Digging diary, week 2: 26 January - 1 February 2013


The First Week

By Maarten Raven

Here we are at Saqqara again, grateful to have received permission to resume the actual excavations. We were of course unable to work during the 2011 revolution, and in 2012 the security situation at Saqqara was still not back to normal and we were only allowed to repair the damages done by plunderers the year before. But now we are finally able to continue where we left off in 2010, the last normal excavation season. In that year we uncovered an anonymous tomb to the south of that of Ptahemwia. We then merely cleared its superstructure, so that full excavation of the underground tomb-chambers was now high on our list of tasks.

The anonymous tomb found in 2010 Removing the windblown sand before excavation

The ceremony of opening the site last Saturday was remarkably smooth and efficient. We immediately set to work, and in the past week we have indeed been able to empty the tomb-shaft of the anonymous tomb to its full depth of 7.4 metres. There it gives access to a mummy niche in the north. There is also a square chamber in the south, which has a western annex with a sarcophagus-pit in the floor and another mummy niche to the south of that. Apart from the sand which came in from the shaft, all these chambers were practically empty. They have clearly been visited by robbers, because the slabs of limestone once blocking the doorways and closing the sarcophagus-pit were smashed and heaped on the floor. Some bones testify of the original presence of burials, and there is also a quantity of sherds of New Kingdom pottery. In the fill on the floors, we found several fragments of terracotta shabtis but practically nothing else. We hope to have the whole complex empty by the middle of next week.

Excavating the shaft of the anonymous tomb found in 2010 Clearing the south chamber

The second task we set ourselves this season was the clearance of a new tomb which is clearly situated to the south of the monument of Meryneith. After a week of gradually removing a hill of debris covering this area, today we finally saw a 10 metre long mud-brick wall emerging from the sand. This looks like the exterior north wall of the new tomb, but otherwise it is too early to be more specific about our discovery. Needless to say, we are looking forward to next week, which will probably bring us wall-reliefs, and - hopefully - inscriptions providing the name of the tomb-owner.

The hill south of Meryneith prior to excavation The hill after five days of excavation

So far, we have done the work with a small team of six: our pottery expert Barbara and her draughtswoman Lyla, our surveyor Annelies and her Egyptian colleague Wael (our former inspector during the 2010 season, whom we are very happy to welcome in our team again this year), the archaeologist Vincent (who is also the webmaster of the present site on which you read this news), and field director Maarten. We shall increase the size of our team tomorrow, when the photographer Anneke and archaeologist Nico will join us in Saqqara. We shall need them to help us with all the exciting work we expect in the coming week. Let us hope for good weather, without the awful rain which fell today and changed the desert sand into a sticky mud.