Start of week 2 in Asasif

The second week of the 2019 season of the Ankh-Hor project started off very successful – first of all, our last recruitment arrived! Team member Hassan Ramadan finally came from Berlin last night, joined us this morning and immediately started with illustrating objects, today some nice Chiotic amphorae.

The other tasks also continued as planned – cleaning and consolidation of coffins from TT 414 as well as their photographic documentation. The current focus of conservation work is on a very interesting lower part of a wooden anthropoid coffin from the 26th Dynasty which was re-used in Ptolemaic times – I will explain more about this special piece here shortly.

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Summary of week 1 of the Ankh-Hor project

Time flies by as usual here in Luxor… Unbelievable that we opened our magazine and started the season already one week ago! Our first full week of work has now passed, we were very busy and also quite successful. We accomplished already a number of important tasks in week 1 of our 2019 season.

The main task this week was to set up the conservation programme – which worked out perfectly, thanks to the experience of Daniel Oberndorfer from last year and the enthusiastic conservators and students of conservation from the University of Applied Art in Vienna. The working places in our new luxury tent are well suitable, equipped with electricity and allow working on large boards of coffins.

The current focus of conservation is on Ptolemaic coffins – although I am already perfectly familiar with the rich variety of coffin styles from TT 414, this variability still amazes me. Our group of conservators was especially busy with two very common coffin styles, the black-yellow and black-yellow-red outer anthropoid coffins. They found some very nice new matches among the fragmented pieces, some of which could even be glued back together.

Examples of the more colourful Ptolemaic inner coffins were consolidated this week by our Egyptian colleague Iman Ibrahim Zaghlol.

I myself am still busy with re-organising the magazine, checking for joining pieces and sorting the objects according to priorities. Besides new additions to Roman coffins, one of the highlights is a new match to the foot part of a Ptolemaic coffin. It is the beautifully painted coffin of a female singer of Amun-Re with the name Iretru. More fragments of her coffin were already consolidated in 2008 and the new piece allows reconstructing the coffin further, especially once all the fragments will be cleaned.

Working picture of new joint to coffin Reg. 658

Another major task this season, like in 2018, is documenting the objects from TT 414 with our fullframe camera. Cajetan was busy this week photographing various groups of objects – mostly coffin fragments, but also shabtis, stelae fragments and wooden statues. The quality of these pictures is just amazing and perfectly suitable for publication! Mona helped with photography and also made some nice drawings of 26th Dynasty pottery from TT 414.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

All in all, I am very satisfied with the results of this first week and grateful to all team members including our Egyptian workmen – now we’re all off to a well-deserved weekend with some sightseeing in beautiful Luxor, work will continue on Saturday, much looking forward to this!

Researching the second heyday of burials in Asasif

The reuse of monumental Theban temple tombs of the 25th and 26th Dynasties located in the Asasif flourished especially during the 4th and 3rd centuries BCE – among others this can be well illustrated by the example of TT 414. The Ankh-Hor Project is currently focusing on this particular time of use which still poses a number of open questions, highly relevant for a better understanding of the history of the Theban necropolis.

Conservation work and documentation of coffins and other finds from TT 414 is well underway and we are making much progress. In the last days, the very nice coffin assemblage of the lady Asetemakhbjt was successfully consolidated – both her inner and fragments of her outer coffin are excellent examples illustrating the second phase of burial activity in TT 414 during the 4th-3rd centuries BCE (30th Dynasty to Early Ptolemaic) which is linked to a group of Amun priests of the temple of Karnak who were also involved in cults for the god Osiris. This holds true for the father and one of the brothers of our lady Asetemakhbjt who were also buried in TT 414.

Many thanks go here especially to the Austrian Archaeological Institute’s conservator Daniel Oberndorfer who will unfortunately already leave us tomorrow – but his short stay for the Ankh-Hor Project was very productive and of course conservation work will continue in the next weeks by the team of newcomers from the University of Applied Arts Vienna, supported by Iman Ibrahim Zaghlol from the local inspectorate.

Busy with documentation and conservation of finds from TT 414

Meanwhile, we finished our first full working day of the Ankh-Hor Project in 2019. All worked out perfectly, working spaces, tents and tables were set up and documentation and conservation commenced today.

The nice and very spacious tent allows our large team of conservators a comfortable shady working space protected from the wind. Cleaning and consolidating coffins from TT 414 started with important pieces dating to the 30th Dynasty, including one quite complete inner coffin which belonged to a lady with the name Asetemakhbjt.

Mona and Cajetan documented various objects today, including pottery and funerary cones as well as coffin fragments.

I myself started re-organising the magazine further, still hunting for joining pieces in our large jigsaw puzzle – and really found some already today: more pieces joining one of our Roman coffins, hurray.

All in all, the next weeks here in Asasif will be exciting and of course busy – the 2019 season of the Ankh-Hor Project really started off very promising!

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!

All set for the 2019 season

Teaching term in Munich just ended, MUAFS project just successfully post-processed – and now off to Cairo! All is set for the 2019 season of the Ankh-Hor project which will start in the upcoming week.

Conservation work will be the main focus of the 2019 season, again in cooperation with the Austrian Archaeological Institute (Daniel Oberndorfer) and also with a group of newcomers from the University of Applied Arts Vienna.

My team will of course also comprise archaeologists/Egyptologists – I am particularly happy that Cajetan Geiger and Mona Dietrich (both LMU) will be joining me again and this season we will be also strengthened by Hassan Ramadan, who just recently passed his PhD defensio at Humboldt University in Berlin.

The reunion with Hassan is something very special for me – we first met in 2007 in the Asasif when Hassan was appointed as my inspector. He helped us a lot this season and it was the start of a friendship. Since then, we have both got our first grey hairs, but also made big steps in our individual careers – and we stayed friends and became close colleagues exchanging ideas about the fascinating and complex use-life of the Theban necropolis – of which so many questions still need to be answered!

Hassan and me back in 2007 – much younger, but already intrigued by Theban funerary archaeology.

Very much looking forward to the 2019 season of the Ankh-Hor project and of course we’ll keep you posted about our findings!

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.

 

Summer break

Time flies by – summer and summer break have almost arrived in Munich, just 2 weeks more of classes, exams and meetings!

Much work has been done in the meantime on TT 414 – we are working in particular on the digitalisation of the documentation and of course continue with the database. I am in particular proud of Hassan Ramadan’s engagement in the project – with his great expertise in digitalisation, he also produced very nice new versions of the plans and sections of TT 414, and most recently also provided a preliminary 3D model of Ankh-Hor’s tomb.

Screenshot of 3D model of TT 414 by Hassan Ramadan Aglan.

This 3D model will be very useful to illustrate in the future the precise provenience of coffins, shabtis and other finds from the monumental structure and to plot coffins from specific family members/specific generations. I am very positive that this will help us to understand the complex use-life of TT 414 further!

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.

News about Merit-Neith, daughter of Ankh-Hor

So-called qrsw coffins – rectangular outer coffins resembling a shrine for a god – were probably introduced in the 25th Dynasty and were still common for elite burials in the 26th Dynasty. Several wooden, painted fragments were also found in TT 414 – although not of high quality, the qrsw coffin of Merit-Neith is of particular importance. Merit-Neith was the daughter of Ankh-Hor and is for now the only child we know for our Chief Steward of the Divine Adoratrice Nitocris who built TT 414 as a family tomb.

Sargfragment Merit-Neith

Fragment of qrsw coffin of Merit-Neith (Anch-Hor vol. II, fig. 75)

The tomb group of Merit-Neith was, as all 26th Dynasty burials in TT414, heavily looted. The side board of the qrsw coffin which is already published (Anch-Hor vol. II, 176, fig. 75) was found in the debris of room 1, thus very close to the entrance (or exit, from the perspective of a looter…). A fragmented Ptah-Sokar-Osiris-statue of Merit-Neith was unearthed in room 2, associated with Ptolemaic pottery, so definitely dumped there at a late stage of re-use of the tomb.

Plan TT 414 Budka 2010

Plan of TT 414 (after Bietak/Reiser Haslauer; from Budka 2010)

In general, we know that the original burial compartments of the late Twenty-sixth Dynasty were reachable via the rooms 7, 8 and 9 – the rooms located at the western end of the subterranean cultic rooms of TT 414 (Budka 2010, 57). Ankh-Hor as the tomb owner was buried in the main chamber accessible from room 7 – but where was his daughter once put to rest?

A possible indication for the location of Merit-Neith’s burial chamber might have come to light today in the magazine. While re-sorting some coffin fragments, I noted a small fragment from the vaulted lid of a qrsw coffin showing an ordinary kheker-frieze. The style of painting and the colours immediately reminded me of Reg. No. 377b, the fragment with the name of Merit-Neith already published in 1982.

zu Reg 377b

New fragment of a qrsw coffin from TT 414 – possibly belonging to Merit-Neith’s coffin?

Fortunately, we know the find position for this new piece: it was found together with other fragments of 26th Dynasty qrsw coffins in the shaft filling from room 8. Of course, one has to be very careful in using find positions of objects in heavy-looted tombs like TT 414 as clear indication of its original location – several objects were scattered and distributed throughout the tomb (Budka 2010, 53-57). But in this case it is just very tempting to suggest the original burial place of Merit-Neith, daughter of Ankh-Hor, at the base of the shaft from room 8, thus directly opposite of her father’s burial chamber. For now, the possible new joint to Merit-Neith’s qrsw coffin will be cleaned by Daniel Oberndorfer and the search for more fragments of the same piece will of course continue.

References

Anch-Hor vol. II = M. Bietak/E. Reiser-Haslauer, Das Grab des Anch-Hor, Obersthofmeister der Gottesgemahlin Nitokris, vol. II, Denkschriften der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften 7, Untersuchungen der Zweigstelle Kairo 5, Vienna 1982.

Budka 2010 = J. Budka, Varianz im Regelwerk. Bestattungsabläufe im Monumentalgrab von Anch-Hor, Obersthof­meister der Gottes­gemahlin Nitokris (TT 414), Egypt & the Levant 20, 2010, 49–66.