers from the top register on the western side of the pilaster. Three registers with three offering bearers (Two male and one female) in each comprised the original decoration of the pilaster, found broken into numerous small fragments.
Abderazk Mohamed Ali, Ali Hassan Ibrahim and Katherine Blakeney are transferring the reconstruction drawing of the newly constructed top register of the north-east pilaster. Reconstructions of both eastern pilasters in the First Pillared hall will be finished by the end of June under the supervision of our inspector Mahmud Youssef El Edassy.
The lintel of the Tornische doorframe is almost finished. The next level is a beautifully colored cavetto cornice. A lunette with wadjet eyes carved in bold raised relief will top the entrance structure.
Erhart Graefe is working on the reconstruction of the vignette for the text of the Ritual of the Eighth Hour of the Day. This colorful, beautifully carved vignette will face the central aisle of the First Pillared hall in the tomb of Karakhamun when placed on the third pillar of the north side of the hall.
We welcome Louise Bertini who visited the site on the 20th of June and started working on the animal bones found in the tomb of Karabasken at the beginning of the season.
Mohamed Shebib is very happy about finding this tiny fragment of carving that he identified as the top of the folded cloth clenched in the fist of Karakhamun on the south wall of the Second Pillared hall.
Katherine Piper is back at work on the painted ceiling from the Second Pillared Hall. We hope to reconstruct most of it in a sand box by the end of the season.
Katherine Blakeney is flying high photographing the mud brick superstructure of the tomb of Karabasken.
Mohamed Abu Hakem is getting ready for his first space voyage. We wish him luck but are going to miss him at the site.
Our wonderful excavation team of Lesley O’Conner, Reis Mohamed Ali, Cheryl Hanson, Mustafa Said Jad, Saeed Abdul Rahim, Ahmed Hassan Mawat, Ramadan Mohamed Abdullah and Saeed Hassan Ahmed continue working on the growing superstructure of the tomb of Karabasken despite the heat of the previous week.
More next week!
Every week in the South Asasif necropolis brings new discoveries and achievements.
One of the most notable discoveries of the week was made by our leading conservator, Abdelrazk Mohamed Ali. He brought back to the team’s attention a small fragment of sunk relief with a well-modeled surface, a thin raised line in the middle and a plain polished surface on the other side of the line.
Many mission members participated in the discussion of this strange fragment without reaching a quorum on “deciphering” the image. Katherine Blakeney saw the modeled area as a knee but Elena Pischikova never shared her view because of the raised line above the proposed knee. It would suggest a kilt with a rim on its hem and that would be unique for the tomb of Karakhamun. This time Abdelrazk didn’t want to hear any arguments. Following his instinct he went directly to the scene of an offering bearer leading a crane on the north-east pilaster of the First Pillared Hall and inserted the fragment into the gap above the back of the crane.
It fit perfectly, adding a new feature to one of the most lavishly carved scenes in the tomb. And yes, this particular offering bearer has one of the best-modeled knees in the whole tomb and a rimmed hem on his kilt. This beautiful bird is on the cover of the Tombs of the South Asasif Necropolis vol.2 published by AUC in 2017.
Abdelrazk suggested informing AUC of the new addition to the scene and updating the cover. Sounds like a great idea!
Reconstruction of the Tornische, the vaulted entrance area to the underground part of Karakhamun’s tomb is going remarkably well although we face problems in the most unexpected areas. For example, Hassan Dimerdash , the conservator responsible for the reconstruction of the torus, reed bundle elements, and the rectangular ledges that flank the entrance doorframe realized that the dimensions of the elements on the left and right side of the door are different. To place all the fragments of three-stem reed bundle elements Hassan has to check the size of the stems, depth of carving, shape of the stems, etc. (with help from Abdelrazk Mohamed Ali).
The right side is shaping up well. On the photograph below Hassan is placing an identified rope element.
The north section of the east wall is constructed all the way up to the ceiling. It is ready to receive the fragments of the offering list and conservator Ali Hassan Ibrahim is waiting for the first stones.
Erhart Graefe arrived at the site to continue working on the texts of the Rituals of the Hours of the Day. Although photographed on his first day of work, Erhart looks extremely well organized and concentrated on the task at hand. A good start to what will surely be a productive season.
We are happy to welcome AUC student Hayley Goddard. She has just taken her osteology exam at the site. The grueling test was conducted by the prominent expert Afaf Wahba. We are happy to report that Afaf will be joining our team later in the season.
Members of our BD 17 team Annie Haward and Francesca Jones will be leaving the site next week. A lot of progress has been made in sorting the fragments by columns and finding new joins.
Karabasken’s superstructure keeps growing under the watchful eyes of Marion Brew and Lesley O’Connor. With Lesley’s arrival we got our own Indiana Jones at the site (not the hat).