Pisa University Expedition

Supported by: Pisa University and Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Director: Edda Bresciani

Area: Saqqara-North

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The commitment of Pisa University with Saqqara started in 1972 with the study and publication of one of the three ‘Persian tombs' situated to the south of the Unas pyramid and in fact belonging to high officials of the reign of Pharaoh Amasis (26th Dynasty). The tombs belong to the overseer of cargo ships Tjaennehebu, the physician Psamtik and the overseer of weavers Padinaset. They have the shape of very deep shafts leading to vaulted tomb-chambers which comprise limestone reliefs and inscriptions. The expedition also studied the finds made in these chambers by the original excavator in 1900, Alessandro Barsanti. In 1974 the expedition moved its activities to the escarpment of the Saqqara plateau, due east of the Step Pyramid. Here they worked for years on the clearance, consolidation and epigraphy of several rock-cut tombs dating to the Late Period, including those of Bakenrenef (vizier of Psammetichus I) and Padineith (vizier of Nectanebo I). Although these tombs had been partly accessible to early travellers in the 19th century, their full extent had never been explored before. The tombs consist of vast labyrinths of pillared halls, side-rooms and shafts on several levels, several of which comprise reliefs and inscriptions. Lately, the expedition has broadened its objectives by aiming at the production of a risk map of the whole north part of the Saqqara plateau, an informative system helping in the management and protection of the cultural heritage present in all its 600 monuments. This has already led to the production of a first publication and will be implemented in the future by various techniques for remote sensing in order to enable a day-to-day supervision of the whole area.