One of the primary aims of the 2013 season is the reconstruction of the western wall of the Second Pillared Hall of the tomb of Karakhamun. Aside from the false door, the western wall and its two connecting pilasters are decorated with chapters of the Book of the Dead. While only the lower courses remain, enough hieroglyphs are preserved in-situ to allow for an identification of the texts (fig. 1). Once the texts have been identified, the challenge of searching through the many thousands of stone fragments begins in earnest. Texts that are being worked on are arranged on the ground. The conservators and epigraphers sometimes have to go through hundreds of shelves and boxes in search of any joins to the texts.
The south-western section of the wall is decorated with Chapter 15h and 75 of the Book of the Dead, separated by a statue of Karakhamun as Osiris. Chapter 15h is a hymn to the setting sun, which explains the choice of the tomb designers in placing this text on the western wall. So far, over 50 fragments belonging to Chapter 15h have been identified, including a beautiful vignette of Karakhamun kneeling before the enthroned Re-Horakhty. As well as being reconstructed on the ground, the fragments are also reconstructed digitally, using photoshop (fig 2). This allows for the exact position of the fragments to be determined, thus facilitating the actual reconstruction on the wall of the tomb. Chapter 75 is less well preserved at present although, just recently, a number of important joins were made that connect the south-western section of the wall with the pilaster (fig 3).
The south-western pilaster is inscribed with chapters 50, 57, and 91 of the Book of the Dead. While Chapter 57 (south face) contains few fragments, over 50% of the texts from both Chapter 50 (east face) and 91 (north face) have been identified. Additionally, almost the entire vignette of Chapter 50 has been preserved, depicting Karakhamun striding out of the tomb while his ba-bird and the benu-bird are perched beside the representation of the tomb entrance (fig. 4). Chapter 50 is particularly common in the tombs of the Late Period (Harwa, Pabasa, Sheshonq, Padihorresnet, and Ankhhor) and it is thus possible to compare the writing in the tomb of Karakhamun with these slightly later examples.
The tomb of Karakhamun continues to surprise us. When excavations of the tomb started in 2006 it was unknown how much of it had been preserved. It is now known that almost 60 separate chapters of the Book of the Dead were inscribed on the walls of the tomb. The tomb of Karakhamun clearly has a major role to play in our understanding of the evolution of the Late Period Theban tombs, both architecturally and textually.
-by Kenneth Griffin