Polish Expedition

Supported by: Centre of Mediterranean Archaeology, Warsaw University

Director: Karol Myśliwiec

Area: West of Step Pyramid

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Painted reliefIn 1987, Karol Myśliwiec made three sondages to the west of the Step Pyramid enclosure wall, between the mastaba of Ptahhotep in the north and the unfinished pyramid of Sekhemkhet in the south. In 1996 he returned in order to start work at the most promising of these three sites. This Polish concesion is situated due west of Djoser's pyramid and to the east of the cluster of Old Kingdom tombs centred around the tomb of Ptahhotep and Akhethotep. Here he found another Old Kingdom cemetery, hidden under many metres of drift sand with a top layer of Ptolemaic and Roman Period burials. The cemetery in question consists of a number of rock-cut mastabas, surrounded by many shafts once belonging to poor mudbrick mastabas of which the superstructures have now disappeared. The most important mastaba belongs to Merefnebef, a hitherto unknown vizier of king Teti (early 6th Dynasty). The tomb is unfinished, perhaps due to the political trouble and the conspiracies which dominated the end of the reign of Teti. Even so is has a rich wall-decoration of beautiful paintings and painted reliefs with well-preserved colours. The expedition has taken great trouble to preserve the tomb and its decoration for posterity. The excavations have been extended to the west, where more rock-cut tombs were found on a hill situated beyond the dry moat which surrounds Djoser's enclosure wall, and to the east where a stretch of this panelled enclosure wall was exposed. Several puzzling structures next to and under this wall seem to date to the Early Dynastic period, and among the finds was also a fragment of one of Djoser's boundary stelae.