Digging diary, week 18 february- 24 february 2012

The site is getting very quiet. The team of our architect Nicholas Warner has left, and the frenetic activity of last week at the site has ceased. The New Kingdom necropolis now looks fabulous. The damaged wooden shelters have been replaced, locks have been substituted, doors have been fixed and repainted. The damage caused by the robbers in the days following the revolution has been repaired and the site is now really ready to welcome the tourists. In the still unstable situation of post-revolutionary Egypt we do not see many visitors, but already a few interested tourists have found their way to the site.

We have finished compiling the inventory of the objects preserved in the different storerooms at the site. In order to have a complete list and to know where exactly are located all the artifacts retrieved in 35 years of archaeological activity in the necropolis, we are again working in the central storerooms beside the Imhotep museum. We are checking and repacking all the objects preserved here. It is a huge and challenging task. Our daily reward is to hold in our hands the wonderful material that was found as long ago as 1987-1988 during the excavations of the tomb of Maya.

The SCA restoration team has started another important and probably long lasting project. In 1985 the joint Anglo-Dutch expedition at Saqqara retrieved a cache of skeletal material, coffins and other funerary objects in the substructure of the tomb of Iurudef. The coffins have been thoroughly studied and published by Maarten Raven and restored by Henny van Winkel of the Leiden Museum. Almost 20 years later the coffins need to be consolidated, cleaned and restored. Ashraf, chief restorer at the Imhotep storerooms, will start working on one of them and we should be able to see the first results before the end of the season.

Final retouching on Raia's sarcophagus

Another group of restorers has been active at the site. The entire chapel of Tatia has been fixed and cleaned and it is now ready to be drawn by Dorothea Schulz, who will join our team next week. The sarcophagus of Raia has been cleaned and fixed, and even a very careful eye cannot detect the crack occurred when the lid was pushed back to its original position after having been shifted by the robbers. Rashaf and Mohammed have started working in the chapel of Khay. They are consolidating the plaster on the wall of the chapel of Khay I, found by the expedition in 1986.

Mohammed consolidating wall of Khays chapel

As we are rapidly approaching the end of the season our team is shrinking. Ladislava left us on Saturday, after completing an interesting study on several Coptic burials. Daniela concluded her first season at Saqqara and went back to Bologna last Wednesday. We will miss them! But in only one week we will also leave our beloved site, happy to know that all the restoration work has been completed and that the site can be enjoyed in its splendour by interested visitors.