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August, 2013

Recent Activities in South Asasif Part 2

Our incredible Reis Mohamed Ali El Ayat and the most skilful workmen of his team continue with the excavation of the court of the tomb of Karabasken. Years of experience help them to do a highly professional job and treat every find with skill and care. Behind the Reis are Said El Adly, El Hadj Ahmed and Mustafa Abu Gad. IMG_5281

The Project’s conservation team has been working on the reconstruction of the west and south walls of the Second Pillared Hall since the beginning of the season. They have achieved remarkable results in reconstructing the offering scene on the south wall and BD 15h, 50 and the False Door on the west wall. Their professionalism and hard work bring every reconstruction conceived on paper to a fast and superb realization. Standing in front of the west wall are  (from left to right) El Taib Hassan Ibrahim, Taib Said, Mohamed Abu Hakem, Hassan Dimerdash, Abd El Razik Mohamed Ali, Abd El Hady Taib, Mohamed Badawi, Ali Hassan Ibrahim,. Not on the photo: Said Ali Hassan, Mohamed Shebib, Saleh Selim and stonecutters Hussein Mohamed Hassan Mohamedin, Ahmed Badawi, Ahmed Ali Gassab, Mohamed Bedawi Gabbar.

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Dieter Eigner joined the team today to continue the work on the plan of the tomb of Karakhmun. He is finishing mapping the open court, a task started last year, and will continue with the entrance area including the remains of a mud brick superstructure found this season.

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Today is the last day for Kath Slinger. We are sorry to lose such a hard-working and charming team member. Kath did a lot of work on the registration of stone fragments and field supervision in the court. Today she brought soda and cakes for all the team members and the whole site had a chance to wish her a safe trip home.

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Patricia Maison looks particularly happy working on the Project’s databases. Patricia has been with us for years, coming back two or three times during a season. The Project is very lucky to have such a skilful and dedicated team member.

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Recent Activities in South Asasif Part 1

The team of the South Asasif Conservation Project is continuing work in several areas of the site. Excavation work at the entrance area of the tomb of Karakhamun has revealed the foundations of one of the pylons and enclosure wall of the tomb. John Billman and Hassan Mohamed Ali are supervising the work and recording the results.

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Erhart Graefe is working on the identification of the fragments of the Stundenritual texts to prepare the reconstruction of the northern pillars of the First Pillared Hall. The necessity to   sort thousands of fragments does not  make the task easy.

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Katherine Blakeney is always ready to climb any mountain or block of limestone to find a good camera angle.

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Here is John Billman multitasking again and spending his break registering newly found pieces of cartonnage.

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More tomorrow on the rest of the team.

Reconstruction Work in the Second Pillared Hall of Karakhamun

One of the primary aims of the 2013 season is the reconstruction of the western wall of the Second Pillared Hall of the tomb of Karakhamun. Aside from the false door, the western wall and its two connecting pilasters are decorated with chapters of the Book of the Dead. While only the lower courses remain, enough hieroglyphs are preserved in-situ to allow for an identification of the texts (fig. 1). Once the texts have been identified, the challenge of searching through the many thousands of stone fragments begins in earnest. Texts that are being worked on are arranged on the ground. The conservators and epigraphers sometimes have to go through hundreds of shelves and boxes in search of any joins to the texts.

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South-western section of the wall at the end of the 2011 season.

The south-western section of the wall is decorated with Chapter 15h and 75 of the Book of the Dead, separated by a statue of Karakhamun as Osiris. Chapter 15h is a hymn to the setting sun, which explains the choice of the tomb designers in placing this text on the western wall. So far, over 50 fragments belonging to Chapter 15h have been identified, including a beautiful vignette of Karakhamun kneeling before the enthroned Re-Horakhty. As well as being reconstructed on the ground, the fragments are also reconstructed digitally, using photoshop (fig 2). This allows for the exact position of the fragments to be determined, thus facilitating the actual reconstruction on the wall of the tomb. Chapter 75 is less well preserved at present although, just recently, a number of important joins were made that connect the south-western section of the wall with the pilaster (fig 3).

Fig. 2. Photoshop reconstruction of Chapter 15h.

Fig. 2. Photoshop reconstruction of Chapter 15h.

Fig. 3 Recent join to the corner of the south-western wall and the pilaster.

Fig. 3 Recent join to the corner of the south-western wall and the pilaster.

The south-western pilaster is inscribed with chapters 50, 57, and 91 of the Book of the Dead. While Chapter 57 (south face) contains few fragments, over 50% of the texts from both Chapter 50 (east face) and 91 (north face) have been identified. Additionally, almost the entire vignette of Chapter 50 has been preserved, depicting Karakhamun striding out of the tomb while his ba-bird and the benu-bird are perched beside the representation of the tomb entrance (fig. 4). Chapter 50 is particularly common in the tombs of the Late Period (Harwa, Pabasa, Sheshonq, Padihorresnet, and Ankhhor) and it is thus possible to compare the writing in the tomb of Karakhamun with these slightly later examples.

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Figure 4: Vignette of Chapter 50.

The tomb of Karakhamun continues to surprise us. When excavations of the tomb started in 2006 it was unknown how much of it had been preserved. It is now known that almost 60 separate chapters of the Book of the Dead were inscribed on the walls of the tomb. The tomb of Karakhamun clearly has a major role to play in our understanding of the evolution of the Late Period Theban tombs, both architecturally and textually.

-by Kenneth Griffin

 

July, 2013

Reunification in the Carter House Magazine

This year the project received permission not simply to work onsite but also in the MSA storage magazines adjacent to Carter’s house.  This large magazine complex stores objects from west bank missions going back decades, and of course a range of the most important objects from the South Asasif Conservation Project dating as far back as the first season in 2006.   Over a period of eight elapsed days in the magazine Dr Elena Pischikova and John Billman have been carrying out a range of study and practical tasks including some re-photography in the light of improved digital photographic capabilities.

The large number of artefacts and long duration of the project means that cross-year connections are not always apparent at the time of discovery.  Re-assessment of a corpus of objects as a whole thus adds significantly to what may have been understood originally.

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In 2006 half of a wooden funerary mask was discovered.  Most likely a separately manufactured piece from an anthropomorphic sarcophagus the face displays traces of yellow paint, with black paint around the eyes, and can be expected to derive from one of the many later secondary burials in the tomb of Karakhamun.

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Three years later in 2009 a separate registration was recorded of half a wooden mask, while not in quite such good condition this also displays traces of yellow paint and black paint around the eyes.

It was during the final morning in the magazine that suddenly Elena made the connection, bringing out both pieces from their respective boxes at once it was immediately obvious that they join, and despite the three years separating their discovery we have the two halves of the same mask.

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For now the reunification remains a virtual one, something we hope to correct in the not too distant future.  The South Asasif Conservation Project would like to thank the Egyptian MSA and storage inspectors for facilitating study this season in the storage magazine.

-by John Billman

 

June, 2013

Our Work On the 30th of June

As we expected we have had a peaceful and productive day at the site.

We continued our conservation and reconstruction work in the tomb of Karakhamun,

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clearing and recording in the Tomb of Karabasken,

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and the ceiling reconstruction project in the Tomb of Karakhamun.

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This is a group photograph of our Egyptian, American, British, and German mission members who worked at the site today. Special thanks to all of them!

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Work Continues As Usual

We want to let our friends and supporters know that the South Asasif Conservation Project remains open tomorrow, and work will continue as usual. Most of our American, British, and Egyptian mission members will be at the site. We are looking forward to another productive day. We are grateful to the local authorities for their support.

Watch for our next post tomorrow where we will tell you more about what we’ve been doing lately.

Karakhamun’s Burial Chamber

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On May 30th we started this year’s activities in the burial chamber, with the continuation of the reconstruction of the astronomical ceiling and the vignette of BD125 on the walls . This is the third season of this work. Last year we consolidated and placed all the sizable fragments of painted plaster and limestone found during the excavations in summer 2011. This year our task is to identify and place smaller and less recognizable fragments.

For the moment, these activities are being undertaken by Abd el Razzik Mohammed Ali as senior conservator, Abd el Hady Tayb Mahmud as restorer –and skilful identifier of the fallen fragments original placement– and Miguel Á. Molinero as epigrapher.

The knowledge we acquired last year about the process of realization of the chamber, the spatial organisation of the decoration and the final execution of the Netherworld scene and celestial diagram is now a fundamental guide for the continuation of our work.

The first task of last season was the classification of fragments into categories, after the sector of the decoration to which they belonged. Yellow background, big black hieroglyphs: horizontal inscription; yellow background, small signs: negative confession columns; solid green or red colour sometimes with solid black or yellow details: gods presiding over the trial of Karakhamun; any combination of different colours absent from judges and ceiling: weighting of the heart scene; brilliant blue: any half of the sky and therefore, the ceiling; yellow colour and thick black silhouette: the goddess Nut crossing the firmament; and so forth. In the tomb of Irtieru, our base of operations for work related to the burial chamber, the fragments have been awaiting this new season.

Now, we take down only the fragments that are expected to fit into the reconstruction of the sector we want to work on. We have begun with the most deteriorated zone from which we expect the greatest novelties: the North-East corner of the ceiling. The figures represented here are still insufficiently studied, and in Egyptological literature they are known generically, as “assistant deities”. They are the figures that, on the ceiling in Senenmut, appear under the segmented circles. Last year we had already partially reconstructed five figures on the working table and they were relocated to their original placement at the end of the season. We are also counting on an additional clue: we know that the fragments that remain to be placed in this area have a difference from those of the rest of the ceiling. When the chamber was being carved, an unknown incident – the accidental fall of a block of stone, or a miscalculation of the required height by the artisans -  resulted in the creation of a recess that had to be filled with plaster to smooth its surface and bring it level with the rest of the ceiling. Knowing that the thickest sky blocks can only come from this sector has enabled us to focus on them and to advance forward in its reconstruction.

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In addition to incorporating some fragments into the figures we already knew, we have begun to recognize the characteristics of the deities that were missing. We have started to read the hieroglyphic signs of the labels over the first gods, and we are now certain that the sixth figure wears a male kilt, although we would have expected a long female skirt. The last male deity holds an object in his hand not seen in other Late Period tombs, although it appears in coffins and sarcophagi.

- by Miguel Á. Molinero

 

May, 2013

False Doors

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One of the goals of the 2013 season is the reconstruction of the false door in the tomb of Karakhamun. This photograph from 2012 shows the remains of the false door in situ and some elements found during the excavation of the court. Only from 10 to 30 cm of the structure, the 12 cm base of the central statue and the feet of Osiris were found in situ in 2011. Yet this small section provides information on the width and the overall configuration  of the door. The known height of the central aisle and found fragments of various architectural elements allowed to calculate the dimensions of most of the sections of the door. The reconstruction was enhanced in 2013 and now includes around 100 blocks. It is in its finishing state in a sandbox.  Most of the fragments are direct joins which helps to reimagine the door. We rely on numerous examples of corresponding structures in the tombs of the North Asasif to confirm our suggestions but in some cases the found joins contradict known patterns and demonstrate the unique features of Karakhmun’s door. We receive the most “assistance” from the immediate neighbors of Karakhamun in the South Asasif necropolis.

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The false door of Karabasken is in a ruined condition but the remaining outlines allow to reconstruct its proportions. The false door of Irtieru (see photo) was influenced by Karakahmun, which is obvious from its architecture and decoration. All three doors share a similar proportional relationship of major architectural elements. The obvious connection between these three tombs provides numerous clues for the reconstruction of  Karakhamun, the most ruined tomb in the necropolis. The photograph below shows two of the Project’s conservators fixing the first fragment of the false door a slab of new limestone. A newly built limestone frame will support the growing structure and the statue of Osiris. 

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Our Visitors

We’ve had another busy week in the South Asasif with conservation, excavation and registration all proceeding in parallel.  In addition this week we’ve had a chance to share our passion by hosting a number of delegations of fellow Egyptologists at the site.

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On Tuesday morning we had a really friendly visit from our neighbours, the team of Andrew Bednarski, Assistant to the Director for Special Projects, from the local American Research Center in Egypt (ARCE).

Later the same morning we received another group of fellow archaeologists led by Salah ElMasekh Akmed. It was wonderful to be able to repay the hospitality shown to us by Salah and his team when we visited his excavations at Karnak as part of the Thebes in the First Millennium conference organized by the project last October.

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On Wednesday we received our third major visit of the week, this time from the ARCE field school currently running.  Dividing the group into three sub-groups, Elena Pischikova, Katherine Blakeney and John Billman all conducted tours in parallel.

With all groups we get to see the project and its work through new eyes and share the enthusiasm that the necropolis inspires when you see it for the first time.

- by John Billman

Week 2

The team of the South Asasif Conservation Project is continuing reconstruction and conservation work in different parts of the tomb of Karakhamun. This year’s work will mainly concentrate on the decoration of the Second Pillared Hall, the Burial chamber and the Vestibule.

The work in the Second Pillared Hall, which collapsed almost completely, started with positioning metal rods in strategic points of the hall to support the structure of the walls and pillars of the room. The photograph shows our senior conservator Ali Hassan Ibrahim and his colleagues measuring the points for the rods.

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The work continued with cutting slabs of limestone and positioning them along the walls of the Second Pillared Hall to support the remaining fragments of the original decoration. The newly cut limestone blocks  are delivered to the tomb from the top of the open court with the help of a winch fixed on a “tower” built by our reis Mohamed Ali (see photo). The photographs also show the conservators Ali Hassan and Hassan Dimerdash closing cracks on the west walls and around the remains of the Osiride statue of Karakhamun with lime plaster.

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Week 1

We have just completed an exciting and eventful first week, reuniting with our old friends and colleagues. On the photograph below are some of our Egyptian team members, archaeologists, and conservators including Fathy Yassen Abd el Kerim, Ramadan Ahmed Ali, Mohamed Ali, Abdelrazk Ali, Ali Hassan Ibrhem, ElTaib Hassan Ibrhim, Mohamed Badawy, Taib Said, Mohamed El Abu Hakim, Said Abu Gaed, Hassan Dimerdash, and Mohamed Shabeb.IMG_0670

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Our team members have begun work in different areas of the tomb of Karakhamun. The photograph to the right shows Patricia Mason determining elevations in the court of Karakhamun with the help of Abdelrazk Ali and Mohamed El Abu Hakim. 

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Our conservation team is adding new fragments to the pillar reconstructions in the first pillared hall. Abdelrazk Ali and Mohamed El Abu Hakim are positioning a new fragment on the Northwest pilaster.

 

All of our team members have their own individual ways of showing their passion for Karakhamun. Here is Said Abu Gaed, with a celebratory heart-shaped cake (which is delicious by the way). We take this cake as sign that we are destined to have a successful season!

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Opening

We opened the site for our eighth season on May 2nd, 2013. We want to express our gratitude to the Ministry of State for Antiquities and all of our sponsors for making this season possible.

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Our team of workmen opening the tomb of Karakhamun (TT223)

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Our team of Egyptian workmen, led by our our Reis Mohammed Ali. Our inspector Atitu stands in the middle.

May 5, 2013

The South Asasif Conservation  Project team has just opened its eighth season in the South Asasif tombs of Karakhamun (TT223), Karabasken (TT391), and Irtieru (TT390). We will be working until September and are looking forward to a productive season. Watch this page for weekly updates from team members, along with images and video clips of the work.