Digging diary, week 2: 9 - 15 May 2015


The Second Week

By Lara Weiss

During our second week we finished clearing the shaft of tomb X and entered the underlying chambers. The burial chamber previously inspected in 2002 was interesting to see because it appeared that the three wall niches were actually framed like little chapels. The northern niche has traces of soot so it appears that it may have contained a lamp. From the staircase above the burial chamber robbers dug a hole into a late period tomb. We decided not to excavate the late period tomb because it would be too dangerous to excavate it from below, and we do not yet know where the shaft is located. Maybe this is something for future consideration. Christian and I inspected this tomb together with our inspector Ashur. We felt a little bit like 19th century explorers in a chamber filled with sand up to about 40 cm from the ceiling laying on our bellies between all the bones.

Excavations in Tomb X, i.e. the New Kingdom, not the Late Period burial chamber, further yielded a significant quantity of human remains, which were scrutinized by our new anthropologist Sarah Inskip. Unfortunately due to the disturbed nature of the tomb none of the burials were intact or articulated. Regardless it is still possible to say that the tomb contained the remains of individuals of all ages including an infant, 2 four to six year old children, 2 large young adult males, a small female and an older adult male. Evidence for mummification was also identified. Work will now continue to quantify the rest of the remains and describe any pathologies and traits.

The courtyard of tomb X contains two pottery deposits which were probably used to discard offering pottery used in the chapel. The northern deposit revealed several nice blue painted New Kingdom vessels. The southern deposit shows a strange feature: at some point somebody had dug a hole into the deposit, which we cleared and checked for a possible child burial. Unfortunately no such burial existed. Instead it appeared that someone had dug a hole hoping to find some treasures, which we know today would not be expected there except for nice pottery shards as our pottery specialist Barbara Aston might say.

Nicholas Warner finished work consolidating the walls of the tomb of Sethnakht so we could continue with the backfilling of the tomb. This turns out to be a very convenient spot for discarding sand for in the present excavation area a new shaft turned up, which is thus situated in between the shaft of tomb X and the tomb of Tatia. Before clearing this new shaft the sand around it had to be moved because it would be unsafe to have sand and rubble rolling down into the shaft from above. The clearing of this area revealed one of the most enigmatic finds in years of excavation at Saqqara, namely a large (ca. 1 m high) limestone falcon statue with a kneeling king between its legs. Such a statue is rather unusual in a private tomb, although some parallels of divine statuary (cows and bulls) are known from other private tombs.

Excavations are, however, not always only about work. Yesterday we organized a surprise party for one of our field directors, Maarten Raven, to celebrate him having worked at Saqqara for 40 years. Although he has skipped a few seasons he is always very closely engaged with Saqqara, we could go as far as to say that he has studied every single stone there. To enhance the festive atmosphere we invited our neighbours the Czechs, who are working in Abusir under the guidance of Miroslav Barta from Prague, and we spent a very pleasant evening together.