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.

Advertisements

Summary of week 3 of the Ankh-Hor project

The end of our 2019 field season is rapidly approaching – the last team members will be leaving tomorrow, I will have some more days to organize the magazine and for last minute photography.

The remaining members of the Ankh-Hor Project team this week.

Like in week 1 and week 2, the main tasks this week were the cleaning and consolidation of Ptolemaic coffins from TT 414. Since most of the group of conservators already left earlier this week, Stefanie and Victoria focused on different pieces, with a large side board of a nicely painted coffin from the shaft of room 10 as one of the highlights.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Most importantly, we succeeded in transporting four boxes with five coffins from the tomb of Ankh-Hor to the study magazine here on the West Bank.

This allows me to re-organise our tomb magazine further; urgently needed space for more coffin fragments to be consolidated and studied is now available.

While I documented the newly consolidated coffin fragments with photos, Mona and Hassan were busy drawing pottery fragments and small finds. Hassan documented in particular wooden objects like lids of shrines and fragments of Ptah-Sokar-Osiris statues. Mona was also working on some nice Middle Kingdom pottery – both from Tomb I, the saff tomb functioning as our magazine at the site, and from 12th Dynasty shaft tombs excavated in the 1970s.

The final phase of our 2019 season has already begun, I will be busy writing the report over the weekend and I am much looking forward to the last days of work next week.

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!

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.

IMG_3688

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.

 

References

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.

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

IMG_1811

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.

IMG_1791

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.

IMG_1799

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.

IMG-20180328-WA0000

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.