Karakhamun’s Burial Chamber

IMG_1342On May 30th we started this year’s activities in the burial chamber, with the continuation of the reconstruction of the astronomical ceiling and the vignette of BD125 on the walls . This is the third season of this work. Last year we consolidated and placed all the sizable fragments of painted plaster and limestone found during the excavations in summer 2011. This year our task is to identify and place smaller and less recognizable fragments.

For the moment, these activities are being undertaken by Abd el Razzik Mohammed Ali as senior conservator, Abd el Hady Tayb Mahmud as restorer –and skilful identifier of the fallen fragments original placement– and Miguel Á. Molinero as epigrapher.

The knowledge we acquired last year about the process of realization of the chamber, the spatial organisation of the decoration and the final execution of the Netherworld scene and celestial diagram is now a fundamental guide for the continuation of our work.

The first task of last season was the classification of fragments into categories, after the sector of the decoration to which they belonged. Yellow background, big black hieroglyphs: horizontal inscription; yellow background, small signs: negative confession columns; solid green or red colour sometimes with solid black or yellow details: gods presiding over the trial of Karakhamun; any combination of different colours absent from judges and ceiling: weighting of the heart scene; brilliant blue: any half of the sky and therefore, the ceiling; yellow colour and thick black silhouette: the goddess Nut crossing the firmament; and so forth. In the tomb of Irtieru, our base of operations for work related to the burial chamber, the fragments have been awaiting this new season.

Now, we take down only the fragments that are expected to fit into the reconstruction of the sector we want to work on. We have begun with the most deteriorated zone from which we expect the greatest novelties: the North-East corner of the ceiling. The figures represented here are still insufficiently studied, and in Egyptological literature they are known generically, as “assistant deities”. They are the figures that, on the ceiling in Senenmut, appear under the segmented circles. Last year we had already partially reconstructed five figures on the working table and they were relocated to their original placement at the end of the season. We are also counting on an additional clue: we know that the fragments that remain to be placed in this area have a difference from those of the rest of the ceiling. When the chamber was being carved, an unknown incident – the accidental fall of a block of stone, or a miscalculation of the required height by the artisans –  resulted in the creation of a recess that had to be filled with plaster to smooth its surface and bring it level with the rest of the ceiling. Knowing that the thickest sky blocks can only come from this sector has enabled us to focus on them and to advance forward in its reconstruction.

In addition to incorporatDSCF5020ing some fragments into the figures we already knew, we have begun to recognize the characteristics of the deities that were missing. We have started to read the hieroglyphic signs of the labels over the first gods, and we are now certain that the sixth figure wears a male kilt, although we would have expected a long female skirt. The last male deity holds an object in his hand not seen in other Late Period tombs, although it appears in coffins and sarcophagi.

– by Miguel Á. Molinero

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