Nespakashuty TT 312 late Twenty sixth Dynasty tomb
Back in 2005 when Dr Elena was coming to the end of her excavation of Nespakashuty TT 312 a late Twenty sixth Dynasty tomb at Deir el Bahri they decided to look for the tomb of his mother. Lepidus had recorded this tomb but when they went to look for it there was a village in the way. So they were surrounded by houses in 2006 when they started the project but by 2009 these had been removed. They are working in three tombs Karabasken TT391, Karakhamun TT223, Iritieru TT390. This is mainly a conservation project. Karakhamun was a Kushite and a plan of his tomb was made in 1974 but it did not record a court or vestibule and very little was actually seen and a lot guessed. They have found lots of new features not on the plan and the tomb is very large. There is a lot of soot damage
Back in 2006 the tomb was completely destroyed and nothing was visible and it was a big risk to excavate and feel the laughter of your colleagues asking why is she excavating a rubbish dump. This was exactly what it looked like then. Then finding your first fragment which although it had no name did at least confirm you were looking in the right place. After three or four weeks of non-productive digging they found a lovely figure of Karakhamun and underneath the plaster was carved his name. In fact they had found their best preserved wall as the rock in this area is appalling quality. Even when they were excavating in Ancient Egyptian times they had to do running repairs. (I was shown some of these on my visit). The carving is the best quality Kushite carving and one particular carving excited a lot of interest. It is a little greyhound like dog.
All this was found in 2006, in the east part of the first pillared hall the pillars are in a ruined state however there are lots and lots of fragments so actually it is good news as they can reconstruct the pillars. By 2008 the northern aisle had been cleared of thousands of wall fragments. The first pillared hall consists of 8 pillars on each side. In the south west corner they found an intrusive burial. There is chapter 114 of the book of the dead. Dr Elena would like to restore and open the tomb but it is slow work, the reconstruction of one pillar has taken a complete season and with 7 further pillars and all the rest of the tomb it could take her all her life to complete. (I suspect funds would help, check the website for details). On the south wall there is chapter 117 of the Book of the Dead with associated vignettes. They have sorted all the fragments and have identified several artists working on the tomb, possible up to a dozen. Another chapter 31 has crocodiles and they have found the evil crocodile of the north.
Another find is a figure of Ptah which is found in chapter 106 now this has cast a ripple in the pond of Egyptology. Previously it was speculated that the Memphite decoration in the tomb of #Harwa was carved by artists of the north on their way south to be employed by Tarahaka in the kingdom of Kush. This is why that particular tomb has a lot of old kingdom influence but the tomb of Karakhamun is a lot earlier which casts doubts on that theory. It would seem that was a big revival of Chapter 106 in the early 26th dynasty.
The stone in the tomb is very poor quality and with the northern aisle having the 11th hours of the book of the day there are a lot of similar vignettes of Karakhamun, Ra Herakyty and three gods.
This season has started with reinforcing and conserving before reconstruction. The remaining stone is so unstable that it could not support the weight of reconstruction so they have had to make a steel reinforcement into the bedrock to take the higher reconstructed elements. Eventually they will reach 3m high. And there is the ceiling, they have lots of ceiling fragments and she dreams of reconstructing that but it would need some imaginative engineering to do so.
On the East side there is a procession of offering bearers. They are now working in the second pillared hall and here there is a different style of his face, he is perhaps meant to look older in the second pillared hall and younger in the first (Francesco Tiradritti talked about this in his lecture on the tomb of Harwa). They also have a really nice jar wall (which I have seen and it is nice). You can also see grid lines as parts are incomplete and this tomb uses the 21 grid lines instead of 18 which is the earliest use of this grid.
There is another intrusive burial in the 2nd pillared hall of Petahor (?) who has sandstone chapel. As this area was underneath the village it is unlikely that there will be any objects mainly wall fragments but she did have a wooden Anubis with a tiny bit of gilding around the eye which may be original to the tomb as it is typical of that period.
It is a Kushite feature to have a surrounding corridor around the burial chamber and it is possible they may have a feature like this but it remains to be excavated. However they have found the stairs to the burial chamber, actually this is not quite as exciting as it sounds as there is a shaft leading directly to the chamber which has been used by robbers but it might mean there may be small objects on the stairs. The chamber has been seen by people before the collapse of the ceiling and was described as being quite beautiful. They hope to eventually open the chamber may be after a couple of years. So the tomb is still full of surprises and there are lots of new things. There is a website although she admitted it was a bit out of date www.southasasif.com she foresees this taking at least a decade before it can be opened to the public.
There were some interesting questions.
What were his titles? He seemed to collect meaningless titles he is described as First Aq Priest of Amun but what is Aq. It is one of the largest Kushite tombs but we have no idea who he is, she believes he must be related to royalty as his tomb is much larger than the Mayor of Thebes.
When did the tomb collapse?
It was recorded in 1974 and re-entered in 2001 nobody knows what happened between those dates