Digging Diary Week 1 (3-8 January)

Week 1 (3-8 January)

Harold talks with the local inspectorIn order to make this season a little longer, we begin a bit earlier than usual. It will be quite a bit different season not only in length but also in logistics and operations, as you will see in forthcoming weeks. It's partly because of these differences that Maarten and I made it longer, and partly because of our planned scope of activities, which we think are quite ambitious.

On 3 January the team's advance party of 4 linked-up in Cairo: myself, Annelies (our new main surveyor), and Nicky and Irene (our two field assistants). The next day I signed the contract at the Supreme Council for Antiquities (SCA) and promised to return to Cairo for a meeting with Dr. Zahi Hawass, for whom the expedition hopes to find the bones of Queen Mutnodjmet. I also found out that the team's old friend Osama Es-Shimy had just been promoted to the position of General Director of Giza and Saqqara, and a new colleague, Ali Asfar, had been promoted to Osama's former place, Director of Saqqara.

'Beit Raven' is situated down hillThe next day the team departed to Saqqara and our new home, a ‘brand new' resthouse built at the foot of the desert escarpment. This is one of the major logistical differences. No longer do we stay in ‘Beit Emery'. Actually we are grateful to the SCA for requiring us to move - despite some tinges of nostalgia - since living at the old facility often seemed like camping in the outback. The modern facility will let us concentrate on work instead of survival. The tradeoff is cost: whereas Beit Emery was rent-free, the new resthouse is not. We are profoundly grateful to the Friends of Saqqara and to Arnold Jan Stuart and Vincent Verschoor for making this season possible by financing the unprecedented cost.

The resthouse was not quite ready when we arrived. No one had ever stayed in it before. We had a quick meeting with Osama, who had the building opened for us. Then we set to work inspecting its 7 rooms and unwrapping furniture from factory packing.
I also had a preliminary meeting at the SCA about our work.


The shafts of Horemheb and Meryneith had been openedThe next day began with a formal meeting with Ali Asfar about our work and the resthouse. Afterwards we went to the site to formally open it. We found that shafts in Horemheb and Meryneith had been opened (and left open) over the summer in Dr. Hawass's quest to find the bones of Mutnodjmet. Also our old site magazine had been demolished. That will lead to yet another modification to on-site procedures. After an inspection of site equipment, we went up to Beit Emery to find it wholly emptied, except for a room full of our household equipment. We brought it down to our new home.

On Thursday, 7 January, we finished unpacking, and I went to inspect the rest of the furniture and items our old friend Salah had thoughtfully removed from the old Beit Emery house for safekeeping. Tonight, 8 January, another team member joins us, Ana Tavares. And now we are ready to begin digging tomorrow.