Digging diary, week February 24-March 2, 2012

As the season is drawing to an end, the wind howls around the dighouse and the temperatures drop to European values. For three days on end there is a sandstorm outside and we expect rain on top of that. We are lucky that the fieldwork is over and that we can spend most of the time indoors behind our computers, sorting out lists and registers and updating our notes. The workmen and restorers have been paid off and several members of our team have already left us. On Saturday 3 March the last three of us shall leave Saqqara for one night in Cairo, and then it is off to the airport.

The week started with final retouches being done to the chapel of Khay, found in 1985 and now in need of some restoration because the gypsum layer covering large areas of the inferior limestone reliefs is coming loose. Our able restorer Mohammed did a good job and the wall decoration has been preserved.

Christian and Maarten spent two days checking the records in the central magazine of the SCA and repacking all the finds from our expedition kept there (a task started last week and brought to completion on Sunday). We now have lists which enable us to know the whereabouts of every find of the years 1999-2010 in a matter of seconds. This means that finally we are also able to specify which objects were stolen during the looting of our site in January 2011 (the early days of the Egyptian revolution). Altogether, our losses amount to 84 shabtis and shabti fragments, 18 textiles, and a number of wooden objects, inscribed potsherds, amulets, and items of jewellery. The good thing is that all of these have been described, photographed, and in some cases even published. We also miss about 40 small relief fragments, which may have fallen out of our crates in the confusion of the looting.

In the meantime, our ceramicist Barbara has been frantically working to finish her notes on Coptic pottery, assisted by Lyla (who drew profiles) and Dorothea (who came on Saturday and mainly drew the decoration on the pots, but also recorded the fragments of relief added in the Tatia chapel). On Monday we had a visit from the committee which is preparing a Site Management Plan for Saqqara, and which paid us a great compliment on the condition of the site. And now we have to start packing, in order to be able to leave the house absolutely empty on Saturday, when we shall also close the site with a committee of SCA inspectors. It has been a productive season, which has laid a sound base for next year's fieldwork ... insha'allah!