French Institute Expedition

Supported by: Institut Français d'Archéologie Orientale (IFAO) Cairo

Director: Vassil Dobrev

Area: Saqqara South

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This project started out in 2000 as a comprehensive archaeological and topographical survey of the whole area between the New Kingdom necropolis in the north and the Pepi II cemetery in the south. The aim of the project was the production of a 1:2000 map based on thousands of GPS differential theodolite measurements. It is hoped that this survey will produce an answer to the question where to find the pyramids of at least four Old Kingdom monarchs which have so far escaped discovery.

From the third season onwards, excavations have been started on the promising hill of Tabbet el-Gesh which is situated to the north of the Pepi II/Merenre plateau. Here at least five mudbrick enclosures or courtyards have been located, each giving access to various funerary chapels and a number of tomb-shafts. Such groupings of private chapels were known as per-djet (house of eternity) and in this case they date to Dynasty 6 and the early First Intermediate Period. So far, a number of chapels has already been fully cleared and restored, including those of Haunefer, a lector priest of King Pepi I, and Khnumhotep. Haunefer's chapel stands out by the beauty of its painted reliefs whereas Khnumhotep's complex has produced no less than twelve attractive tomb statuettes.

Further underground research is planned for the future. The top layer of the hill, where many wooden coffins and mummies were found in strata of sand and pebbles, indicates that it also served as an important burial-place during the Late Period.