Digging diary, week 1: 22 January - 26 January 2013

The Start of a New Season

By Vincent Oeters

After leaving the cold and snowy Netherlands, field director Maarten, surveyor Annelies and archaeologist Vincent arrived first in Cairo. Shortly after, our pottery specialist Barbara arrived and joined us. Other team members will start to arrive from the 1st of February onwards. As always preparations and arrangements had to be made in Cairo before taking off to Saqqara. While our field director visited the offices of the Ministry of State for Antiquities in order to sign the contract, Annelies and Vincent went to the Sokkia office to deliver the Total Station for calibration. The next day we received the permission for our planned season and also the Total Station was ready to be picked up. We were set to go to Saqqara!

Our surveyor Annelies Bleeker delivers the Total Station for calibration The first part of the team is taking off to Saqqara

Like the last two seasons we are staying in one of the dighouses designed by the Antiquities organization and nicknamed by us 'Beit Raven', where we start to feel more home every season.

Amad and Amr help Barbara to carry some heavy luggage Beit Raven, still standing after the revolution

Atef, Amr and Amad (our household staff) gave us a warm welcome and we were glad to find out that the house was kept in a perfect state. After dropping all the luggage, the four of us went to meet Kamal Wahid, director of Saqqara for signing the papers. Next, we went to our storage and decided which equipment to take and which not. We met the head of our workmen, his son and some of our workers and after drinking a cup of tea we drove back to the dighouse followed by a fully loaded pickup truck.

Deciding what to take and what not in our storage Fully loaded pickup truck with workman Hassam

Although we were now ready to excavate we could not start working in the field yet due to the celebration of the Birthday of the Prophet on Thursday which was followed by Friday, the Egyptian equivalent of a weekend. These two days off gave us the opportunity to walk in the desert and visit a couple of monuments as well as a bit rest before the actual digging would start.

On Saturday we went to the site together with Mohammed Yousuf, responsible of Saqqara south, and Azmy Salama, our inspector for this season. Together all tombs and magazines were inspected and fortunately everything was exactly as we left it last year.

Field director Maarten discusses the plans for this season with the chief of the area and our inspector Our inspector Azmy opens the central chapel of the tomb of Pay and Raia for inspection

In the field our Egyptian colleague Wael Fathi Morsy joined the team, who was our inspector in 2010 when the anonymous tomb was found. This year our surveyors will be assisted for two weeks by Mohammed Fathi. The three set up the Total Station in order to place a grid for our excavation trench. Meanwhile the workmen removed the windblown sand from the court and cleaned the aperture of the shaft of the anonymous tomb.

Tomorrow we will finally start digging after an unwanted break of two years caused by the revolution of 25th January 2011. We will start to clear the area situated between the chapel of Tatia and the tomb of Pay, and to the south of the tomb of Meryneith. Also, we want to make a start in the excavation of the shaft of the anonymous tomb so it will be an exciting first day of digging! Next week we will inform you about our first finds from the sand...

Annelies, Wael and Mohammed set up the Total Station The three surveyors place rods to mark the grid