Back from the ICE 2019 in Cairo

Wow, it has been a very intense and very stimulating week at the International Congress of Egyptologists last week in Cairo. Besides stunning settings for dinners at Manial Palace and the Citadelle, there was much food for thought in the lecture halls. Especially intriguing were presentations of new results from the Theban necropolis and beyond – there is so much current fieldwork in Egypt that one week can barely cover all of these missions and projects!

I myself presented the LMU Ankh-Hor Project at the ICE.

I talked about some new data which allow an update on the use-life of TT 414, the 26th Dynasty tomb of Ankh-Hor. The important aspect here is that I believe it can be used as a model for other temple tombs in the Asasif. I also summarized the history of research of TT 414 and stressed the important aspect of joining data from museums and collections and the Austrian excavations in order to reconstruct the actual tomb groups from TT 414.

Looking already now much forward to the next ICE, this time in Leiden!

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.

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.

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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.

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 2 of the Ankh-Hor Project

Another week of our 2019 season just ended – and was altogether again very successful.

The main tasks this week were the cleaning and consolidation of Ptolemaic coffins from TT 414. Our group of conservators was busy with both black-yellow-red outer anthropoid Ptolemaic coffins like the one of Twt and nicely multi-coloured painted coffins like the one of Iret-Hor dating to the 26th Dynasty.

Re-organising the magazine is also well in progress; I am currently sorting the large number of coffins which are still in urgent need of consolidation according to priorities.

Photographing objects and in particular the consolidated coffins and coffin fragments also continued and required some sportive activity as well as creative solutions regarding the photo-set up by Cajetan.

Thanks to Mona and Hassan, a number of both Late Period and Ptolemaic pottery vessels from TT 414 was successfully drawn, nicely rounding up our concise study of all objects from all periods of use of the tomb of Ankh-Hor.

Last but definitely not least, many thanks go to Mohammed, Mahmoud and Ashraf – without our workmen the work which requires handling and carrying large boxes and heavy wooden pieces would not be possible.

 

I am, as always, very grateful to all team members and looking much forward to week 3 starting on Saturday, now wishing a nice weekend to everybody – here in Egypt and beyond!

Official start of the 2019 season

After some very nice days in Cairo, we managed to finish all the paperwork and officially started our 2019 season in Asasif today! The team is not yet complete, but Mona and Hassan will join us soon.

Our magazine in the Asasif, an original Middle Kingdom Saff tomb, was opened today and we had a quick first check. Thankfully everything is exactly as we left it in 2018, just dusted.

All is now set and documentation and conservation work of funerary objects and primarily wooden coffins will start on Saturday – very grateful to the great support of everybody involved, especially the authorities in Cairo and here in Luxor, especially the local inspectorate.

Can’t wait to get fully occupied with our complex jigsaw puzzle, tracing the numerous people buried in the tomb of Ankh-Hor, TT 414, over several centuries!

Getting ready for the 2019 season

The end of 2018 is approaching; the next season in Asasif, Egypt is getting closer! We will be working in February and March and there are still lots of things to prepare.

On Friday this week, I managed to meet a large proportion of the team members for 2019 in Vienna. Since conservation work will be the main focus of the upcoming season, all of them are conservators or students of conservation.

In 2018, the conservation work of the Ankh-Hor Project was successfully started thanks to cooperation with the Austrian Archaeological Institute. Daniel Oberndorfer got a first general overview of the material and collected a lot of data for a future conservation programme considering the state of the objects from TT 414 and also their large number. I am really happy that Daniel managed to bring together a group of very enthusiastic conservators/students from the University of Applied Arts Vienna who will all work on the wooden objects, especially coffins from the tomb of Ankh-Hor.

I am already very much looking forward to the 2019 season! For now, Season’s Greetings to all involved or interested in the Ankh-Hor Project, we will be back with information on our current and upcoming work in the New Year.

 

End of 2018 season: summary and outlook

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Our first, quite short season just ended yesterday – the magazine in the Asasif is sealed and closed again, some of the team members are already back in Vienna and Munich, three of us arrived this afternoon in Cairo and will leave in the next days.

Altogether, the first season was very successful and all goals were achieved. The focus was on documenting coffins and other objects from the long use-life of TT 414. More than 80 drawings were produced by Patrizia and Mona, comprising small finds (mostly Ptolemaic faience shabtis with texts bearing the names of their owners), wooden objects including a beautiful Ptolemaic Ptah-Sokar-Osiris statue and pottery (complete pottery vessels and fragments, mostly Ptolemaic from the re-use of TT414, but also some Saite vessels from the original phase of use).

In addition to these drawing, 360 objects were photographed in very high resolution with a full-frame camera by Cajetan. These objects were primarily coffin fragments, fragments of wooden shrines and boxes and again shabtis. With these new photos suitable for publication, most of the objects are now fully documented.

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The conservation work was successfully started thanks to cooperation with the Austrian Archaeological Institute.  Daniel Oberndorfer joined the project in the field and managed to get a first general overview of the material, its needs and specifications to develop a program for cleaning and consolidation. Conservation work focused during the 2018 season on wooden objects, especially on coffins and fragments of shrines and wooden statuettes (Ptah-Sokar-Osiris figures). It mainly comprised of consolidation and mechanical cleaning.

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A total of 23 wooden and painted objects were successfully cleaned, consolidated and photographed. Drawings of some selected pieces are planned for the next season. With the data and experience from the 2018, a larger-scale conservation programme can be designed for the next years, considering the individual properties of the material from TT 414. Conservation work will be the main focus of the upcoming seasons.

Related to this, I managed to reorganize the magazine according to priorities. The majority of the material still to be studied is the large amount of coffins – more than 180 coffins within the magazine are currently entered in our database, several dozen are still missing.

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Besides sorting the material regarding their state of preservation and thus the need of consolidation as well as of scientific importance (datable pieces, pieces of well-known persons buried in TT 414 etc.), the focus of this working tasks of the 2018 season was to find matches between the fragments preliminary registered under “K-numbers”. This proved very time consuming, but also quite successful – 16 new matches to registered coffins from the “K-numbers” were achieved. Furthermore, four newly identified registered coffin fragments can be noted and five additional parts to fragmented coffins were documented.

The importance of this search for joints, which will continue in the next season, can be illustrated by the examples of a new fragment of coffin of the daughter of Ankh-Hor and a newly identified black-and-yellow style Ptolemaic coffin as the outer coffin of a singer with the name Ta-net-Geb. More new names were noted on various fragments and still have to be added to our genealogical data and processed in detail.

The rich prospective of the detailed work on the complete set of finds from TT 414 became very clear during the 2018 season. But, in order to achieve major results and to support preliminary ideas with further evidence, work must continue in the near future and is planned for a next season in spring 2019. Large amounts of coffins, fragments of coffins and cartonage from the Late Period to Ptolemaic and Roman times still remain to be cleaned, consolidated and restored – and will for sure bring to light more new information about the use of the tomb of Ankh-Hor throughout the ages.

Group picture 2018

My deep thanks go to all team members for their enthusiasm for the project and making 2018 a great season! The photo gallery gives some impressions of all the various tasks achieved and also of how much fun we had working on this really interesting set of diverse objects. Of course, work would not have been possible without the support of the Egyptian authorities and especially of the local inspectorate on the West Bank; I am very grateful to a number of people, first of all to our inspector Zeinab Mohammed Elsayed for enabling us to work according to the working programme.

Looking already much forward to come back to Asasif next year! Updates about our processing of the data collected in 2018 will of course follow.