Summer in Luxor, Munich and Vienna

Time flies by – on such a rainy day like today in Munich, summer really seems to be over… My recent study season in Luxor was very successful and despite of the high temperatures really productive.

The necropolis of Asasif on an early August morning.

The South Asasif Conservation Project directed by Elena Pischikova had made fantastic discoveries this season and the corresponding ceramics were exciting to process. Of course I was especially looking for parallels for TT 414, the tomb of Ankh-Hor. This season, not only nice comparisons from the second heyday of the Asasif during the 4th and 3rd centuries BC showed up, but also intriguing pieces from a little understood period, the late 26th Dynasty and the 27th Dynasty. Especially the latter are important because, as clearly stated by Wolfram Grajetzki already some years ago: „The period of the first Persian domination remains something of a mystery for archaeology in Egypt. There are very few monuments and even fewer tombs that can be securely dated to this time“ (Grajetzki 2003, 117). Especially within Thebes, burials attributable to the Persian Period (27th Dynasty) still remain an enigma and are difficult to date (see Aston 1999), but ceramics from both Southern and Northern Asasif clearly attest to the funerary activities during that time. Much more research is required here!

For now, some post-excavation work is necessary for the 2019 South Asasif season and I am busy with entering data into the database. Next week, Vienna is calling and the focus will be more on Sudan and the MUAFS project. All in all, this summer was not only hot in terms of temperatures, but also extremely interesting and inspiring for my projects in Asasif and beyond.

References

Aston, David A. 1999. Dynasty 26, dynasty 30 or dynasty 27? In search of the funerary archaeology of the Persian period, in: Studies in Ancient Egypt in honour of H. S. Smith, ed. by Anthony Leahy & John Tait, London, 17–22.

Grajetzki, Wolfram. 2003. Burial Customs in Ancient Egypt: Life in Death for Rich and Poor, London.

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Getting ready for a study season in Luxor

Here in Munich, the summer seems to be coming to an end – at least in terms of weather and temperatures. It has been quite cool during the last days and it’s just about time to go to Egypt for more sun and heat ;-)!

I am therefore delighted that later this week, I will be travelling to Luxor – to join the South Asasif Conservation Project directed by Elena Pischikova for a short 2-weeks-study season of pottery. I’ve been studying the ceramics from the two fantastic, monumental Kushite tombs of Karakhamun and Karabasken, TT 223 and TT 391, in South Asasif since 2011. This season, my focus will be on new material from the tomb of Karabasken and I am very much looking forward to this. Besides the important material dating to the original use of the tomb, the 25th Dynasty, there is plenty of ceramics from later phases attesting to the re-use of the structure from the 26th Dynasty up to Coptic, Islamic and even modern times.

A large amount of the pottery from both TT 391 and TT 223 is datable to the 30th Dynasty and the Ptolemaic Period – and thus of much interest for my study of TT 414, the tomb of Ankh-Hor.

Nicely comparable pottery corpora from the re-use of Theban temple tombs: TT 414 to the left, TT 223 to the right.

The ceramics from South Asasif I am going to be working on in the next weeks provide perfect parallels for our material from the burial monument of Ankh-Hor in northern Asasif and illustrate the heyday of re-using monumental Theban Late Period tombs during the 4th and 3rd centuries BC.

Dissemination of the rich potential of the Ankh-Hor Project

Good news within the summer break: Our study of neglected finds from the tomb of Ankh-Hor in Asasif, TT414, in Egypt is highlighted in the latest issue of the The Project Repository Journal (July 2019, pp. 42-43).

Our aimed reconstruction of the complete use life of the tomb from the 6th century BC until Roman and Coptic times will provide new information about the people buried in TT 414 and also allows high lightening important new aspects of Egyptian funerary customs throughout the ages.

TT 414 has a huge potential to serve as a case study to analyse various attitudes of later generations towards the original owners of monumental Theban burial places – this can be best illustrated by the recycling of coffins. For the understanding of the complete, very complex use life of TT 414 a more in depth study is therefore much needed and will be carried out in the next years. At present, large amounts of coffins, fragments of coffins and cartonnage from TT 414, dating from the Late Period to Ptolemaic and Roman times, still remain to be cleaned, consolidated and fully documented. These tasks require time and financial support, but will definitly contribute to writing a new chapter of Theban funerary archaeology.

TT 414 as monumental jigsaw puzzle with huge potential

The rich potential of the thousands of finds from TT 414, the tomb of Ankh-Hor, for understanding the funerary culture of Late Period and Ptolemaic Thebes as well as family relations and more was recently the focus of an interview I gave to the Austrian Academy of Sciences.

Screenshot

The interview was published yesterday in German – more media coverage of the project which makes me very proud. Besides the interesting re-use of coffins I also mentioned the fascination history of the use and re-use of the “Lichthof” in TT 414. A blog post about this aspect of the tomb of Ankh-Hor will follow shortly.

Media coverage for the Ankh-Hor Project

Very proud and honoured: our work in the Asasif on the finds from the TT 414 has made it into an Austrian newspaper – an article in “Die Presse” presented some information about the Ankh-Hor project (print version 06/04/2019, online since 09/04/2019), based on an interview I gave in Vienna two weeks ago.

On this occasion, I stressed the rich potential about the coffins from the tomb of Ankh-Hor – not only for establishing a typology for Ptolemaic coffins and for discussing coffin workshops at Thebes, but especially for discussing the diverse re-use of TT 414, burial chambers and coffins. The best example is of course the 26th Dynasty coffin Reg. No. 590 of Iret-her-rw, which was re-used by Wah-ib-re in Ptolemaic times.

There are still plenty of information to unveil from the tomb of Ankh-Hor.

Media coverage like this article and also the recent blog post at DerStandard.at are very nice rewards for our busy and successful 2019 season – and it also helps to keep the motivation high. Among others, for writing proposals and applications which will keep me busy in the next months. Money does matter – not only for death and burials as you can read in the “Die Presse” article but also for researching complex burials like the multiple ones in TT 414.

Ankh-Hor in Vienna

I am currently back in my hometown in Vienna, busy with several things, first of all the Ankh-Hor Project and administrative but also scientific tasks related to our latest field season.

I am delighted that I got the chance to write about our work for the blog of the Young Academy here in Vienna – I tried to summarise the rich potential of the Ankh-Hor project, giving some examples of the intriguing use life of the tomb and its diverse users. So much work still to do, so many details to reconstruct and contextualise!

The 2019 season in retrospect

Today I will be a bit selfish. Quite a lot actually, to be honest. I’ve just reached my Munich office through wind and sleet, getting ready for a day full of meetings and administrative matters.

No complains here, honestly – but I think it’s just about time to review the 2019 season at Asasif – my personal doping for motivation on this gray and rainy day here in Munich – and hopefully also of interest for all friends of the Ankh-Hor Project!

Although there is our photo gallery of the 2018 and 2019 seasons (and be sure to check these out), here come my personal favorite pics of this year in Asasif:

Group picture from the start of our season.

Construction work at the site.

Object photography…

Very photogenic pottery vessels!

More photography…

The hidden photographer!

Mona and Hassan…

Hassan and me…

Ashraf and Mahmoud…

My coffins and me…

Gettin coffin fragments ready for photography

Next coffin please…

Conservation work…

Iman doing a great job

Packing coffins for the transport

And the men behind the scenes: Yussuf and Ragab

With this great motivation and many thanks to all team members, today’s desk work should be doable :-)!

Closing of the 2019 season of the Ankh-Hor project

From Luxor back to Munich – it was not in particular a warm welcome yesterday, arriving at Munich airport with snow showers and much too low temperatures for March! Well, today it is quite sunny and time to resume the last day of work in Asasif.

My last sunrise at TT 414 for 2019…

We successfully closed our tomb magazine and the 2019 season on Sunday – it has been some very intense days full of work and things to organize. Our conservators provided me with a fully illustrated and concise report about the large amount of conservation work conducted in 2019 – in total, 61 objects, in particular coffins, including the five fragmented ones we transported to the magazine, were successfully cleaned and consolidated.

Hassan and Mona were also very productive, resulting in more than 80 drawings of wooden objects, small finds and ceramics. In addition to these drawing, more than 470 objects were photographed by Cajetan with our full-frame camera with very high resolution.

In the final days of work, I took some last photographs of objects, last coffin fragments were cleaned and consolidated. And of course I continued to organize the magazine. Since it always happens on excavations that something new and important turns up at the very last day of work, I was not surprised that I found some new fitting coffin fragments literally in the last minutes of work…. These new fragments are important because they belong to a fascinating, but unfortunately very fragmented coffin we documented earlier this season.

Reg. 661 are fragments of a nicely painted, inner anthropoid wooden coffin which was found as one of the secondary burials within the burial compartment of Ankh-Hor (Room 7.2). For our conservators, these fragments presented one of the biggest challenges this year: The soft wood fragments are partly blackened and burnt due to the looting of TT 414 and the respective damage to the tomb inventories.

Part of Reg. 661 illustrating the bad condition of this coffin.

The owner of Reg. 661 was a female singer of Amun-Re from Karnak with the name Taremetjbastet. Since we know her family relations very well, we can date her death and burial to between 320 and 300 BCE.

The owner of Reg. 661 belongs to a well-attested family of Amun priests from Karnak buried in TT 414.

Of particular interest is the decoration of the foot part of the coffin – I have published first ideas about Reg. 661 already some years ago (Budka 2013). In the center of the foot board there is a sun disc flanked by a snake and a crocodile – this is nothing else than the opening scene of the Litany of Re, attested for the first time in the famous tomb of Sety I in the Valley of the Kings! To be best of my knowledge, there is only one parallel for this motif on foot boards of private coffins – and this is CG 29316, a stone sarcophagus from the 30th Dynasty (see Budka 2013).

Our wooden coffin Reg. 661 from TT 414 is exemplary for is the complex creation of decorated and inscribed coffins in Thebes during the 4th century BCE – Amun priests were extremely creative in combining various aspects, especially cosmogonic ones, using older texts and depictions and creating new ones, focusing on the resurrection of the deceased in conjunction with Re and Osiris. Still little is known about this fascinating creative work which is embodied in funerary objects like coffins, but also cartonage and canopic boxes – all of which are so plentiful from TT 414.

The lid fragments of Reg. 661 which I re-located in the last minutes of the 2019 season still need to be consolidated in the next season of the Ankh-Hor Project – like many other pieces, in particular of Ptolemaic and Roman coffins. Thus, Reg. 661 with its intriguing decoration nicely illustrates the already successful outcome and the scientific potential of the Ankh-Hor Project – but also the urgent need to continue our jigsaw puzzle reconstructing the complex burial processes in TT 414 and enlightening the intricate design of 30th Dynasty and Ptolemaic wooden Theban coffins.

Reference

Budka, Julia. 2013. Krokodil, Schlange und Kuhantilope: Ein frühptolemäischer Holzsarg aus dem Grab des Anchhor (TT 414), in: Florilegium Aegyptiacum ‒ Eine wissenschaftliche Blütenlese von Schülern und Freunden für Helmut Satzinger zum 75. Geburtstag am 21. Jänner 2013, ed. by Julia Budka, Roman Gundacker and Gabriele Pieke, Göttinger Miszellen Beihefte 14, Göttingen, 41–57.

Summary of week 3 of the Ankh-Hor project

The end of our 2019 field season is rapidly approaching – the last team members will be leaving tomorrow, I will have some more days to organize the magazine and for last minute photography.

The remaining members of the Ankh-Hor Project team this week.

Like in week 1 and week 2, the main tasks this week were the cleaning and consolidation of Ptolemaic coffins from TT 414. Since most of the group of conservators already left earlier this week, Stefanie and Victoria focused on different pieces, with a large side board of a nicely painted coffin from the shaft of room 10 as one of the highlights.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Most importantly, we succeeded in transporting four boxes with five coffins from the tomb of Ankh-Hor to the study magazine here on the West Bank.

This allows me to re-organise our tomb magazine further; urgently needed space for more coffin fragments to be consolidated and studied is now available.

While I documented the newly consolidated coffin fragments with photos, Mona and Hassan were busy drawing pottery fragments and small finds. Hassan documented in particular wooden objects like lids of shrines and fragments of Ptah-Sokar-Osiris statues. Mona was also working on some nice Middle Kingdom pottery – both from Tomb I, the saff tomb functioning as our magazine at the site, and from 12th Dynasty shaft tombs excavated in the 1970s.

The final phase of our 2019 season has already begun, I will be busy writing the report over the weekend and I am much looking forward to the last days of work next week.

Coffin transport accomplished

Week 3 passed by even faster than the first two weeks of our field season. The closing of the 2019 season of the Ankh-Hor Project is already approaching and today we finished one major task thanks to a lot of people involved.

As planned, we transported today four large wooden boxes with five fully documented and consolidated coffins from TT 414 to the magazine of the Ministry here at the West Bank – including Mr. Twt’s coffin and the 26th Dynasty coffin of Iret-her-rw, re-used by Wah-ib-Re in Ptolemaic times. The moving of large sized objects successfully cleaned and studied is urgently necessary in order to have more space in our temporary magazine here in Asasif, in Tomb I.

Although it’s always a bit strange for me to say goodbye to objects we spent so much time with, today’s accomplishment is of course completely positive and nicely illustrates the successful outcome of this season. After all the hard and enthusiastic work by our team of conservators and the hundreds of photos taken for photographic documentation, moving the nicely painted coffins from TT 414 after 45 years of excavation to a proper storage place is very satisfying.

Today, I think most happy of all of us were our workmen Ashraf, Mohammed and Mahmoud – after handling these heavy boxes almost daily during the last 3 weeks, carrying them in and out, in and out again, they were smiling a lot once the boxes were on top of the cars and then gone.

Finally, special thanks go to our inspector Hannan and to all of the local inspectorate for making today’s transport so smooth and easy – much appreciated!

And of course I already have plans for the new space now available in Tomb I – I will be busy with re-arranging things in the next days, there is still so much to do.