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!

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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.

The complex history of the Asasif beyond TT 414

Week 3 of the Ankh-Hor Project is well underway. Since the summer term at university back home in Vienna has already started on March 1, we had to say goodbye to several team members: Irina, Cajetan, Magdalena and Jessica have left already, but did a great job within the last two weeks.

Yesterday, I gave a small tour through the tomb of Ankh-Hor, especially for the conservators who joined us for the first time this year – and it’s of course always great to visit TT 414 and to see the diverse find spots of the objects we are currently studying. The team was really impressed as I was of course hoping – the preserved relief decoration within the “Lichthof” was liked especially and the deep shaft leading to Ankh-Hor’s burial chamber got some ‘wows’ as well.

While Stefanie, Victoria and Iman are still busy with consolidating Ptolemaic coffins from TT 414, Hassan started drawing some small finds and here particularly wooden objects.

Mona and I turned to a slightly different task – I was busy with re-organising the ceramics in our magazine, most of which have been already fully documented. Today, I studied the last remaining assemblages dating back to the Middle Kingdom which are now getting drawn by Mona. Of course this pottery does not come from the tomb of Ankh-Hor, but from earlier shaft tombs excavated by the Austrian mission in the late 1960s.

The earliest remains in the Austrian concession area date to the 11th Dynasty and include the causeway of Mentuhotep Nebhepetre to the beautiful temple of this king at Deir el-Bahari and contemporaneous non-royal tombs. Tombs of high officials of the 11th and 12th Dynasties were dug into the rock along the royal causeway as well as into the cliffs of Deir el-Bahari. The types of rock-cut tombs found in the Asasif are Middle Kingdom saff tombs and also shaft tombs. The former type is nicely illustrated by the large Tomb I that functions as the magazine for all the finds we are currently working on.

As much as I really like the large jigsaw puzzle with all of the broken coffins from TT 414, it was quite a pleasant change (also for my identity as ceramic expert ;-)) to return today to an earlier period, in particular to the late 12th Dynasty and the occupation of one of the large shaft tombs. Especially because I found a lot of joining pieces and could reconstruct complete profiles of pottery vessels after searching for a while. These important ceramics are mostly large bowls and beer bottles, typical burial pottery of that time – they are highly relevant for the early period of use of the Asasif necropolis, 1200 years before the Late Period monumental temple tombs like TT 414 of Ankh-Hor were erected.