Restoration

In 2004, a shelter was built around the superstructure of the tomb of Meryneith. The tomb itself was left as much as possible in the condition in which it was found. The relatively small overall size of the original mudbrick structure allowed the construction of a new fired brick enclosure around it, spanned by a primary structure of steel box girders. The new enclosure wall was built over a limestone rubble and lime mortar foundation, and was subsequently rendered with a lime mortar. Movement joints were provided in the structure, and the roof ‘zone' ventilated with narrow slots along the northern and southern perimeters. The roof was formed of composite ply boards over secondary joists, above which was laid a bituminous roll insulation and screed of white cement. All flashings and trims were of galvanized sheet metal. The choice of external finishes was principally made to blend in as much as possible with the colour-palette of the surrounding landscape. Directly above the peristyle courtyard of the tomb, a rectangular void was left open to the sky to give the interior similar lighting conditions to the original. A ‘dropped entablature' around the void suggested the missing superstructure of this courtyard. This void, and four other openings in the enclosure wall, was enclosed with a steel grille and mesh to prevent the entrance of both birds and people. At the request of the SCA, the underside of the roof was also clad in a varnished plywood, thus hiding the girders that supported the roof.

 

The degraded limestone surround to the central tomb shaft within the peristyle courtyard was partly replaced, together with some of the most deteriorated limestone floor slabs. The position of the missing limestone papyriform columns was indicated by hanging plumb-bobs from the roof on steel wires over the centres of the missing columns' bases. The most significant intervention was, however, the reinstatement of decorated relief fragments in the entrance passageway to the tomb and around the walls of the central courtyard and central chapel, wherever their location could be securely identified by the archaeologists. These limestone fragments were set into a new wall that followed the line of the original revetment. This wall was made of fired brick laid in lime mortar with a lime render finish, set back one inch from the face of the original wall. Each block was wrapped in a heavy gauge plastic sheet before being inserted into the matrix, which was cut away from the face after building works had been completed. This was to avoid as much as possible any transmission of water-borne salts into the reinstated fragments, many of which were in an unstable condition despite previous and repeated treatment by local conservators of the SCA with a paraloid solution.

The effect of the reinstatement of sections of the lining wall with inserted fragments was to create an impression of this surface of the tomb: a layer that had been largely lost in antiquity to those seeking conveniently cut stones for building. At the same time, it also had the practical benefit of shielding the soft base of the structural mudbrick walls of the tomb from further accidental damage by visitors, particularly at vulnerable corners. Also recreated in the same manner with plastered brick were the lost entrance door jambs, whose original emplacement could be traced in the keyed surface of the floor slabs beneath them.