Sunday, 9 November 2008

Mummification Museum Lecture Recent Investigations of Undecorated Tombs in the Valley of Kings

2008 Recent Investigations of Undecorated Tombs in the Valley of Kings
8/11/8 Donald Ryan

If you ever get a chance to attend one of his lectures I do encourage you to go. Not only is he knowledgeable and interesting but he is amusing as well. First class lecturer

His work is the unglamorous side of excavation and not normally seen by tourists as it is tucked away behind the mountain in the middle of the Valley.

He gave a brief background of how he got into Egyptology, started young ready National Geographic’s. In 1981 he was working in the Faiyum and got a chance to visit Luxor. He came in July, on a bike, that remark caused a ripple of laughter. 18 months later he came on a 2 month visit to Egypt and went round everywhere. The Valley of the Kings contains the new kingdom burials of the Pharaohs of the New Kingdom. The 18, 19, 20 dynasty Pharaohs but he was intrigued by the undecorated tombs. He then started researching one of his sources being the great book The Royal Necropolis of Thebes by Elizabeth Thomas

In early times the undecorated tombs were considered very uninteresting, with no decoration therefore no owner and o treasure the early archaeologists were singularly unbothered about the tombs and their contents. Often they were just a shaft leading to a single room.

He wanted to know the WHO, WHEN and WHY of KV21, 27, 28, 44, 45, 60

If you look at the list of tombs in the Valley of Kings from the Theban Mapping Project you will find a number of tombs with question marks against them. Some like Tutankhamen (KV62), Yuya and Thuyu (KV 46), and Maiherperi (KV36) were discovered intact and the last two if made today would attract huge attention as they were spectacular discoveries. But many others we have no clue about.

Currently he is working in KV27 which is the last of the tombs on his list. Believed, by Italian archaeologists, to have been discovered in 1853 by Mariette. The shaft was full of flood debris. It has been flooded numerous times and the debris reaches nearly to the ceiling with some large stones. All debris that was excavated was painstakingly sieved which took 3 ½ field seasons. There were 30 large storage jars which had been shattered by the flood debris. Floods can be very powerful crushing everything in their path and the contents have been totally destroyed. They counted them by indentify the mud stoppers. There were thousands of potsherds and these have been investigated by Dr Barbara Aston, a pottery expert, and have been identified by style to the early – mid 18th dynasty. Using 2 outstanding local experts a number of matches have been made and new styles not previously attested have been identified.

There were also pieces of calcite/alabaster but these do not seem to be pieces of the same jigsaw. Some glyphs but these tell us nothing about the owners. He also found remains of the occupants a headless torso and other bits and pieces.

They got excited about a large piece of a canopic jar but this was the wrong part of the pot, identifying it as the stomach but not the owner. But they were fortunate and the other side appeared and identified God’s father Userhet. But this turned out to be a red herring he had seen something similar before at Harvard, 3 canopics were found in KV45. So with 3 canopics found in JV45 and only 1 in KV27 it seems more likely that KV45 was the tomb of Userhet and we still don’t know who KV27 belonged to.

He thought they were going to finished last year, excavators should never think this as it goes wrong. They found organic remains that turned out to be a coffin approximately 1 metre of the floor. This is in a very fragile state and needs very delicate handling.

They found a skull and it appears 3 individuals are embedded in solidified silt which is very difficult to deal with. One is identified as male. He hopes to get gender and ages of the rest but doubts they will get names.

In his opinion this was the first undecorated tomb in the time of Hatshepsut.

He is hoping to publish his results next year. As part of this they are making an inventory of all the finds from the 6 tombs
• Face piece of a wooden coffin where you can see the adze marks where the robbers took of the gold
• A chair leg from burial furniture, why only one is a puzzle
• There are some glyphs of some of the fragments but again they don’t tell us much
• A piece from the side of the coffin of SitRa, the royal wet nurse
• Fragments of papyrus
• Various seals some with 9 captives and a jackal
• A seal found in the shaft of a seated man and a Mut glyph which has not made any sense
• Graffiti on the walls of wadjet eyes which he believes to be 18th dynasty
• Evidence of moringa oil• Large head end of a coffin which was covered in black resin. You could see the brush strokes where the resin was applied. When studying the piece for the inventory it appeared there might be glyphs under the resin. Subsequent painstaking cleaning revealed Nephthys standing on a basket with accompanying text identifying the owner as a temple singer called Ti. It is possible that this is a reused coffin as there are masculine pro nouns and the name looks squashed in.
• In one of the niches there were pieces of the foot of the coffin and this also underwent cleaning and revealed Isis
• Painted plaster on linen which they might be able to match

He then gave us some of his tentative conclusions. He believes that KV60 was turned into a cache tomb containing Sit Re, Hatshepsut and Ti. Although the Valley was used for the burial of kings he believes that it was reused and that there were burials on top dating to the 22nd dynasty III Intermediate Period. KV44 and 45 which Carter found in 1901/2 which were a shaft leading to a single room were burials on top. KV44 there were three coffins on top of the debris. The tombs are nicely cut. In KV28 a III Intermediate Period coffin was found, KV27 the coffin is 1 meter high above the debris which suggest a later burial

Belzoni found KV21 in October 1817 in October 1817 and the plan looks like a small royal tomb with corridors, stairs, ramp and a pillared hall. He noted that it was clean; there were 2 female mummies with long hair. He left it open and published it. The team found bat guano and graffiti of 1820’s. Large pots which appeared to have been destroyed by a 19th century traveller. The 2 mummies had been ravaged by the flood damage and they found everything that Belzoni said had been there indicating he had taken nothing away.

In the 1890’s when it had been covered and filled by flood debris a trench was dug through and in this they found newspapers of that time the newest being at the bottom dating to 1896.

Dr Ryan believes that these were royal females and noted although it is called the Valley of Kings there are a heck of lot of burials which aren’t kings some even animals.

Howard Carter excavated 3 of the tombs and Dr Ryan was disparaging of his methods. KV45 was rummaged through in 1901/2 and revealing no treasure they left it with its contents of human remains, coffin fragments and crude clay ushabitis.

With KV60 Carter only devoted a paragraph and a half and does not mention room B at all which could make you wonder if we have the right KV60 except al l the other measurements are correct. This room had mummy wrappings and indications of a ceiling. There was an intrusive burial that had been stripped.

Present and Future
The big responsibility of anyone excavating in the Valley of Kings is conservation and restoration. The Theban Mapping project is ongoing. Now people remove their debris from the valley (there are huge mounds of debris in the valley which can add to the damage a flood can cause). The biggest threat to valley is water, which might seem strange to those visitors who stand there is a parched valley in the baking sun. But as the flood of 1994 showed these sudden rain storms can cause huge damage. Water got into KV21 at that time and left silt on the floor. There is a great need to protect and to monitor geological movement with crack monitors etc. They themselves had installed crack monitors in 1993 which had fortunately indicated no movement so far but we must always be on our guard.

In 1870 Belzoni said there was nothing more to be found in the Valley. Theodore Davies repeated this in 1910. We know this was mistaken and Dr Ryan believes we are entering a new age of exploration in the Valley of Kings, he thinks we are only just beginning and it is still full of surprises.

In the question and answer session he said they had left a pillar of the debris, a so called witness column so future excavators with different techniques could study it and maybe find more.

Next week it is Sally Ann Aston

1 comment:

Scrabcake said...

I'm really glad that the less glamorous areas of the valley are finally getting the attention and care that they deserve. There seems to still be a constituency in the Egyptological community that is only interested if the find includes something other than pots and flint and bits of burial equipment. That there are people like Ryan in the field gives the future generation of researchers a lot of hope.