Digging diary, week 4: 1 - 7 April 2017

For me, this is a week to say farewell. Not only because I am leaving for home on Friday, but also because this will be the end of my last (half) season as field director of the Saqqara Expedition. I am leaving in the conviction that the Expedition will have a glorious future in the very able hands of Christian Greco (who shares the directorship with me) and of Lara Weiss and Paolo Del Vesco, our deputies who are ready to take on the full responsibility of field directors now. I wish them well, and feel certain that the joint mission of the Leiden Museum and the Turin Museum will allow the Expedition to profit of the new insights and new technologies of this century, and will add substantially to our knowledge of the New Kingdom necropolis of Saqqara. The season is only half over, and I feel that the second half may bring the first of a series of fascinating new discoveries in this archaeologists' paradise.

Maarten Raven recording inscription at the tomb of Tia & Tia, ca. 1983


Indeed the work to the north of the tomb of Maya is making good progress and has now produced the first remains of New Kingdom tomb-chapels. There is still a lot of sand and rubble to be removed before we shall be able to determine what exactly has been found, but the first signs are promising. The large number of workmen ensures that we shall really be able to make a significant trench through what first looked like a giant hill of debris.

At the same time, work along the south edge of our concession is almost finished. We have been able to find and empty the shaft of the tomb of Samut (whose four-sided stela was discovered two years ago), we have obtained a better understanding of the various strata of rubble which accumulated in the surrounding area over the centuries, we have excavated a number of surface burials of the late New Kingdom and Third Intermediate Period (the latter enclosed in a brightly painted set of two coffins and provided with a bead net), and we found an interesting cache of embalmers' materials in five large jars.

Descending into the shaft 


The final jobs in this area are connected with restoration and consolidation. A large relief slab from the tomb of Tatia found two years ago at the bottom of a shaft is now being prepared for being put back in its original position on the walls. At the same time the mud-brick walls of the adjoining 'Tomb X' of an anonymous official are being consolidated with modern masonry, and the tomb is being refilled with sand and rubble in order to prevent further deterioration of its walls. Thus the site is full of activity, as it should be, and this a good moment to leave the work to a new generation.

Maarten Raven

Alice and Christian at work drawing a New Kingdom chapel