South Asasif Necropolis: Journey Through Time

One of the main achievements of the South Asasif Conservation Project in 2019 was the creation and installation of an exhibition of our finds in the Luxor Museum.

The exhibition highlights some of the most important discoveries of 2006-2019.

The previously unknown ushebtis of the Mayor of Thebes and Fourth Priest of Amun Karabasken were reconstructed by the conservators out of 121 fragments. The 38 reconstructed ushebtis are a new addition to the corpus of Twenty-fifth Dynasty ushebtis and 38 incredible faces with pronounced Kushite features. (Exh. no. 1)

Another group of ushebtis introduces a newly discovered high official, High Steward of the God’s Wife, Padibastet.  4 complete and 24 partial ushebtis were reconstructed out of 57 fragments found in the tomb of Karabasken. (Exh. no. 6) They are part of the burial assemblage of a “lost” peer of the realm who held office during the reign of Psamtik II.  Padibastet’s name and images were found in 2014 in the entrance area of the tomb of Karabasken. Padibastet belonged to a prominent family and his grandfather Pabasa, bearer of the same title, is the owner of a large, lavishly decorated tomb in the North Asasif (TT 279). A well-preserved set of canopic jars inscribed for the Mistress of the House Amenirdis, who could have been the wife or other family member of Padibastet was found in the chapel cut for him into the northern wall of the First Pillared hall in the tomb of Karabasken. The canopic jars were found in situ in a cubic cutting in the floor of the eastern burial chamber. 

These are only a few examples of the wealth of information and art discovered by the Project in the Twenty-fifth Dynasty tombs, repopulated in later periods. The community of previously unknown people gathered in the South Asasif necropolis keeps growing every year, showing that the necropolis remained a sacred ground and home to a large number of people from the Eighth century BC until modern times.

The exhibition is built around these rediscovered people, introducing them through their burial equipment. In a way this phenomenon repeats itself in a different time zone with the large international group of the South Asasif Conservation Project team members who formed a new South Asasif community while uncovering ancient lives.

In her design of the exhibition installation structure, Katherine Blakeney conveyed this sense of connection between different periods through which the necropolis traveled for millennia. The white serpentine line, luminous and immaterial, symbolizes the passage of time twisting and turning but staying connected. The walls of the set, painted black and textured with sand from the Egyptian desert, signify the land of the country being transformed by time but staying connected to its ancient roots. 

The creation of the exhibition was a long and challenging process.

1. John Billman spent weeks at the site and in the storage of the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities selecting and recording the exhibition objects. 

2. Katherine Blakeney and Abdelrazk Mohamed Ali spent months assembling the installation piece. Katherine’s cardboard model proved to be very challenging to recreate.

3. The conservators Ali Hassan Ibrahim, Abdelrazk Mohamed Ali, Mohamed Abu Hakim, Mohamed Bedawy, Taib Said, Mohamed Shebib did an incredible job preparing every object for the exhibition, including restoration, reconstruction, packing for safe transportation and creating safe and unobtrusive stands for every object.

The finished installation gave the best possible exposure to our finds and did justice to the great Luxor Museum. We are grateful to H.E. Minister Dr. Khaled El Enany and Secretary General of the Supreme Council of Antiquities Dr. Mostafa Waziry for their support of this project.

Our next step is writing and publishing the catalogue of the exhibition. The team of the Project is working on the catalogue right now. It will be published later in the year by the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities.