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Preliminary Report of the First Excavation at Dahshur North, Egypt
(This text is a revised version of the preliminary report in Mediterraneus: Annual Report of the Collegium Mediterranistarum XXI (1998), pp. 3-14.)

S. Yoshimura / J. Kondo / S. Hasegawa / T. Sakata / M. Etaya / T. Nakagawa / S. Nishimoto / H. Kashiwagi

Waseda University Institute of Egyptology and Tokai University Research & Information Center carried out the general survey in March 1996 (note 1), at the site of Dahshur North (Figs. 1, 2). The area was supposed to be new on the Memphite topography and on the ecological studies of the Memphite area in the Dynastic period (note 2). The result of the general survey suggested that the area was a necropolis in the New Kingdom, and then the first season of the excavations was carried out from March 2 to April 10, 1997.

One of the most conspicuous architectural remain was a mud brick construction, and though the upper part was lost completely, the plan suggested that it was a typical tomb-chapel in the New Kingdom period. This season we excavated here a ramp in front and a court, and consequently, the shaft was detected at the center of the second court. The shaft was lined with the limestone blocks. Its depth was measured 13 m from the floor level of the court, and two doorways to the several chambers were found at the bottom.

We only cleaned the shaft, and left the chambers as they were, and a number of objects were found mostly in the lower part of the shaft. The most remarkable point was that the relief blocks found in the shaft bottom had the representation of the motifs in the late 18th Dynasty or the early 19th Dynasty period. Total assemblage of the finds such as pottery sherds and ornamental objects also suggested this date and considering from the large scale size of the tomb-chapel and elaborate construction of the shaft, the owner must be a high official. Anyhow, the result of the excavation is completely new in the topography of the Dahshur area (note 3).

We would like to express our thanks to S. C. A.'s messieurs, in particular to his excellency, the secretary general, Dr. Aly Hasan. As for the areal control, we also thank Dr. Zahi Hawass, the general director of the Giza inspectorate, Mr. Muhammad Hagras, the general director of the Saqqara inspectorate, Mr. Magdy al-Gandur and 'Izat Muhammad, inspectors of the Saqqara inspectorate.

I: Method of Excavation
Through the general survey, we found that, the shafts distributed in the area of 300 m EW and 100 m NS (2E-4E), and the central part could be dated to the New Kingdom. It will be the first trial for the site by the scientific research, and the site was expected to be new for the Memphite topography, because the New Kingdom monuments had not been reported in Dahshur area.

A building of the New Kingdom found at Dahshur, plan of the superstructureA building of the New Kingdom found at Dahshur, plan of the superstructure

Now the main subject was on the mud brick construction, and grid system was set around it. As for the mud brick construction itself, the general plan seemed to be clear, including ramp, courts, chapel, and side rooms. We took off the surface deposit along the central axis of the plan to observe the method of the construction.

Remains of Brick BuildingRemains of Brick Building 1 Remains of Brick BuildingRemains of Brick Building 2

Remains of Brick BuildingRemains of Brick Building 3 Remains of Brick BuildingRemains of Brick Building 4 Remains of Brick BuildingRemains of Brick Building 5

Sand deposit did not accumlate thickly, because limestone chips, possible indicating the presence of floor pavement, were observed on the surface. Then, the cleaning work went on, and shafts were found in the both courts. Red sand composed of the larger size of quartz particles was obviously artificial (note 4), and they were observed in both courts. The soft limestone flakes, accumulated around the Shaft A and side rooms. The shaft enabled observing the strata, and in the case of the second court, gravel appeared 3 m below of the surface, and limestone bedrock appeared. The shaft entrance cut the edge of the bedrock and underground chambers were made by cutting the lesser part of the bedrock.

As for the area outside the mud brick construction, we paid attention on the strata from the gravel. Gravel was found in the northern area of the mud brick construction and from the level of the gravel, which appeared at the section of the shafts, it descends towards the south. On the gravel, sand deposit accumulated, and possible pavement could be observed attaching to the northern wall of the tomb chapel. After the tomb was abandoned, a part of the tomb-chapel wall collapsed, and sand deposit accumulated there on. Some recessed pits were observed on the layer of the collapsed wall, and a pyramidion was found in one of these pits.

Simple burial using wooden coffins or reed mats were found around the tomb-chapel and brick wall of the side rooms, and the date of those simple burials were not certain (note 5).

II: Remains
1: Introduction
We excavated the area concentrating on the mud brick construction this season. The general plan of the mud brick construction was divided into the ramp, courts, chapel with side rooms beside it, and it turned out to be a tomb-chapel, because the shaft and underground chambers were found. As for the underground remains, we only took off the sand deposit of the shaft in this season, its general sketches are noted later. Outside the tomb-chapel, an unfinished shaft was found, and we numbered it Shaft 16, because a total of 15 shafts have been observed in the last season.

2: Remains belonging to the tomb-chapel
1) Approach
Parallel walls run in the front, and in the sand deposit between them, pottery sherds painted blue dated in the New Kingdom were found. Tomb-chapel with the approach have been reported in Abydos and Gurob (note 6), but rarely in the Saqqara area. Side walls of the ramp was measured 10.8 m long and 6.3 m wide, and arranged on the longitudinal axis of the whole construction. The examples of such a space in the late 18th Dynasty was a court, and became a portico in the Ramesside period.

2) The first court (Pl. 1-1)
Thick wall of 160 cm wide remained between the ramp and the first court. At the northern end, reddish sand was used as an under layer. In the northern area of the court, the shaft (Shaft B) was found. This shaft was lined with bricks and plastered on the surface. Its depth was 6.5 m and the doorway to the western chamber, with the dimensions of 2.5 m in length and 1.8 m in width, was found. This season, we cleaned sand deposit of the shaft, and left the cleaning work of the chamber for the future.

3) The second court
The second court was 15 m square, and here red sand was used for the under construction. At the northeast corner, a part of floor remained, and its level was higher than anywhere in this construction. On the axis of the EW line, the shaft was found.

4) Shaft
The soft limestone flakes accumulated thickly around the shaft, and the gravel came 2 m below of the floor with 2 m accumulation. The shaft entrance appeared at 4 m below of the floor, which was dressed by the 13 courses of limestone blocks (note 7) in a standard size of 52 x 26 x 22 cm, which corresponds to Talatat (note 8).

A building of the New Kingdom found at Dahshur, detected shaft 1A building of the New Kingdom found at Dahshur, detected shaft 1

A building of the New Kingdom found at Dahshur, detected shaft 2A building of the New Kingdom found at Dahshur, detected shaft 2

A building of the New Kingdom found at Dahshur, detected shaft 3A building of the New Kingdom found at Dahshur, detected shaft 3

They were built in the upper space of the shaft entrance by cutting the bedrock, and set together with mortar, but the northern part curved slightly inward, because of the crushing caused by the soil pressure (Fig. 2). The traces of chisel mark seen on the north and south dressed walls to widen the shaft are also remarkable. The surface of the blocks were carbonized.

5) Underground chambers
Two doorways to the several chambers appeared at the bottom, where it was measured 13 m below the floor. At the bottom of the shaft, dense distribution of relief blocks were found and their motifs were characteristic and available for the possible date for this tomb, which was described later.

A building of the New Kingdom found at Dahshur, plan of the substructureA building of the New Kingdom found at Dahshur, plan of the substructure

From the eastern entrance, Room A with smaller chambers of Rooms B and C appeared. Thick sand accumulated in Room A, and fragments of scattered pottery sherds were found on the floor of Room B. At the southwest corner of Room A, Room D was connected. Room D was narrow with 1.4 m wide, and this room lead to Room E. Ceiling of Room E seemed to have collapsed, and huge blocks were accumulated on whole the space.

From the northern entrance, Room F with a small chamber of Room G appeared, where sand deposit accumulated. All the chambers were disturbed already and the walls were carbonized, but we hope that we can get more information on the tomb owner by the future cleaning work of those chambers (note 9).

6) Chapel and side rooms
The chapel was 8.8 m square, and the floor pavement has not been found yet. Most bricks seem to habe been gone, and the last few courses were preserved.

3: Area outside the tomb-chapel
At the northern wall of the tomb-chapel, a part of the collapsed wall was found. Limestone pyramidion was found in this area, which had the height of about 60 cm. Another collapsed wall was found in the southern area of the building, and dense distribution of the small relief blocks were found. As described above, simple burial using a wooden coffin was found attached to the approach. Beside the northern collapsed wall, Shaft 16 was found but it turned out to be unfinished at 1.2 m below the surface gravel.

A building of the New Kingdom found at Dahshur, stamped brickA building of the New Kingdom found at Dahshur, stamped brick

III: Finds
1: Introduction
More than thousand fragments of various objects were uncovered during the excavation from the site. Most of these objects probably date to the late 18th Dynasty to the early 19th Dynasty.

2: The description of the finds
1) Fragments of limestone relief blocks
More than twenty fragments of relief blocks were unearthed from the bottom of Shaft A. They carved in sunk relief. There remained color traces on several blocks. You may find the selected relief blocks at Pls. 2-3 and 3-3. Blocks showing a facade of a temple with male priests, a male offering bearer, and a portrait with golden necklace. Judging from the style and shape of relief motifs, these relief blocks presumably date to the end of the 18th Dynasty to the beginning of the 19th Dynasty after the Amarna period (note 10).

Relief fragment 1Relief fragment 1

Relief fragment 2Relief fragment 2

2) Architectural objects
A limestone pyramidion was uncovered from collapsed walls. The height of the pyramidion is 60 cm. There was a shallow depression at the bottom of it (note 11).

A pyramidion found at Dahshur (limestone, no inscriptions)A pyramidion found at Dahshur

3) Pottery
The clay of potsherds is divided into Silt and Marl (note 12). Most of potsherd from the site belong to Silt group. Blue-painted pottery fragment were uncovered over the excavated area. Pottery with blue-painted decoration is very popular in the late 18th Dynasty to the 19th Dynasty. There were several fragments from plant pots and miniature vases.

4) Canopic jars
Fragments of alabaster and faience canopic jars were unearthed (note 13). Most of canopic jars were from Shaft A. Lids of jars were shaped as four sons of Horus: Imsety, Hapy, Duamutef, and Qebefsenuef. One of alabaster canopic jars has an inscription on the body. We could deciphered the name and his title, as "Overseer of the royal stable, Mes" (note 14).

A lid of canopic jarA lid of canopic jar

5) Fragments of polychrome glass vessels
We found two fragments of glass vessels with core technique from Shaft A. They had wavy and pinnate decorations on them.

6) Beads
A number of beads of various shapes and sizes were recorded from the site. Most of them are blue faience and glass.

7) Rings
A complete blue faience ring with a design in the shape of lotus flower was uncovered from the debris of Shaft A. We know that the group of blue faience rings with the same size and design were discovered from the royal tomb of Tutankhamun in the Valley of the Kings by Howard Carter (note 15). A bronze ring with gold coil was found from Shaft A.

Ring 1Ring 1

Ring 2Ring 2

8) Amulets
A number of amulets of various materials and kinds were uncovered. They consist of Tyet, papyrus scepters, and snake heads types (note 16).

9) Sockets and inlay pieces of artificial eyes
We found fragments of sockets and inlay pieces of artificial eyes. Most of them are fragmentary.

10) Inlay pieces
A number of fragments of glass inlay pieces in the various shapes of hieroglyphic signs were recovered during the excavation.

11) Wooden objects
Fragments of wooden plaques were uncovered and some of them had carved inscriptions on them.

12) A fragments of statuette
A part of the head from a limestone statuette was found in the debris near the collapsed walls. The head with the Atef crown and Uraeus on the artistic feature of the statuette.

A small sculpture wearing atef crownA small sculpture wearing atef crown

13) Shabtis
Shabtis of a variety of materials were found from the excavated area. The materials are including stone, faience, wood, and clay. Most of them are fragmentary and from Shaft A. A fine small green faience face from shabti was also unearthed. We could deciphered several names and titles on them, as Mes, Hwy, Amenk3, and Pashedw (note 17).

This season, we excavated the mud construction found in the general survey, and the shaft was 13 m beneath the floor, and underground chambers were revealed, the construction turned out to be the tomb-chapel in the New Kingdom. Many objects were found mostly from the Shaft A, and relief motif or other kinds of objects such as pottery sherds painted blue, ornamental objects, and small statue suggested the period from the late 18th Dynasty to the early 19th Dynasty, therefore post Amarna period.

The New Kingdom remains were new for the Dahshur area. It was most noteworthy that the tomb-chapel had the large scale which was comparable with the tomb of Horemheb at Memphis, and its shaft was elaborately lined with the limestone blocks, it must have belonged to some high official in the New Kingdom period.

Thus the owner must be identified, and the mud brick stamp with the name of "Ip3y" was most suggestible (note 18). Anyhow New Kingdom monuments or cemetery have not been reported so far (note 19), the result of the excavation will reveal new information on the Memphite Necropolis studies.

AEJ: (British Museum) C. Andrews, Ancient Egyptian Jewellery, London 1990
ASAE: Annales du Service des AntiquitŽs de l'Egypte
BIE: Bulletin de l'Institut Egyptienne
CCE: Cahier de la Ceramique Egyptienne
CMM: Collegium Mediterranistarum: Mediterraneus
EGA: (Museum of Fine Arts, Boston) Egypt's Golden Age: The Art of Living in the New Kingdom 1558-1085 B.C., Boston 1982
JEA: The Journal of Egyptian Archaeology
MDAIK: Mitteilungen des Deutchen ArchŠologischen Instituts abteilung Kairo
OR: Orientalia
RE: Revue d'Egyptologie
SAK: Studien zur AltŠgyptischen Kultur
SE: (Metropolitan Museum of Art) W. C. Hayes, The Scepter of Egypt, 2 Vols., New York 1959
Z€S: Zeitschrift fŸr €gyptische Sprache und Altertumskunde

note 1: S. Yoshimura, J. Kondo, S. Hasegawa, T. Sakata, M. Etaya, T. Nakagawa, S. Nishimoto, "A Preliminary Report of the General Survey at Dahshur North, Egypt", Annual Report, CMM XX, 1997, 3-24.
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note 2: The site is located on the limestone bed rock, which is enough high than the flood level in the Dynastic period. S. Rushdi, The River Nile - Geology, Hydrology and Utilization, Oxford 1993, 133-152. The ramp of the mud brick construction descends towards the breaking point of the cultivation into the desert, where is supposed as an access water from Memphis.
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note 3: Lepsius made a topographical map of the south Saqqara and Dahshur, in which the site area is includeed, but nothing was mentioned for the remains. C. R. Lepsius, Denkmaeler aus Aegypten und Aethiopien, Berlin 1885, Abth.I, Bl. 35, Text I, 208.
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note 4: The using and function of the sand in the foundation trench, see D. Arnold, Building in Egypt, Oxford 1991, 113.
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note 5: The so-called "simple burial" distributed in the area around Memphis and those dated between mid 18th Dynasty and Graeco-Roman period. Some examples from Saqqara, see C. M. Firth and B. Gunn, Excavations at Saqqara; Teti Pyramid Cemeteries, Cairo 1926, 66-83; N. Kanawati et. al., Excavations at Saqqara North-West of Teti's Pyramid, Sydney 1984, 59-80. Some variations of "simple burial", see M. J. Raven, The Tomb of Iurudef, London 1991, 8-14.
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note 6: The examples of the tomb-chapel with the ramp entrance were found at Gurob and Abydos. D. Randall-Maciver and A. C. Mace, El Amarah and Abydos, London 1902, 83, Pl. xxv, D14.
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note 7: Although lined walls of the shaft were common method in Ancient Egypt, those of the Shaft A were remarkable elabolate. Some limestone using examples from Memphite area, see G. T. Martin, The Memphite Tomb of Horoemheb Commander-in-Chief of Tut'ankhamun, London 1989, 14, "Shaft iv"; H. Schneider et. al., "The Tomb of Maya and Meryt: Preliminary Report of the Saqqara Excavations, 1990-1", in JEA 77, 1991, 10, figs.2-4; Raven, op.cit., 8, pls. 2, 5.
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note 8: J. Gohary, Akhenaten's Sed Festival at Karnak, London 1992, 215; B. L. Kemp ed., Amarna Reports V, London 1989, 138, 140. On the information of the Talatat blocks found at the Memphis area, see J. Malek,"The Temple at Memphis, problems highlighted by EES survey", in S. Quirke ed., The Temple in Ancient Egypt, London 1997, 90-101.
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note 9: As for the plan in the substructure, see F. Petrie and G. Brunton, Sedment II, London 1924, pls.lxxxii-lxxxiv.
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note 10: The motif style of the priest and their worshipping pose are characteristic in the period effected by Amarna art. See N. de G. Davies, The Rock Tombs at el-Amarna IV, London 1908, pl. XVII. The noble with the golden necklace is represented on the mural relief of the tomb chapel. G. T. Martin, op. cit., 40-43, pl. 34 (21), 87-92, Pls. 106, 107 (72). Oxes in front are rarely represented. G. T. Martin, Corpus of Reliefs of the New Kingdom from the Memphite Necropolis and lower Egypt 1, London 1987, 29-30, pl. 24 (70), 26 (72). S. Redford and D. Redford, The Akhenaten Temple Project 4, The Tomb of Re'a (TT201). Toronto 1994, Pl.VII.
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note 11: It must be discussed whether this pyramidion was topped on the superstructure of the tomb-chapel or not. The pyramidion itself seemed to be re-used. Tomb-chapel with pyramid on its upper construction, see S. Tawfik, "Recently Excavated Ramesside Tombs at Saqqara", in MDAIK 47 (1991), 403-409; G. T. Martin, The Tomb-Chapels of Paser and Ra'ia at Saqqara, London 1985, Pl. 29. Also see A. Rammant-Peeters, Les Pyramidions Egyptiens du Nouvel Empire, Leuven 1983, passim.
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note 12: There are some variations of the Marl clay pottery in the New Kingdom, as Bell or Hope pointed out. M. Bell, "Regional Variation in Polychrome Pottery of the 19th Dynasty", CCE 1 (1987), 49-76. C. A. Hope,"Innovation in the Decoration of Ceramics in the Mid-18th Dynasty", CCE 1 (1987), 97-122. Among the Nile silt pottery group, vase fragments with a hole are found, which are supposed to be kinds of flowerpot. P. Lacovara, Deir el-Ballas; Preliminary Report on the Deir el-Ballas Expedition, 1980-1986, Winona Lake 1990, Pl. XVI. The decoration painted blue ranges from the early 18th Dynasty to the Ramesside period, and they are classified. C. A. Hope, "Blue-Painted and Polychrome Decorated Pottery from Amarna", CCE 2 (1991), 105-118.
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note 13: Most of the faience are discoloured by the fire, when the underground chambers were disturved. A part of the surface glaze turned into the purple color, which seemed not to be the viloet faience using the cobalt for its manufacture. It will be reported by the chemical analysis in future. A. Kaczmarczyk and R. E. M. Hedges, Ancient Egyptian Faience, Warminster 1983, 244.
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note 14: Besides the Canopic group, charasteristic forms of stone vessels were found. Some fragments of vertical body have ribs, and an example with three ribs and separated foot is introduced as an appearence under the reign of Amenophis III; EGA, 129, no. 120. The bottle in the form of a pregnant woman is found. Its feature resembles with that of Taweret, and the contents are supposed to be a mixed oil. Ibid., 293, no. 404. As for the handle represented an ibex, the well-known example is an alabaster jar of King Mery-en-Ptah. The jar has handles in the form of heads of the slim horned Nubian ibex. Our example also has holes, which seemed to have ears made of precious metal. SE 2, 354, pl. 221.
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note 15: From drawing by Carter of a selection of faience ring recovered from the floor of the Annexe. N. Reeves, The Complete Tutankhamun, London 1990, 150. Faience ring decorated with a lotus flower and two buds were popular from the reign of Amenophis III until that of Ramesses II. EGA 248, nos. 343, 344.
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note 16: Lotus in faience, Tyet in glass, Ujat eye in glass, and so on. C. Andrews, Amulets of Ancient Egypt, London 1994. Snake head is made of stone, and the example is; see F. Erika, Das Grab des Nefersecheru (TT296), Mainz am Rhein 1985, Schlangenkopf, 141, 142, Tafeln XLI, LXVII, no.122.
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note 17: Among them, the group with white glaze had the characteristic feature of the 19th Dynasty. H. D. Schneider, Shabtis, Leiden 1977,, Part II, 102; Part III, 40.
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note 18: Most of the stamps were illegible, but among them, the name "Ip3y" could be read. His title will be checked by following season.
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note 19: Information on the Saqqara area, see D. G. Jeffreys and H. S. Smith, "Memphis and the Nile in the New Kingdom; A Preliminary Attempt at a Historical Perspective" in A. -P. Zivie ed., Memphis et ses nŽcropoles au Nouvel Empire, Paris 1988. 55-66.
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All correspondence should be sent to: Institute of Egyptology ([email protected]); or Shin-ichi Nishimoto ([email protected]), Associate Professor of Department of Architecture, editor of this page.

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(First drafted: 5 November 1998)
(Last revised: 25 January 2000)