Digging diary, week 31 january - 2 february 2012


There we are again in Cairo, after an absence of two years due to the revolution in Egypt which made work in 2011 impossible. Field director Maarten Raven and his deputy Christian Greco arrived on the 31st, and the next day visited the offices of the Ministry of Antiquities in order to sign the contract for a continuation of our work at Saqqara. We were helped very efficiently by the new head of the department of foreign missions, and spent the rest of the day in talks with Kim Duistermaat, the director of the Dutch-Flemish Institute in Cairo (always our base while we are staying in Cairo), and with the architect Nicholas Warner, who has been responsible for the overall consolidation of our site over the past ten years. Bit by bit we received the news of everything that has happened here during (and after) the revolution, a process that is still going on and will take many more years to come to a new balance. Not all news is pleasant, and Egypt has clearly become a different country.

Inevitably the new conditions will also influence our own work, but we are optimistic that we shall be able to improve the situation at our site in Saqqara. We are all set to go there tomorrow and hope to start work in the field on the 6th of February. Today (2nd) we organized the expedition's finances and made some arrangements for our work at the Dutch-Flemish Institute on Fridays (the Egyptian equivalent of a weekend, but always spent by us studying in the Institute's library, answering work-related mails from home, and replenishing our kitchen and office equipment).

We were just joined by our pottery specialist Barbara Aston, freshly arrived from the States, and hope to greet our new team member Daniela Picchi from Bologna tomorrow evening at Saqqara. On Monday we expect the arrival of our anthropologist Ladislava Horáčková from Brno, and together with Nicholas that will be our whole team this year. Due to the unsettled security situation at Saqqara we have not received permission to excavate, and instead we shall restore the damages inflicted by the plunderers last year (Nicholas and his able team of a local contractor) and clear the mess in the pilfered magazines (Maarten, Christian, Barbara and Ladislava). Daniela will prepare the installation of two more replicas (one in the tomb of Horemheb, the other in that of Ptahemwia), taken after originals in her wonderful museum at Bologna. She also hopes to start a stylistic study of the New Kingdom reliefs in general, and those of Horemheb in particular. Altogether, it might become a very interesting and useful season in several respects, and we hope to keep you informed by means of our weekly bulletins.