Some aspects of the re-use of coffins in Ptolemaic Thebes

TT 414, the monumental tomb of Ankh-Hor, High Steward of the Divine Adoratrice Nitocris during the 26th Dynasty (6th century BCE), is one of the so-called temple tombs of the Late Period in Asasif with a temple-like superstructure and complex cultic rooms and halls.

Isometric plan TT 414

Within the current Ankh-Hor Project of LMU Munich we are focusing on the complete use-life of the tomb which lasted over centuries well into the Roman and Coptic periods. We also include the various ancient and more recent plundering phases of TT 414 which are well attested. One aspect is particularly noteworthy: TT 414 has the potential to serve as a case study to analyse various attitudes of later generations towards the original owners of Theban burial places. For example, several Late Period coffins had been found in the pillared hall of TT 414, thus not in their primary position within the burial chambers at the bottom of the various shafts, but within one of the cultic rooms or sanctuaries. In the entrance area to the pillared hall, a well preserved lower part of a coffin, Reg. No. 590, was discovered, seemingly out of place for a 26th Dynasty coffin.

Budka_Fig_7 neu

Location of Reg. No. 590 in Room 4 of TT 414 (after Budka 2010).

Already back in the 1970s, the excavators suspected that these coffins had just been re-used in the Ptolemaic period when people started to make use of the pillared hall as a burial place (in addition to the shafts). In 2009, I could confirm this by an exceptional in situ-find that came to light during the cleaning of the coffin Reg. No. 590 (Budka 2010): We discovered in the interior of this 26th Dynasty coffin for a man named Iret-her-rw, called Nes-ba-neb-djedet, an intact mummy label with a demotic docket (see Budka and Mekis 2017). This Ptolemaic mummy label identifies the mummy placed in this coffin as a man with the name Wah-ib-Re. Recently, I could trace together with my colleague Tamás Mekis a fragmentary cartonage in the Louvre (Louvre N 4603) which probably belongs to this person and must derive from TT 414 as well (Budka and Mekis 2017).

This allows tackling two important aspects:

1) The destroyed mummy placed in the coffin Reg. No. 590 illustrates the well-known fact that in the 19th century AD, Egyptian mummies were systematically damaged during the search for gilded parts, cartonages, amulets and other finds. Objects like the cartonage Louvre N 4603 came via antiquity dealers to large European museums. Like for Wah-ib-Re, it is therefore possible to find various objects from people buried in TT 414 in these museums (see, e.g. Budka, Mekis and Bruwier 2013).

2) The Ptolemaic mummy label found in the 26th Dynasty coffin in TT 414 attests to the re-use of wooden coffins from the original phase of use of monumental temple tombs like TT 414 some 300 years later. Whether this re-use had simply practical reasons and a financial motivation, or whether this recycling was also associated with a more complex set of meanings must remain open for now, providing a number of possible lines of further research.


Final cleaning of Reg. No. 590 is well in progress.

I am personally very delighted that this not only beautifully painted, but also intriguing coffin, Reg. No. 590, which already has had such a multifaceted biography, now entered another aspect of its life history: it is getting a last cleaning and consolidation in order to be transported to the main magazine here on the West Bank as final resting place.



Budka, Julia 2010.  Varianz im Regelwerk. Bestattungsabläufe im Monumentalgrab von Anch-Hor, Obersthofmeister der Gottesgemahlin Nitokris (TT 414), Ägypten & Levante 20, 49–66.

Budka, Julia, Tamás Mekis and Marie-Cécile Bruwier 2013. Re-use of Saite temple tombs in the Asasif during the early Ptolemaic time – the tomb group of Mw.t-Mnw from TT 414, Ägypten & Levante 22/23, 2012/2013, 209–251.

Budka, Julia and Mekis, Tamás 2017. The Family of Wah-ib-Re I (TT 414) from Thebes, Ägypten & Levante 27, 219‒240.

End of 2018 season: summary and outlook


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.

More shabtis & more coffin matches

Week 3 started not at all perfect – yesterday was a very sandy & windy day, work outside was almost impossible, so we had to concentrate on tasks within the magazine, especially the cleaning and consolidation of coffins and other wooden objects.

Today was much better regarding the weather and all were back at their tasks: drawing, photographing and studying objects from TT 414. There are still more faience shabtis which need drawings – and strangely they are now met with just a little less enthusiasm than last week ;).


Matching coffin fragments was again very successful – the jigsaw puzzle is getting more and more advanced. My personal highlight of today was the identification of a black-and-yellow style Ptolemaic coffin as the outer coffin of a singer with the name Ta-net-Geb. Until today, she was only known from the inner coffin of her son from TT 414 – now we can confirm that she was also buried in the tomb of Ankh-Hor, presumably with her husband Hor-Khonsu!

K07_219 Ta-nt-Geb

This enlarges not only our prosopographical data of people buried in TT 414, but is also relevant for questions of typologies and dating of Ptolemaic coffins. The next goal is now trying to find more matches to Ta-net-Geb’s coffin – the piece identified today is just a very small fragment from the lid of a once substantial anthropoid coffin. So much more to do with this simply amazing material from the tomb of Ankh-Hor!

Short summary of week 2

Week 2 of work on the finds from TT 414, the tomb of Ankh-Hor in Asasif, was just completed – it has been a very successful week with quite a number of tasks accomplished.


Drawing of pottery and small finds continued – besides faience vessels, shabtis and amulets from bead nets, Patrizia also made beautiful drawings of some peculiar wooden fragments (of which we are still discussing the precise function). Right now, she is busy with the numerous faience shabtis from the family of Pa-di-Amun-neb-nesut-tawy.


Mona worked primarily on Ptolemaic pottery from the “Lichthof” of Ankh-Hor – these pieces nicely illustrate the function of this part of TT 414 as offering place. Besides small offering cups and plates, fragments of so-called Hadra ware are notable.


Photographing various groups of objects was continued by Cajetan – with today, we started focusing on larger coffin fragments. Besides, all pieces already consolidated by Daniel are also documented with photos of our full frame camera. Cleaning and consolidation is progressing were well, focusing both on 26th Dynasty objects like the stela of Her-Aset and qrsw-coffins and on Ptolemaic objects like Ptah-Sokar-Osiris figures and of course various coffin fragments.


Furthermore, I am very happy that Philippe Martinez studied and photographed during this week the re-used New Kingdom blocks from the foundations of the Ramesses IV temple excavated by Manfred Bietak. Philippe kindly also documented small relief fragments from TT 414 stored in the magazine.


Re-organising the magazine is also making much progress – I’ve just ordered more wooden boxes for a new storage system according to priorities which will be developed further next week.

We’re now off to a well-deserved weekend, many thanks to all team members and looking much forward to Saturday!

Conservation work started on objects from TT 414

Thanks to the support of the Austrian Archaeological Institute, the institute’s conservator Daniel Oberndorfer joined us and started his work on the wooden objects from TT 414 today.

Large amounts of coffin fragments and other wooden objects are in urgent need of cleaning and also consolidation – for now, I have made a list of priorities for Daniel according to both significance of the object and its state of preservation. In focus are some 26th Dynasty coffin remains which have not yet been studied in detail, but foremost several Ptolemaic fragments because of their significance for reconstructing genealogies and family trees.

Some pieces are also highly significant of the history of exploration of TT 414: Daniel started working on the small fragment of the Ptolemaic stela of Heraset (Reg. 508). Bietak and Reiser-Haslauer noted already that it belongs to the larger part of stela BM EA 8457 which came via Henry Salt to London (Bietak/Reiser-Haslauer 1982, pl. 155; Budka 2010, 56).

Stele heraset

Like for so many other objects from TT 414, this example illustrates how much information can be gained from a joint puzzle of data deriving from both, material excavated by the Austrian Mission in TT 414 and objects currently kept in European museums originating from non-scientific work in the tomb during the 19th century (see Budka/Mekis 2017). For the identification of further objects in museums and collections as coming originally from TT 414, conservation work of the still unpublished material stored here in the Asasif is of prime importance in order to document all relevant pieces in full detail for future comparison.


Bietak/Reiser-Haslauer 1982 = M. Bietak/E. Reiser-Haslauer, Das Grab des Anch-Hor, vol. II, 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.

Budka/Mekis 2017 = J. Budka and T. Mekis, The Family of Wah-ib-Re I (TT 414) from Thebes, Egypt & the Levant 27, 219‒240.

Too many Pa-di-Amun-neb-nesut-tawys…

Yesterday and today, the focus of our current big jigsaw puzzle from TT 414 was not only on coffins, but also on shabtis. A small amount of shabtis from Ankh-Hor himself were found by Bietak and his team and is already published (Bietak and Reiser Haslauer 1982, pl. 97). Elfriede Reiser-Haslauer managed to locate many more Ankh-Hor shabtis throughout various collections and museums (Bietak and Reiser Haslauer 1982, pls. 98-116), attesting to the early phase of collecting objects from the tomb in the 19th century prior to its scientific excavation.

Equally well-known are the shabtis from the undisturbed burial of Wah-ib-Ra, datable to the 30th Dynasty and also already published (Bietak and Reiser Haslauer 1982, pl. 128).


But still unpublished until today is a very large number – several dozens – of faience shabtis with the name of Pa-di-Amun-neb-nesut-tawy. There are various sizes and different types of these blue- or green-glazed shabtis, but most are fragmented and only give part of the name. These shabtis were primarily found in the debris within the burial chamber of Ankh-Hor – which was reused by the Amun priest Pa-di-Amun-neb-nesut-tawy I in the 30th Dynasty. Followed by several generations of his family, and a good number of individuals with the same name (and titles)!


Eleven Pa-di-Amun-neb-nesut-tawys were listed by Elfriede Reiser-Haslauer in her genealogical register of people buried in TT 414. Two types of shabtis fortunately have a specific addition to the common title “divine father and prophet of Amun” – they mention the temple of Khonsw and can therefore be attributed to Pa-di-Amun-neb-nesut-tawy II.  For the other shabtis, though, it is almost impossible to reconstruct to which specific individual they once belonged. But work is still in progress: although there are far too many same-named persons who were all buried in TT 414, there is some hope that we will also attribute some of these numerous Ptolemaic faience shabtis in the near future by means of a typology and stylistic and palaeographic attributes.


Bietak and Reiser Haslauer 1982 = M. Bietak and E. Reiser-Haslauer, Das Grab des ‘Anch-Hor, Obersthofmeister der Gottesgemahlin Nitokris II, UZK 5, Vienna 1982.

End of week 1

Time flies by – the first week of our 2018 season just ended! It was very successful and comprised the opening of the magazine, cleaning, reorganizing and prioritizing objects to be studied. I’ve gone through all the pottery which still needs drawings; Mona has already completed a good number of these vessels from TT 414. Patrizia focused on shabtis and wooden objects, mostly from the Ptolemaic period.


For photographing, Cajetan finished coffin fragments, stelae and several small finds as well as some papyrus fragments. Photographing was in general quite a challenge – adapting not only to the outer circumstances like one very windy day, two quite hot days and the different light conditions according to day time etc., but of course first of all to the different properties and sizes of the objects. Cajetan was, as always, very creative and used a number of equipment I would never have dreamed of being useful for photographing ;-)!


I am still busy sorting through the large number of coffins, trying to find joints on one hand and setting a task list for consolidation, drawing and photographing on the other. Just perfect timing for the weekend was that I relocated today a small fragment of the beautiful Ptolemaic coffin of Ta-remetj-Bastet – giving much hope that we will be able to identify most of the pieces still missing on our lists.

The next week will see the arrival of new team members and will thus enlarge our scope a bit further. Of prime importance will be the start of the conservation work thanks to the cooperation with the Austrian Archaeological Institute.

A complex jigsaw puzzle

We’re making very good progress with documenting the objects from TT 414. After the general cleaning at the beginning, we are now focusing on wooden objects and here in particular on coffin fragments. More than 200 coffins/coffin fragments were registered during work in TT 414. Some of them are in very good state of preservation, but the majority urgently needs consolidation.

Seminal work on the coffins from TT 414 was conducted in the 1970s by Elfriede Reiser-Haslauer who registered all the coffins and documented the texts and decorative programmes (see Reiser-Haslauer 1982). However, it goes without saying how much effort this meant during excavation, with new pieces coming in and various tasks at one time. The Austrian team did a great job back then, but at that moment detailed studies and especially the cleaning and consolidation of the coffins were not possible.

This is where our project steps in – aiming for a reconstruction of the phases of use of TT 414 and its burials, we now focus on details and a revised prosopographical study (cf. Budka/Mekis/Bruwier 2013; Budka/Mekis 2017). At this stage, quite a number of registered coffins are still scattered within the magazine, without indication of find location or find number – the big challenge is therefore reconstructing all joining pieces for one object and identifiying small fragments. Some joints were also not noted back in the 1970s, simply because of the large amounts of finds.


Today, we can built upon the original documentation and photos by the Austrian mission – also small fragments can be identified, although it is quite a time-consuming task requiring sometimes luck and of course always patience. With two new joints of important pieces today, I am really satisfied!

Our work resembles a big and quite complex jigsaw puzzle – but all efforts are definitely worth it, not only because of the high quality of the pieces and their significance for contextualising funerary customs in Late Period and Ptolemaic Thebes, but also because previous work in the magazine has shown that unexpected finds might show up during consolidation work – Book of the Dead papyri and mummy labels were found in the study seasons 2007-2009 (see Budka 2010). The material from TT 414 definitely still holds much potential for surprises!


Budka, Julia and Tamás Mekis 2017. The Family of Wah-ib-Re I (TT 414) from Thebes, Egypt & the Levant 27, 219‒240.

Budka, Julia, Tamás Mekis and Marie-Cécile Bruwier 2013. Re-use of Saite temple tombs in the Asasif during the early Ptolemaic time – the tomb group of Mw.t-Mnw from TT 414, Egypt & the Levant 22/23, 2012/2013, 209–251.

Budka, Julia 2010. Ankh-Hor Revisited: Study, Documentation and Publication of Forgotten Finds from the Asasif/Thebes, in: Fifth Central European Conference of Egyptologists. Egypt 2009: Perspectives of Research, Pułtusk 2009, ed. by J. Popielska and J. Iwaszczuk, Acta Archaeologica Pułtuskiensia, Pułtusk, 23–31.

Reiser-Haslauer, Elfriede 1982. IX. Genealogisches Register, in: Manfred Bietak und Elfriede Reiser-Haslauer, Das Grab des ‘Anch-Hor, Obersthofmeister der Gottesgemahlin Nitokris II, UZK 5, Vienna, 267–284.

Start of 2018 Season

Today we reopened the Middle Kingdom saff tomb which serves as magazine for the finds from TT 414, the tomb of Ankh-Hor and started our 2018 season!

The tasks for today were mainly cleaning and dust removal – nine years have passed since the last opening and this clearly left some marks – also on us, I really really needed a shower afterwards…

Thanks to the support of the local authorities and our workmen, we started very well into the new season – the first objects from TT 414 were already drawn by Mona and Patrizia and also photographed by Cajetan!


The goal for the first week will be re-organizing the magazine into categories of priority – with hundreds of objects waiting for us, we will not be able to study and document all of them. The focus will be on coffins and cartonnage fragments, dating from the Saite Period to Roman times.