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.

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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!

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.

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.

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!

Mr. Twt and his outer anthropoid coffin

As conservation work and documentation of coffins from TT 414 is well in progress, I am proud to introduce today one of the little known person buried in the tomb of Ankh-Hor.

We just finished documenting the fully consolidated outer anthropoid coffin of a male person with the name Twt. Unfortunately, we only know little about Mr. Twt and his coffin is very fragmented. No titles are preserved and his mother is unknown. Thankfully his father who was also buried in TT 414 is attested and allows connecting our person of interest with the offsprings of the wider family of Mwt-Min (see Budka, Mekis and Bruwier 2013). The genealogical data suggest a dating of the death and burial of Twt around 150 BCE, so in the mid-2nd century BCE.

Of Twt himself only his outer anthropoid coffin has survived, no other items of his burial equipment are known until today. His father, Djehwtj-jr-djs, was buried in a similar outer coffin in TT 414; for him, fragments of a colourfully painted inner coffin have also survived.

Both father and son used the well-known Ptolemaic coffin style of yellow and red decoration on black. Twt’s coffin, of which the left side, part of the feet and lower part have survived, shows some nice representations of gods and demons, mythological scenes and one particularly charming offering scene of the deceased in front of Osiris.

Detail of Twt’s coffin with the deceased before Osiris.

Although the chances could be higher, there is definitly hope that during the ongoing Ankh-Hor Project new data about little known Ptolemaic persons buried in TT 414 like Twt will be unearthed – I am personally convinced that some cartonage fragments will turn up within the large amounts of mid-to late Ptolemaic fragments which still need to be studied in detail. For now, documenting the only existing source for Twt in full detail is already an important step into the right direction.

Reference

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 & Levant 22/23, 2012/2013, 209–251.

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.

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.