Monday, 9 January 2012

The Life Cycle of a Theban tomb

The Life Cycle of a Theban tomb – A view from the tomb of Panehsy and Tarenu TT16 by Suzanne Onstine
The team have done three seasons so far. Their approach is not to look at the tomb from a narrow 19th Dynasty viewpoint but a more holistic view of who was buried there throughout its history. The tomb is situated at Dra Abu Naga. The periods covered are New Kingdom, Third intermediate Period, Late Period and Hellestic.
The original builder has been identified as living in the Ramases II period not just on stylist grounds but also on because one of the people mentioned in it. However because he was a priest of the cult of Amenhotep I and Ahmose-Nefertari it is that pharaoh that is depicted. She was attracted to the tomb because Panehsy was a chanter, so was his wife which was a usual female role but a man to be doing it is more unusual, not only that his brother was also a chanter.
Why was Dra Abu Naga chosen by him as the location of his tomb?
He was not an important person, just a minor official however he was a priest of Amenhotep I and his mortuary temple is nearby and K.93.11 excavated by Daniel Poltz is one of the contenders for the tomb of Amenhotep I. Also in that area there is a high incidence of Amenhotep I and Ahmose Nefertari.
Condition of the tomb
The courtyard is intact. The tomb itself is built in an area of poor quality limestone so the ancient workmen had to fill gaps with mud brick, smooth with mud and then white plaster to create an even surface. There are depictions of Amenhotep I cult statue but the pictures of Panehsy and his wife Tarenu which would have been shown worshipping before it have been removed by looters.
The tomb is T-shaped and a map was done by Kemp, they hope to eventually do one themselves using latest technology, Kemp’s map show a burial chamber going out to around 50-70 meters and 1 meter wide of which they have only excavated the first part.
Having built your tomb you fill it with nice stuff, Suzanne showed examples of the sort of stuff you would expect to find in a tomb like this, so far they haven’t found anything of this quality but have found a stopper with IRP (wine) on it.
The sort of decoration you can expect to find is bounty of the land, family and deities. The customary scenes in the Ramses II period are funeral in nature, funerary banquet and book of the dead but Panehsy has lively scenes and gives a sense of his personality with vignettes like the donkey braying but you never forget your family and the gods.

The Burial
They have no idea what the condition of the burial is, so far they have excavated 7 meters by 1 meter and it will be several years before they get to the burial chamber. They have found lots of broken cartonage form various periods.
There are intrusive burials from 21st dynasty and they have some cartonage small but nice. Also some Graeco-roman pieces. Although these pieces are small you do not need big pieces in order to identify the period. So far the only other person to be named is Tjenetshedkhonsu.
The tomb has about 1000 years of reuse, it is a mistake to think about it in just the context of 19th dynasty burial, you have to think about it in all its periods of use. She wants to create a picture of all the people who have used the tomb.
Why are the bodies and coffins so broken?
Simple answer is looters; they ripped off arms looking for bracelets broken legs apart looking for copies of the book of the dead, ripped into body cavities. The pattern of destruction shows a degree of knowledge so sadly the damage is looting rather than accidental, climate or animals, They are looking for anything they can sell easily books of the dead, stele and of course gold, Even the body of a child of 4 has been desecrated in this way. Third Intermediate Coffins are very detailed and easily identifiable.
Why did they use this tomb?
- Reuse is very common
- Scarcity of new sits
- Sanctity of this necropolis
- Evolution of styles
To be in this area meant you were close to the ancestors even if they were not your personal family. When people reused tombs in the New Kingdom a 19th dynasty person would remove evidence of an 18th dynasty original owner but in the Third Intermediate Period they did not do this.
Missing scenes
Sadly, almost tragically, looters have attacked 6 scenes and removed them. It happened sometime during the 1970-1980’s as photos from the 1950’s show these scenes and photos in the late 80’s show them missing. Tombs did not have doors at this time and this particular tomb was close to road so handy. The removal has damaged the surrounding wall relief. The scenes were selected for their anonymity; just nice pictures no identifying text. She has searched museum catalogues and published collections and has not found her scenes.
The tombs modern life, what now?
They plan to
- Investigate the entire burial shaft
- Preservation of any human remains that are found
- Analysis of finds
- Conservation of the plaster
- Publication of the entire life cycle of the tomb
Suzanne gave thanks to all especially to the Egyptian who helped her keep going through the revolution.

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