EXCAVATIONS OF THE PRIVATE TOMBS IN THE THEBAN NECROPOLIS

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Private Tombs in the Theban Necropolis: Contents

Preface

Since 1980, excavations and clearings of the private tombs of the New Kingdom have been carried out in the Theban Necropolis. Up to now, the tomb No. 241 at al-Khokha (1980-1983), the tombs Nos. 128, 129, 317, 318 at Shaikh 'Abd al-Qurna (1982-1986), and the tomb No. 333 at Dra' Abu al-Naga' (1987-1989) have been studied. Publication of their excavation reports are being prepared.

Together with the excavations, some comparative studies of different private tombs have been done in the Theban Necropolis. Since 1984, a number of tombs belonging to the late 18th Dynasty, from the reign of Tuthmosis IV to Horemheb, have been visited, in order to restore the original designs of the mural paintings at the "Kom al- Samak".

Judging from the artistic features of the mural paintings, it seems that close observation and comparative studies of the motifs and artistic styles of the temple reliefs and tomb wall paintings from the same period are valuable.

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al-Khokha

[Tomb No. 241]
The excavations were carried out through the two seasons, from December 1980 to January 1981 and from December 1981 to January 1982. Shorter has already published about the inscriptions in this tomb. Sand covering the forecourt was removed at the beginning of the excavations. The existence of the inner chamber belonging to the older period became clear through the cleaning of the floor of the hall. This tomb was tentatively named W-1. From the survey of this W-1, the tomb No. 241 and the tomb No. 184, which is connected to the south of the former tombs, the chronological order or their constructions became clear. At first the tomb W-1 was built. When the tomb No. 241 was built in the reign of Tuthmosis III of the 18th Dynasty, the ceiling of the inner chamber of the tomb W-1 seems to have been destroyed in the course of building the entrance part of the tomb No. 241. Then the inner chamber was filled with sand, and the stone steps were made at the entrance of the tomb No. 241, at the place where the tomb W-1 existed. Later in the 19th Dynasty during the reign of Ramesses II, the tomb W-1 seems to have been reused by Nefermenu (the tomb No. 184). The time of the construction of the tomb W-1 is not known. The painted relief of "Ankh" could be seen in the niche of the inner chamber of the W-1. The floor of the inner chamber of the tomb No. 241 had been completely destroyed then excavated, and another tomb No. 48, which exists under the tomb No. 241, could be seen through this hole.

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Shaikh 'Abd al-Qurna

The excavations were carried out through four seasons: in December 1982, from December 1983 to January 1984, from December 1984 to January 1985 and from December 1985 to January 1986. First of all, the sand which had covered the forecourt of the tombs Nos. 128 and 129 was removed in order to enter the tomb No. 318, as the only way to get into the tombs was through the iron door of tomb No. 129. Tomb No. 318 is connected with the tomb No. 129 by a small tunnel which might have been made by tomb robbers. A number of tombs are connected with each other in a complex way. While removing the sand from the forecourt, an unregistered tomb was discovered in the east side, which was tentatively named W-2. This room has a shaft in the north room, and there are two rooms under the shaft. A variety of interesting finds were discovered from the excavation of the tomb W-2. No reliefs or inscriptions were found inside the tomb.

[Tombs No. 128 and 129]
Schenkel has already reported on tombs No. 128 and 129. Tomb No. 128 belongs to the Saite period and it was built making use of tomb No. 129 built in the 18th Dynasty of the New Kingdom. The tombs' interiors were checked by referring to Schenkel's report. However, the paintings and reliefs on the ceiling and walls are not well preserved, and the figure of the Goddess Nut which was reported to be painted on the ceiling could not be detected. The tombs were surveyed and charted on paper. A part of the floor in the hall was excavated, and it was discovered that the floor had been covered with sand and rubble to a depth of approximately 50 cm.

[Tomb No. 317]
At the beginning of the survey, the sand covering the hall of tomb No. 317 was removed. It became clear that this tomb was built by having destroyed and older, smaller tomb. There were no reliefs or inscriptions in the inner chamber. There was a shaft with a depth of 3.5 m, and under the shaft there were two rooms. A great number of mummies and human bones were excavated from the hall and the rooms under the inner chamber. The ceiling is covered with soot and it is hard to see the paintings clearly. However, they were photographed and also sketched.

[Tomb No. 318]
Four statues in the inner room which were mentioned by scholars of the last century have completely disappeared. It seems that they have been taken away by tomb robbers. However, the condition of the paintings on the walls and the ceiling was rather good. The outer lintel and jambs of the inner room together make the form of a gate. Inscriptions are carved and painted on them. Here the name of Amen has been deliberately erased.

[Physical Anthropological Studies]
A great number of mummies and human bones were found in the tombs. They were examined and measured using physical anthropological method. Valuable data on the ancient Egyptian mummification process were obtained through these examinations.

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Dra' Abu al-Naga'

The excavations at Dra' Abu al-Naga' were carried out over five seasons, from December 1987 to September 1989. It was our original intention to begin work by clearing tomb No. 333 on the south slope of a hill called the pyramid of al-Mandara. It has long been completely buried under the ground. During the first season (December 1987), tomb No. 333 could be located.

[Tomb No. 333]
The hall ceiling of the tomb No. 333 is completely lost. Most of the wall paintings of the hall and the inner room had suffered serious damage. A number of fragments of painting were found lying on the floor of the inner room. The white plastered forecourt of tomb No. 333 were recovered outside the entrance during our excavation.

[W-4, W-5 and W-6]
In March 1988, an unregistered tomb was found at the location only 5 meters to the north west of tomb No. 333. This, we called W-4 for the time being. The hall ceiling is lost, and it has neither painting nor inscriptions inside. Sandstone columns with the name of the Overseer of works, Amen-em-wia, were uncovered in the forecourt. It was presumed that W-4 was originally an 18th Dynasty tomb, re-used in the Ramesside period.

Following this discovery, we decided to excavate and clear the area to the west of tomb No. 333. Two other unregistered tombs (W-5 and W-6) were discovered in 1988 and 1989. Both had suffered serious damage. The south wall of the hall of W-5 bore ritual scenes in front of mummies, which are standing in front of the entrance of a tomb with a pyramidion on top of it. Most of the wall-paintings inside W-6 are lost, although on the west wall of its hall there are the remains of a fowling scene, heavily covered with soot. High quality fragments of painting were also found lying on the floor of its hall. From the remains of the wall paintings, it was concluded that W-5 and W-6 are the long-lost tombs A 21 and A 24. This area of the necropolis has also yielded a variety of isolated objects, including funerary cones, shabtis, stamped mud bricks and a stone statuette.

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Aerial view of the site Aerial view of the excavation site


Excavation of the tomb Excavation of the tomb


Mural painting of the tomb Mural painting of the tomb


Painted mural fragment of the tomb Painted mural fragment of the tomb


Mummy found at the tomb Mummy found at the tomb


Human figure found at the tomb Human figure found at the tomb



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(First drafted: 20 February 1996)
(Last revised: 25 January 2000)