Digging diary, week 3: 2 February - 8 February 2013


A Name for the Anonymous Tomb...

By Maarten Raven

The second week in the field has proved to be very successful indeed. We have been able to finish the first task we set ourselves this season: the full clearance of the underground part of the anonymous tomb found in 2010. As I wrote last week, the shaft proved to be 7.4 m deep, where it gives access to four chambers (one in the north and three in the south). All chambers have now been emptied by us, and today (Thursday 7th) the architectural recording and drawing of the substructure was started. Among the finds from here was a quantity of New Kingdom pottery, and our expert Barbara was soon able to confirm that these sherds join those found by us in 2010 over the chapels of the anonymous tomb (where they must have been thrown down by tomb-robbers). Inspired by this remark I checked the objects found in and around the anonymous tomb in former seasons, and managed to join a wonderful human face found in 2003 to a fragmentary canopic jar stopper removed from the underground sarcophagus pit only three days ago!

This join has important consequences. The human face belongs to a group of several fragments of a set of four canopic jars. One body sherd mentions the name Sethnakht, which also occurs on a set of faience shabtis found nearby, where the owner is said to be a scribe of the temple of Ptah. Thus it rather looks as if Sethnakht was one of the people buried in the anonymous tomb, and although he was not the original owner (he lived in the Ramesside period and the tomb appears to be older than that) we shall refer from now onwards to the anonymous tomb as that of Sethnakht. One of the reasons for clearing the substructure was the prospect of finding inscribed material allowing us to give the tomb a name, and we have now succeeded in this in a very indirect way!

Now all attention can at last be given to project number 2 on our list: the clearance of the new tomb situated to the south of that of Meryneith. We now see a large courtyard emerging from the sand, measuring about 9.5 x 9.5 m, with a wide entrance in the east and the doors to three chapels in the west. One wall already juts out of the sand to a height of almost 1.5 m, and we expect to hit the pavement really soon. But ... so far there are hardly any traces of remaining wall decoration (just two small blocks in the central chapel) and we have not yet found a name of the tomb-owner. We are afraid that the tomb has been heavily plundered in the early 19th century, and hope that we shall find some inscriptions giving us a clue as to who built this impressive complex.

In the meantime our team has grown in numbers: we welcomed our photographer Anneke and the archaeologist Nico on Friday, our anthropologist Ladislava on Saturday, and her colleagues Iwona and Frank on Sunday (Frank already left us on Wednesday). On Tuesday Daniela arrived, bringing with her the two replicas from the collections of the Bologna Museum which we shall install after about a week (they are temporarily on display in the Italian Institute in Cairo). Tomorrow our surveyor Annelies will rejoin us: she suddenly had to fly home last Friday because her father was dying, and arrived just in time to be present when he passed away. We send her our heartfelt condolences and admire her for returning to her duties in the desert.