Digging diary, week 4: 9 February - 15 February 2013


Down to pavement level...

By Maarten Raven

The third week in the field has seen lots of activities and the site has changed beyond recognition. The new tomb has been cleared almost in its entirety, and we are finally down to pavement level. A proper limestone pavement lies only in the eastern entrance and in the central chapel, while the courtyard just has a floor of rubble and no trace of colonnades. In the middle of the courtyard lies a huge shaft with a beautifully made limestone rim with curved top. As usual, this rim had been topped with an odd assortment of limestone blocks by tomb-robbers, who used such dry-stone walls to keep out the sand while doing their ugly business in the underground tomb-chambers. On the one hand, the presence of such a wall is a bad sign because it shows that there will be hardly anything left downstairs. On the other hand, it is good, because such walls tend to contain all kinds of nice surprises, such as bits of inscriptions, reliefs, or architectural fragments taken from adjacent tombs. In this respect, the present wall was no exception, and our storage is suddenly full of interesting blocks, including one from the tomb of Tia.

The central chapel of the new tomb proved to contain no more than four relief slabs of its original decoration, and none betrays the identity of the tomb-owner. All we see are the usual offering-bearers, plus a tantalizing figure of the deceased which breaks off at knee-level. The strange thing about the new tomb is that is quite asymmetrical: there is no north chapel (and presumably a very large southern one), and accordingly the main axis has shifted considerably to the north. We think that the presence of the tomb of Pay immediately to the west may have forced the architect of the new tomb to design this unusual plan.

In the meantime, we started a sondage to the north of the tomb of Meryneith. In 2002, we discovered the presence of underground galleries dating to the Archaic Period under this tomb. In 2009 we found out that the original access to those galleries is a stairway which must emerge in daylight to the north of the tomb, and in 2010 we had ground radar exploration performed in order to verify the exact location of this mysterious tunnel. So now we have cut back part of the desert surface in order to find the entrance, but so far in vain. All we have is a late New Kingdom shaft, which goes down to a depth of 7.5 meters but manages to miss the rising corridor although the latter must be very close.

Tomorrow, our team member Ilona will be joining us in the hope that she can explore the Archaic stairway, but we shall probably have to disappoint her. Our anthropologist Ladislava is already leaving us after two weeks in the field, and her colleague Iwona left last Monday. On Saturday, we shall install the two replica brought by the Bologna Museum, and we put up two more information panels earlier this week. And so the season is gradually drawing to an end already, though we owe you two more digging diaries before it will be over.