The Dutch mission 1999-present
With the dissolution of the partnership between the Egypt Exploration Society and the Leiden Museum (RMO) after the 1998 campaign, the latter decided to continue the project with a new partner. From 1999 onwards, the project is a joint venture between the RMO (Field Director: Maarten J. Raven) and the Department of Egyptology of Leiden University (Field Director until 2008: René van Walsem; from 2008: Harold M. Hays). One might well ask why we should want to continue our fieldwork in the area. After all, the original aim of the project, reclearing Maya's tomb, was already realised in 1988.
The answer to that question is that only now have we started to understand some of the underlying structures of this part of the Saqqara necropolis. Instead of quitting now that our original curiosity has been satisfied, we feel that we should continue to look for such patterns and structures, because it is these that defined the development of the area. Studying one monument in isolation may help to form us an idea about one official and his quest for eternity. Concentrating on the deeper structures of the necropolis will provide an insight into the workings of Egyptian civilisation as a whole. If we want to answer all the questions that still face us in this respect, we may well need yet another twenty-five years of work in the same area.
Aspects that are of special interest in this respect are:
- patterns of distribution:
how did the New Kingdom necropolis develop, from the first rock-cut tombs at the valley edge until the widely dispersed cemeteries south of the Unas causeway, north of the Teti pyramid and elsewhere?
- patterns of association:
what were the ties of profession, kinship, patronage or politics that determined the choice of a burial-ground and its proximity to older monuments?
- cultic considerations:
how long were the private offering cults continued, and to what extent was there a mixture of private, dynastic and divine cults?
- access and communication:
how was the necropolis as a whole organised from the point of view of traffic control?
- design and metrology:
how does the variation in layout relate to chronological evolution or social hierarchy, and which units of measurement and proportional schedules determined the design?
In order to obtain answers to these questions the RMO/UL mission plans to extend the excavations southwards and eastwards. As a first step, the south wall of the tomb of Horemheb was completely cleared during the 1999 and 2000 seasons. In the following year work started to the east of the tomb of Horemheb resulting in the discovery of the tomb of Meryneith (or Meryre), highpriest of the Aten (2001-2003). Seasons 2004-2006 were spent in explorations of Horemheb's hitherto unknown forecourt and First Pylon, and of the forecourt of his neighbour Tia. The two following years (2007-2008) were devoted to excavation of the tomb of the royal butler Ptahemwia, further east.