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.

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