Inside the Tombs of Saqqara: The Ancient Egyptian Burial Site Revealed

Inside the Tombs of Saqqara: The Ancient Egyptian Burial Site Revealed


Welcome, everyone. My name’s Peter Manuelian. And I’m delighted at this
turn out and also to welcome, not only those of
you in the audience, but those of us who are
watching on Facebook Live. We are live
streaming this event, and it’s the first of
three such lectures that we’ll be having
this semester. So if you want to break
out your calendars, the other two
Egyptology lectures are October 12 and November 14. That’s Thursday, October 12
and Tuesday, November 14. And the next one
coming up after this is a lecture by Salima Ikram,
the distinguished university professor at the American
University in Cairo. And she’ll present on the
diversity of animal mummies in ancient Egypt and their
significance in shaping perceptions of ancient Egypt. And I invite you to stop by
at the table over to the right and pick up a copy of all of
the Harvard Museums of Science and Culture programs going on
this semester and this year. We’ve got an awful lot packed
into the academic year for you, and I know you won’t
want to miss those. So we’re delighted and very
happy to be able to welcome our speaker this evening. Dr. Ramadan Badry
Hussein is currently the director of the
Saqqara Saite Tombs Project at the Institute of Near Eastern
studies at the Eberhard Karls Universitait in
Tubingen, Germany. He first studied Egyptology
at Cairo University from 1990 to 1994 and then
worked as Inspector of Antiquities at Giza
and Saqqara for 7 years. It was during this time that
he received his training in archeology. And he participated in
the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities Excavations
at Giza, Saqqara, and Bhattacharyya Oasis. He was admitted
to the PhD program at Brown University from 2001
to 2009, where his MA and PhD research focused on the
ancient Egyptian language and religious texts. And during his
time in Providence, he also taught classes on
Egyptian history and language and the ancient cultures
of the Nile Valley, not only for the Department
of Egyptology at Brown but also for the
Anthropology Department at Rhode Island College. From 2003 to 2006, he joined
the Brown University Cairo University expedition at the
so-called Abu Bakr cemetery at Giza. That’s west of
the Great Pyramid. On this project, he was first
an area supervisor and later a deputy director. Dr. Hussein returned to
the Ministry of Antiquities in June 2009, and
he was put in charge of the Center of
Documentation and Study of Egyptian Antiquities. He was also appointed
as Managing Editor of the Publications
Department and, finally, the Chief of Staff
to the Minister of Antiquities
himself in April 2011. His current research
interest is focused on the processes, and
composition, and transmission of ancient Egyptian
religious texts. In 2013, he was awarded the
prestigious Alexander von Humboldt Fellowship,
research fellowship, and that allowed him to spend
two years at the University of Tubingen in Germany. After that, he was
awarded the University of Tubingen Excellence
Initiative Fellowship for 6 months and then a much larger
grant from the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft in
2016 for his ongoing research. Most recently as a co-applicant,
he received a 5 year research grant– we can only dream
of those over here– a 5 year research grant from
the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research
to work on the rituals and the transmission of
religious texts in the New Kingdom and the
tombs at Saqqara. This project will be based
at the University of Leiden in the Netherlands. And somehow in between
all of this work, he found the time
to help the Giza Project, right here in Boston. In a project that he tells me
remains closest to his heart, he single-handedly
translated into English about 40 recently rediscovered
Arabic excavation diary books from the Harvard University
Boston Museum of Fine Arts Expedition to Giza. These were written
between 1913 and 1947 by the Egyptian foreman working
under our own George Reisner. Today, Doctor Hussein heads
south of Giza to take us, as you can see here, Inside
the Tombs of Saqqara, the Ancient Egyptian
Burial Site Revealed. Please join me in
welcoming Dr. Hussein. [APPLAUSE] Thank you so much. Thank you, Peter,
for this invitation. I am so honored to be
invited to speak in such a prestigious institute. There is no football
rivalry today. So tonight I would
like to speak to you about our project in Saqqara. We are working–
we meaning a team from the University of Tubingen,
and an Egyptian team also from the Ministry
of Antiquities, and some from the
University of Cairo. And we are working in
Saqqara in a site that is around the Pyramid of King
Unas, the last king of dynasty five. The tombs that is clustered
around this permit belong to dynasty 26, which
we all know as a Saite tomb. We’re talking about
7th century BCE Egypt. During that particular
time of history, the Ancient Near East was
witnessing a complete change of the geopolitical system,
with the demise of Egypt and the Hittites losing
their territories and empire to new rising powers in
the Ancient Near East. That is the Persians
and the Greeks. However, in the midst of
all this demise and decline of Egyptian civilization,
there was a patriotic dynasty that is formed by
nationalistic Egyptians who wanted to bring the glory
of Egypt, the glorious days of Egypt, back. And they fostered,
not really started, they fostered a
movement of archaism. That is nostalgia
toward everything that was glorious in Egyptian
history and civilization. They focus on reviving
artistic trends and literature, in particular
religious literature. So this is a time
of Egyptian history, for everybody who’s interested
in texts, to see how texts were transmitted from one place
to another and through space and time. But this is not going to be the
focus of my research tonight. Our presentation tonight
is on these tombs and how we discovered
and rediscovered them. We started the project believing
that Egypt, right this minute, needs a second round of
epigraphical and excavation missions. Meaning, we don’t need
to discover new sites, but we can go back to the old
sites that have been discovered and excavated 150 years ago,
120 years ago, and re-excavate these sites with the
new understanding, or the modern
understanding, of Egyptology and the modern techniques
of excavation and recording right now. That was one of the major things
that brought me back to Saqqara to re-excavate. We know them as the Shaft
Tombs of Dynasty 26. So Dynasty 26 tombs, the major
cluster, or the most tombs are clustered around the pyramid
of King Unas, right here. You can see around in
this site, to the south and east of the
pyramid of King Unas, Maspero sent his assistant
to work in the site. And they discovered about
six tombs in this area. One of them is Tjainebu Psamtik,
Padieniset, and the missing , this tomb, and then to the
east of the pyramid of Unas, they discovered
Padineith, Hekaemsaf, and in 1950s, an Egyptian came
to continue the work of Reisner from 1899. And he discovered that
main shaft of Amuntefnakht. Very close to the Pyramid of
King Userkaf of Dynasty Five, we have two tombs
from Dynasty 26, for Heruaa and for
Neferibra-saneith. And around the Pyramid of Unas,
King Teti as well, there’s two tombs that Lepsius,
the German explorer, has documented them but we
don’t have them at the moment. And the Egyptian
Antiquities service re-excavated a site,
or a tomb for Udjahor, in the causeway of King Unas. And then there is some
missing Psamtik right here. So these tombs, we already
know where they are. Some of them are missing. But we know what’s
in these tombs. So we went back with
the purpose of doing a thorough documentation
of these tombs and a thorough
publication of them. So since we all know
them since 1899, the Italians were
the first people to really show some interest in
the publication of these tombs. They went to the tombs of
Psamtik, Padieniset, Tjainebu. And that was in 1979. They produced the first
monograph, the first and the last monograph,
and they left these tombs and shifted their attention to
the much bigger monumental Tomb of Bakenrenef that also
dates to Dynasty 26. And this tomb has not yet
to be published fully. So they were left until 2016. I had my eyes on
these tombs since I was writing my dissertation. Because the corpus of the
data came from this tomb in terms of their texts. So when I went to
Tubingen, I had asked to put in an
application for a major grant to re-excavate these tombs,
and document, and publish them. The first phase of
our project focusing on the Tomb of
Psamtik, Padieniset, and the Tomb of Amuntefnakht. The selection was made based
on the volume of the text that is in these three tombs. The next phase of the
project, hopefully we’re going to be working on
Hekaemsaf, Padineith and possibly correct
some mistakes in Tjainebus publication. But it looks like we’re
going to include something else in that second phase. Just to get you oriented as
to what these shaft tombs look like, they are– typologically speaking, they
consist of a major shaft. This is sometimes 8 by 8 meters. And it goes down to
about 25 to 30 meters. And this is just to
give you an indication how deep these main shafts are. This picture was taken
from the ceiling. We stood on top of the
ceiling of the Burial Chamber of Amuntefnakht. So it’s about 30 meters
deep completely emptied. And then the burial
chamber would be built in the bottom of the
shaft and everything backfilled again. For every main shaft there
is a side shaft or three. Like in the Tomb
of Amun Tefnakht, there is three side
shafts that all lead into an antechamber
then a corridor that leads to the burial chamber. Most of the burial chambers are
like this one for Padieniset, and it has a vaulted
ceiling, and it looks exactly like a sarcophagus. That’s why I like to call them
the sarcophagus tombs for so many reasons, the
shape, and they’re following a tradition of the
Middle Kingdom of distributing text based on the
relationship between the text and the body of the deceased. So the first tomb that we
started working on in 2016, the tomb belongs to a person
by the name Padieniset. This is how the burial
chamber looked in March 2016. Padieniset was one of the
highest ranking officials by the end of Dynasty
26, specifically the time of King Amasis,
the last King of Dynasty 26. And during the
time of this King, Egypt fell again to
the Persian occupation. Padieniset his titles relate to
him mostly to the royal palace. He was one of the officials
working in the royal palace. And the title that turns
up a lot in his inscription is that he was the
director of the storage department in the royal palace. So many other titles, and we are
going to see them momentarily. The sarcophagus for
Padieniset was taken out of the tomb in 1899 and was
moved to the Egyptian Museum in Cairo. And it is an
anthropoid sarcophagus with lots of text on it. And we’re going
to go back to it. Some of the stuff that was found
by Maspero and his assistants in the Tomb of Padieniset
is the Canopic jars, this set of four
Canopic jars, where each contains the organs of the
deceased during the embalming process. And we’re going to hear the word
the embalming a lot tonight. And some of the other things
that were found with him is this golden fingertips
and other amulets. Those all went to
the Egyptian Museum. And luckily for us, they are
moving to the Grand Egyptian Museum, the new one, that
will be opened shortly. Luckily, because every object
that is moving to this museum had to be fully
documented, meaning photographed, good
photography, and collect information and data about it. So we get access
to this material from the Egyptian
Museum in Cairo. Padieniset as I said, he
held a number of titles, not all connecting him to the
royal palace, specifically the overseer, or the director,
of the storage department. And myself, I’m very interested
to know about this series of three titles he had. He was the Priest of the ames. That is the ames mace head. And he was the overseer,
or the great one, of the box of valuables. And he was also secretary
of the royal linen. They’re particularly
interesting, because we can see the impact
of those particular titles on the composition of his text. He wrote, he put
into his composition a number of spells that only
do with royal regalia and royal weapons. Those particular texts
appeared in the Pyramid of Queen Nit, the last queen
of Dynasty 2 and Dynasty 6. And they disappear
until they turn up in the first intermediate
period with King Akhtoy. And then we don’t
see them anymore. But we see them for the
first time and the last time with Padieniset
possibly because he was a priest of a very
sacred weapon that is used by the King. So he possibly had access
to this particular text. So one important
goal we had in mind is to produce a good
survey map of the site that we are working
on that is around the Pyramid of King Unas. Saqqara is very well known. However, there is not a
good survey map for Saqqara. There was a project by
the Scotland Museums to produce a survey map. But they really put some
good points and anchors for further projects. So one of the biggest
things of challenges for me was to find exactly if this
area has been ever surveyed and we can use
the maps that were produced by other colleagues. But it turned out there is none. Even the French, who worked
around the Pyramid of Unas, produced no survey map. They mapped the area but not
really according to total station [INAUDIBLE-satellite
points?]. So even in the Porter &
Moss and Jeff Spencers maps, all the area
that we’re working on, you see that referring to our
tombs just small little dots and with no actual coordinates. So we were very
lucky that we kept looking for data control points
to start our survey project. We knew that Cairo
University, in 1979, has put one point on top of
the Pyramid of King Unas. And they called it T7. We had the coordinates from
Cairo University and Egyptian Inspectorate, and we started
in to take our derivatives from it. We had two points that
will be our survey points. And believe me, this
is not my naming of these points, my surveying
system to name them this way. So we established our grid. And we left two sets of grids
behind us in the southwest. And we are working
on the third set. We left the fourth
set in the northeast for any further projects
either conducted by us or by other missions. So one of the goals
that we have also is to reclear the
shafts of Padieniset, but not fully reclaimed,
a partial clearance. On top of the main
shaft, there was this mound, which we did
not know where it came from. There is a shaft
right next to it that was partially excavated
by the Egyptian Inspectorate but never really finished it. So it was a big puzzle for us
where this mound coming from. So we dealt with it, and
we had to decide quickly what to do with it. So we experimented with
excavation technique that is called quadrant
trench technique. We excavate two
opposite trenches at the same time, which
will give us the opportunity to look at four
profiles simultaneously, and then can record
whatever we find. If there is any valuable
objects that we have to record, we clearly have
to stop and do it. But luckily, there was nothing
to be recorded in this mound. It means it was
backfill that came from somewhere else with no
important archaeological data. So we left it, and we moved
a little bit to the south. And we found the first
indication of a floor. That is built of slabs of
limestone, a local Saqqara limestone that is
of poor quality. We continued with
this particular floor, and we found out that
it is a platform that is on top of the site, the
south side of the main shaft of Padieniset. The soil deposit on this
platform, in some areas, was about 60 centimeters high. And another area is about
15 centimeters thick. The important thing
about the deposit is what we were able
to recover, which is charcoal, botanical remains,
some animal bones, seashells. Those are indications of
human activities taking place on top of this platform,
particularly the charcoal. The charcoal is an
indication of burning. Burning and food. Those are indications for
presentations of offering. So clearly, now we
have an idea what was going on this platform. The other thing when
we start excavating, the platform turned
out to be made of three courses,
the ones that remain, three courses of
local limestone. And there are evidence
for massive walls. This particular one in the north
is about 2 and 1/2 a meter wide and also indication for
similar massive walls in the west and east. So we’ve got now an idea
about the superstructure that hasn’t been recorded by
Maspero and his assistant. It’s massive walls
around these main shafts. Because there was
always a debate, what was on top of
this huge shaft? Whether it was a mastaba tomb,
or a pyramid on top of them, or just left open with
nothing on top of them. But now we can say, yes,
there is a superstructure that, in all intents
and purposes, there was massive
walls around it. And behind this
platform to the south, we started to discover
evidence of a chapel on top of the side
shaft of Padieniset particularly this
area right here, where we have a wall and
another wall right here, it looks like they’re flanking
an entrance to a very important and a focal point of
activities in this chapel. These particular two stones
on the highest elevation in the chapel and
on the west, those are a very good indication for
an offering table or an altar. For any Egyptologists who
would look at these two stones, they form the word “hetep,”
which means offering. And this is how
the offering tables looked like in Ancient Egypt. More important is what was on
top of this particular offering table, a thick layer of
ashes, and botanical remains, charcoal. The botanical
remains are burned, the bones are burned,
and also charcoal. So those are indication
of activities of burning and presentation
of offerings on top of this particular altar. So now we can say, yes, the
superstructure of these shafts is massive walls,
a platform where rituals would be
performed, and a chapel on top of the site shaft. Maspero, when he was clearing
the main shaft to Padieniset found this ostracon
for King Ramses II. And it looks like in Dynasty
26, in the backfilling process, they would collect whatever
they find in the area and dump it in the main shaft. When Maspero backfilled this
shaft after cleaning it, he also was collecting
everything in the area and dumping it in. And one of the
things that we found, we found 35 small
fragments of limestone with hieroglyphic inscription. The most important of them is
this one that mentions the word “-waset” and then another
one that has the remains of the cartouche of
King Ramesses II. So Ramesses II and “-waset”–
and we are around the Pyramid of Unas– we have to think
of this particular side of the Pyramid of Unas. That is the southern
side of Unas, where Khaemwaset the
prince, the restorer, the first Egyptologist
history, came to the site, did his conservation project
in the Pyramid of Unas, and left his
inscription right there. One important thing is that the
size of the fragments we found is much more smaller than the
size of the hieroglyphs that are in place right now. So if you go back,
those hieroglyphs are much bigger than the
hieroglyphs we have found. Speaking of visualities
and materiality of text, bigger signs, when they are in
the far distance, when you look far, the signs should be big. The closer you get to the ground
level, the signs get smaller. That tells me that
the fragments we found are actually coming from courses
very close to the ground level. So there is a text that
we are missing right now. And we have some of it that
we recovered during our work. But by the end of our
first season, that was the situation
when we left the site, a main shaft of Padieniset
partially cleared, with indication, or evidence
for, massive walls around it, a chapel, an altar. And surprises always happen
at the end of the season, and I’ll come to
this one shortly. But there are other tombs
that can confirm our findings. In the Tomb of Djahor there is
walls around the main shaft. And that particular ridge,
you see it again in Abusir. Abusir, there is also
evidence for massive walls around the main shaft and
a mud brick ledge as well. It looks like it became
important component to have a ledge where
rituals will be performed right on top of the shaft. The other tomb that we worked
on the following season belongs to Psamtik, who possibly
was the father of Padieniset. And Psamtik was a chief
physician and the commander of the Libyan mercenaries. His main shaft is
right next to the shaft Padieniset in this area. It was also backfilled. We started clearing the
main shaft of Padieniset. And you see these huge
boulders were dumped back into this shaft. One of the reasons that
we wanted to really partially clean this
shaft is to reduce the weight and the pressure
on top of the ceilings of all the burial chambers down below. It’s about 30 meters
deep, and the shaft is completely backfilled
with these boulders. That caused major cracks
in these burial chambers. So for conservation
purposes, we have to reclear this shaft
at least partially. And those guys
can move anything. So one of the things
we found is this wall between the main
shaft of Padieniset and the shaft of Psamtik. This wall, as you can
see, was built pretty much with whatever was available
in terms of building material on the site, not really
expensive ashlar, but also some spolia, were used. That is, inscribed stones
from older building were used in the construction
of this particular wall that is between Padieniset and Psamtik. Maspero and his
assistant were always very generous to leave
behind some cachette, some stuff for anybody was
going to come in the future. And this is some
of the pottery that was left behind inside
the main shaft of Psamtik. And it’s all Dynasty 26 pottery. And some of the other
stuff that was found is this basket and
some of the sandals. And one of our conservators,
she is fantastic. And she knows everything
about hand craft and things. She has showed
interest in producing a study on the weaving
technique of these sandals. And I hope that her report
will be ready very shortly to be published. Some of the things that we found
in the main shaft of Padieniset was those mummified scarabs that
would be put with the mummies. But as I said, surprises always
come at the end of the season. What we found by the
end of the first season was this shaft with
some of the holes were used as bases for jars. And this shaft is
led to by a ramp. And this is very important. Because Reisner was
always finding in Giza behind the mastabas
ramps that goes back to the top of the shafts. And on top of the shafts, he
would find deposits of pottery. It looks that there is
actual ritual being performed on top of the burial shafts. And there is a textual
evidence for it that is calling
about offerings made for him on top of his shaft. So I was happy. I am on top of
Dynasty 26 site shaft. Possibly, I’m going to
discover a Dynasty 26 tomb. We closed the site. And the following season
we started working. And just 50 centimeters deep,
we found the first context, which is pottery jars– I hope you can
make out this one– filled with soiled linen
and botanical remains. So going down this shaft,
almost every 25 centimeters there is a context with
pottery, specifically cooking, where those are pots
used for cooking. And all of them would be
packed with botanical remains and soiled linen. About a meter and a
half deep or two meters, we found a dog burial
with a cooking jar. As you can see the blackening
on this cooking jar stuffed also with botanical remain. And also in this time, there
is sheepskin in the packing or in the stuffing. The dog was treated very
well in terms of the burial. It was put on a platform
made of limestone. And we paid attention to
these botanical remains. And we had my friend, Dr.
Salima Ikram, visit us. And we looked at the dog burial. And one of the things,
as you can see, that the burial was
treated with care. The head was to the
west facing south. The head is lower level
than the rest of the body. The belly area is
filled with fly larva. This is an indication
that the dog was left out after its death in the
open air for a little bit before the burial. The dog is devoid of flesh. Its fur is preserved in
places, particularly the tail and the head. It’s yellow and brown hair. All bones are present. No evidence of cause of death. All bones fused, and she gave
it between four and seven years old. Why do we have a dog? I was like, OK. This is the point of my
excavation when I said, this cannot be a tomb. This has to be something else. So we have to look at the
botanical remains that were in the stuffing, that
were used as stuffing material, and this cooking ware with the
blackening evidence on them. I was surprised by the dog. Then the following stratum
showed little bugs, about six of them, and red linen soiled,
and white linen soiled as well. So the red linen, it’s a small
piece of linen, as you can see, with this white band,
and the three selvages right there, that we
can, through them, really know the actual
size of this one. I made contact with Dr. Nicole
Retfarth from University of Trier in Germany, and
we are going to investigate this particular piece of linen. Particularly, we
would like to do residue analysis for
the discoloration, the brown discoloration,
in this area. Because this is an indication
of use of some oil of some sort. At this point, I had to say,
OK, there is linen soiled. There is packing material. There’s everything that
says there’s embalming happening in this situation. So in some of the stuffing
with the botanical remains that we found, I called
upon my colleague Dr. Mennat El Dorry. She is a graduate of
a doctoral program of University of Muenster. And she is our archeobotanist. She did her preliminary
report, an investigation of these particular
botanical remains. She concluded that there is a
large amount of wheat grains and wheat chaffs in the area. And the [-haltha?] medicago,
and all those botanical remains that she is playing
with right now, her report is going
to be fantastic. Because she’s making comparison
between the botanical remains that we
found and what was found in the embalming
cachette in KV 63 in the Valley of the Kings. She saw that there is
similarities between what we have, in terms of packing
and stuffing material, and what was found in the
embalming cachette KV 63 in the Valley of the Kings. And the other thing,
those material were not really worth anything in
terms of economy, and not even have any ritual purposes
or medical purposes. They were just for stuffing,
and there’s parallels that we can compare. So the bottom most striatum
of this particular shaft showed at the end a
number of limestones that were looking like
they’re thrown down the shaft. And they are on top of pot
shards, broken pot shards. After removing this area,
this particular stratum, we found an area that is
about two meters by two meters and about one meter thick of
smashed pottery, completely smashed, thrown in. And stones would be
thrown on top of this one. Some of the vessels we
found are measuring cups, made of marl clay,
and some of these red bowls, as you can see. But the pattern that you
are seeing right here is those stones right
on top of these vessels. And the stones, those
blocks, all of them have remains of mortar on them. That means they were used
as building material, and they were part
of a construction, and then dismantled,
and then put back into this shaft on top of them. And inside this particular
strata of the broken pot shards, we were able
to collect, not find, collect through sifting,
bones of another dog. So we have two burials now,
two dog burials, in this area. Once we cleaned it up,
we have a large room that is 11 meters by 5 meters. And forgive me for using
this metric system. So that’s why I have a
photograph of my surveyor, Ahmed Ragab, just as a scale
to give you an impression how big this room is. But what is on top
of this chamber is that particular gallery
that is running above us. Those galleries are
Dynasty 2 galleries. Saqqara has two major networks
of underground galleries that were used by
Kings of Dynasty 2, the first one by King Nynetjer,
to the south of the Causeway of King Unas, and it
goes south all the way to where the Dutch concession,
the New Kingdom cemetery is. And even the New Kingdom people
were using these galleries for burial as well. And the other network starts
at the Northeastern corner of Unas. And it belongs to
King Khasekhemwy. And apparently, it
goes south as well, and it turns a little
bit west toward where we are working right this minute. So Dynasty 26 clearly
had a knowledge as to the location
of this network of underground galleries. And they used them as well. Same thing happened
with Padieniset here. In the eastern
side of this room, you have a large
ledge that occupies the entire eastern
side of the room. And this is the northern
side of this ledge. And above you can see that
underground gallery of Dynasty 2 just flying over our head. It was scary to
work in this room. And the southern end of
that particular ledge, right here, we have
a large vessel. I’m going to call it for
now a storage vessel. We cleaned it up, and
this is how it looks like. It’s in the corner, and
there is a wall around it. The very existence
of this vessel inside this large
underground room, it tells me that
this is an indication of certain human
activities happening here if it is a storage
vessel or anything else. And anything else is going
to be explained shortly. So human activity
is happening here that has to do possibly with
rituals related to the packing material, the vessels we
found, the embalming material we found. So the corpus of the pottery
we found inside of the shaft. And inside this room as
well is this large number of cooking ware. Some of them were
not used in burning, but the rest have this
evidence of burning on them. An amphora, that is
used only for natron and some foreign vessels
with foreign oil as well, red bowls, and those
measuring cups. Those measuring
cups were for oil. Because we’re very lucky,
we got measuring cups with labels written in hieratic. All of them have
hieratic labels on them. And just wait on this one. This one says meh 4,
which means fourth. Fourth what? Fourth day? Fourth time? But it’s fourth–
that’s the same cup– fourth of the oil tuwat. And the tuwat is one
of the seven oils that is used in the embalming
and during the ritual of Opening of the Mouth. So we always knew there is
an oil that’s called tuwat. And we always knew it was used
in embalming and the Opening of the Mouth ritual. But what was this oil? We don’t know. To the point, that
translation was support oil. I don’t know what the
chemical composition. Now, we can do context
analysis and actually residue analysis for this. And for that particular purpose,
since regulations in Egypt says there is no sample
outside of Egypt, I had to look for a
good chemist in Egypt. And I found one,
actually three, working for the National Research
Lab, or Center, in Egypt. And those are academics
who don’t have to teach. They only do research. He had his PhD in chemistry
from the United States. So we will be doing
residue analysis. And hopefully we
can now say what is the chemical composition
of the tuwat oil that is used in the embalming process
and in the Opening of the Mouth ritual. Another thing with these
measuring cups that we have, we can also tell the volume. If this is the fourth
day, OK, now we know it’s used on
the fourth day. It’s the fourth time of
using the tuwat we can pretty much talk about the economics
of embalming, how much money should be put in there. So the other cup, right here,
it talks about wet-tep-es. Some cups talks about
embalming her head. Other cups talk about
embalming his head. It looks like there is two
people that had been embalmed inside this embalming workshop. We know then that– do we have a lady
with some distinction that is buried in the area and
we don’t have her tomb yet? This is something to look for. The other red bowls, some
of them have the word semi. And semi is pretty
much buttermilk. And then the word
antiu, which is a myrrh. Both were embalming
substance as well. So we are working toward
mummification here. Some of the measuring
cups have the word head and then pesedj for smelting. So we have to do this. And more of the red
bowls with labels. I forgot to tell you that
from those particular shards, we have 335 shards with labels. So now we can really
do some good study on the material that is
used in the embalming and also do residue
analysis to know exactly what these material are. Our pottery corpus
has been documented by Dr. Ashraf el-Senusi, who is
was one of the leading pottery specialists in Egypt, pretty
much one of the first Egyptians students to learn about pottery. His assistant is Gehad,
and she is a very promising young woman. We are now talking about
giving her this corpus to be her dissertation
topic, and we are talking about finding
some advisors for her. And I’m sure that she
will be doing a fantastic job with this corpus. So, if we have, inside
this shaft, material that talks about embalming,
where is that embalming place? So this shaft is
pretty much the place where they dumped everything
after the process, where that embalming
workshop has to be. We had to look above-ground,
and almost 1 and 1/2 meters to the south of
the shaft, we found indication of a structure, the
first wall we have right here. And we were very lucky. We didn’t have to think much,
because inside this structure right here, we found
one of the Red Bulls, in situ, that was already
similar to the ones we found in the shaft. So the connection has been
made already between these two, and we left it. The following season,
we came to the site with the purpose of finishing
excavating the embalming workshop. And here, we have Warda Naggar,
she’s an inspector from Karnak, and she’s fantastic,
but we’re going to lose her this
season because she went to France to have an MA. And we’re happy for her,
but sad that she’s not going to be joining us this season. What she discovered here is
this one brick structure. It’s in rectilinear form, and
surrounding this area, which is a basin, cut into the
bedrock for a depth of about 1 and 1/2 meters. And on the other
side, from the top, we found this ramp, that
mud-brick ramp right here, dividing up a rectangular
area into two equal spaces. From that side to this
wall, four meters exact. And from this side to this
wall, four meters exact. And we have this
basin right here and an indication of another
rectilinear structure similar to this one, but
the floor is not cut. This is very important. What did we find
inside this structure? We found those
particular contents, and again, Warda is
excavating the site. And we have two jars. The content of
this jar is packing material that is soiled– soiled linen, and also
botanical remains. That is one of the
conservators that is working also from Saqqara. A wonderful young man,
fantastic conservator, putting together this vessel. And who would appreciate this
vessel more than Salima Ikram? She came and we looked
at the drippings on the walls of the
vessel, and the inside. This is tar. And tar was a basic embalming
ingredient in dynasty 26. We were always happy to take a
little chip, and light it up, and smell this tar. So if there is
burning happening, we have two
three-legged braziers found inside this pottery
cachette that was also used for smelting purposes. And some of the objects we
found in the embalming workshop above-ground are these very
indicative Dynasty 26 beer jars and torches. We have four torches collected
from both the embalming workshop above-ground,
and the shaft where they dumped everything in there. Four is a very good number. Four for the torches, those
are the four torches used during the embalming process. And some other thing we found
is in that corner right here. We still haven’t excavated the
southern end of this embalming workshop. We found, in that
particular area here, a statuette of a
baboon, and it’s been documented by
Mohamed Refaat– also one of the people
who worked with me in the Ministry of Antiquities. He failed and went to
the University of Assiut. I told him not to,
but he went there. So this particular
statuette is for a baboon, and it does have remains of,
and residue of, some burning or dirt from the oils. So we need to also do
some residue analysis, and see what is in there. So, finally, the area that we
are excavating above ground, as you can see, the
rectangular area with that very important
ramp in the middle dividing up the space. Do we have any evidence of what
the embalming or purification tent looked like? Yes. In the Old Kingdom,
Egyptians were very keen to represent the
embalming in the purification tent. And it looks like, in
this tomb, Pepy-ankh from Meir, that he
has two doorways, and some post-holes that are
holding up these poles to hold the curtain. And, in the middle, that
particular structure is dividing up the space. And then there is
a basin right here. So far, we’re very close to this
particular model, or design, of a workshop. An embalming workshop,
or a purification tent. From all the designs of these
purification tents from the Old Kingdom, it looks like
the common denominator is that T-shaped form with this
particular ramp in the middle. We have it in our embalming
workshop, as you can see, and I think this is the
first monumental structure– as an indication of an embalming
workshop or purification tent– to be established on
top in the cemetery right next to the tomb. So, is that common? Yes. There is textual evidence that
talks about the King donating an embalming, or a purification,
ibu tent to the deceased and there being an order
for it to be constructed right next to the tomb. And this example comes from
the tomb of Washptah in Abusir. And other people compare that
particular purification tent to the Valley of the Kings– to the Valley
Temple of the Kings. And Dr. Brovarski here
knows more than anybody about the purification
tent, and I’m looking forward to his
questions after this talk. So, there’s one thing left in
terms of my interpretation. That big jar down in the
bottom, what was it doing there? Well, in the embalming process,
some paraphernalia were used, and those are vessels. Some of these vessels,
particularly that one right here, are called senu vessels. And it’s a red one, a large one. So this is what I have, the
senu vessel in a larger scale. So the use of the senu vessel,
Dawson was talking about, the process of the salt bath. In the salt bath during the
embalming process, he said, the deceased are not really
being submerged completely in the salt bath. Rather, the Egyptian
used vessels to put the deceased
inside, and the head is not submerged in the salt bath. Is there any pictorial
indication for that process? Yes. From the New Kingdom,
we have always had this representation of
the deceased sitting on top of a vessel, a senu vessel like
the one we have on the bottom, and there is laceration
happening here. Is this water saltwater? A closer example– with a closer
look at this particular scene, you see the deceased sitting
on top of that large vessel. Another one is like this one. So I think the vessel
I have, down there is where the process of salt
bathing is taking place, down in the bottom. But this is not the only
function– the only ritual that happened down in the bottom. I think there is more. The wrapping process possibly
happened in the dark, in this area. So to go back to Padieniset,
the guy who we want– we came to Saqqara for
in the first place. His text is polychrome,
beautifully decorated, that suffered a lot through
the time because of the tourism effect and the rise of humidity. So there is flaking
of the colors, and fading of the
colors as well, so we have to do some
conservation projects. But, to give you an indication
of the text that is there, the text in this burial
chamber is exactly the same text that has been
used during the process of embalming. The offering text,
the presentation of the oils, the presentation
of the linens, this is all text that is partially
used in the embalming process. It also leads to the
resurrection of the deceased, and turning the
deceased into a spirit. An akh spirit. Not just a spirit, but
an equipped spirit. And some of the text
giving protection, and also the royal regalia
text that, as I said, was influenced heavily
by the job of Padieniset being the priest of the
macehead of the king. And, as you can see, more series
of resurrection texts, and then serpent spells as protection. The southern wall of Padieniset
has a selection of coffin text spells that particularly
opens the door, opens the gates of the tomb,
or the doors of the tomb, and lets the deceased go
out, giving him free movement and allowing him to
reach an area where all these northern
stars will be existing. He’s going to turn
into one of them. And right here on
the door jambs, there is a ferryman spell,
where the deceased has to talk to a ferryman
to take the boat and cross to the other world. And as I said, one of the
things that we had to do is document the
text of Padieniset. So we used a computer-based
hieroglyphic program, that is JSesh, to transcribe
all the hieroglyphs. And since this tomb is
painted, the hieroglyphs are all painted, we
needed to pay attention to color recording, because
this is something people really don’t pay attention to. We needed to record the
colors before we intervened in terms of conservation, and
let our conservators work. So I had an idea with
our color recording guys. We sat together and we
said we would generate a color recording sheet, where
we have the transcription that is computer-based hieroglyphs,
and our column numbers, and then the words would be
all the individual hieroglyphic signs. We used coloring
pencils, like children, and then we rendered the remains
of the color on every sign. And after that, we named
the color as we saw it, then we had to code it. And we used the Munsell
color rock, not the soil. Rock because Egyptian
colors are minerals, they’re coming from minerals,
and the Munsell rock is the best one we can use. So we code the tones before the
intervention of the excavators. Once they’re done, we can
repeat that process again to know the actual color that
we see after cleaning up. There’s [INAUDIBLE]. A major goal of our
work is to produce exact facsimiles of these
texts, for so many reasons. And we use, of course,
a digital technique that was pretty much
introduced to Egyptology, and promoted, and theorized
by Peter Manuelian. He said, we have to do it this
way, and this is the good one. And I think every
single mission right now is using this technique. I have our chief
epigrapher, he was trained– he’s from Cairo University,
he’s a teaching assistant at Cairo University–
and he was trained at the University of Tuebingen. Another person from
Cairo University as well, his teaching assistant,
she’s a woman and was trained also
in Tuebingen with us. In addition to
another person, who is Mohammed Rehan, who
is in Germany right now doing his PhD at the
University of Munich. And this is also
the southern wall, the very ground of digital
epigraphy that we have. The sarcophagus
of Padieniset also has its share of attention
in terms of documentation. Our photographer is Ahmed Ehab
from the Documentation Center, he’s worked with me as well. Fantastic, very, very, artistic. He studied photography
in The School of Art at Cairo University, and he has
his team right now producing a photographic
documentation– a photoset, and also photographs
for 3D modeling. They were causing a scene
at Cairo University, at the Egyptian museum. This is the scene of the
tomb of Padieniset in 2010. Our conservation project had
to talk about the problems to assess the situation. A major problem was humidity. We had to do some sort
of ventilation system that slowly and gradually
brings humidity down. And we did not want to
expose the limestone to the shock of change of
climate all of a sudden, because that would bring more
salt outside of the limestone. The salt is is a main
component of the limestone, so you don’t want it to be
coming out all the time. So gradual
ventilation would help stabilize the salt
inside the stone, and not bring the
reliefs out with it. Our conservators are
from Giza, from Saqqara, and from Sharkiya. Those are also our Ministry
of Antiquities conservators. As you can see, Ahmed
Imam is from Sharkiya, and we had to
develop a strategy. And we say, the
best intervention is the least intervention. So our first step was to
clean the background of all the hieroglyphs, because
this is dirt accumulated on the walls because
of humidity, dust, and tourism as well. So we started working with that,
it gave us a very good result, we started to see the
colors in the scene, and this is the northern wall. I want to show you
when we started working, some of the areas
that we experimented on. And, all of a
sudden, here are some of the results we’re getting
with our conservators. Our chief conservative is Osama
Saber from Saqqara as well, and this is a scene
of the Northern Wall. We conducted only
one step, which was cleaning the background
of the hieroglyphs. This season, we are
going to be facing the biggest challenge, which
is dealing with the color. Our team now will do the
testing and the X-ray that is needed to know exactly
the chemical compositions and the binding substance
of all these colors. Starting in two weeks,
we’re going back to Cairo, to Saqqara, to
do our conservation project and finish the documentation
of these scenes and production of the facsimile. These are some of the
colors, a polychrome tomb, and I think it deserves that we
pay attention to these colors. Because at the end,
we’re going to do digital restoration
of these colors when we finish our facsimile. Last season was
our third season. After three seasons,
this is how our site looked, with the underground
burial chambers of Tjainebu, Psamtek, and Padieniset. And turns out that,
so far, the main shaft of Psamtek and Tjainebu
is just one single shaft. And this is a big
surprise for me, and for everybody
else, I think, who knows these tombs from before. And then in this area, this is
the underground mummification room, and this is the
shaft that we worked on. In our ibu tent, or
purification-mummification structure, there are more
embalming installations behind Psamtek and Tjainebu. We’re not going to
get to this one right now, because this will take
too much time to talk about. And this is how, exactly,
our last survey map looked. We’re going to do
this season: laser scanning of the shafts,
the underground galleries, the burial chambers, the
embalming installation, above-ground, underground, and
our laser scanning professor is Matthias Lang from
the eScience Center of Tuebingen. He’s coming
with two graduate students from his program, and will be
forming a workshop for laser scanning and photogrammetry
on the side for inspectors from Saqqara, and also from
some of my team members as well. All this work could not be done
without those fantastic people. Very dedicated, very
devoted to what they do, and the example is very
clear with Reisners foreman. But if anybody gets
credit for this work, it would be this large team. We started six people
in the first season, now we’re over 35 individuals. This season, about five
new members are joining us. But, please, I would like
to read the names out loud: Dr. Ashaf el-Senusi, Dr. Menna
El Dorry, Mohamed Refaat, Mohamed Rehan, Hasan El Zayat,
Warda Naggar, Ahmed Ragab, Nader Al Hassanein, Shaimaa
Mohamed, Rasha Hassanein, Gehad, Essam, Osama, Ahmed,
Ezzat, Hassan, Ahmed, Mohamed, Nagah, Wessam, Ahmed,
Mohamed, and Bassem. And then the inspectors
from Saqqara: Eid, Omar, Samir, Essam,
Alaa, Nevine, and Mayssa. Mayssa actually
will be joining us. She was assistant
inspector last season, we liked her dedication
and devotion, and she wants to learn. We said, OK, why don’t
you join us next season? And then Dr. Noha Abu
Lila, Hany, and Sara, those three joined
us for a season, but we’re not fortunate
to have them anymore. Thank you very much.

4 thoughts on “Inside the Tombs of Saqqara: The Ancient Egyptian Burial Site Revealed

  1. Digging and cleaning is important and the Giving of the Credit etc. But, WHAT does any of this matter without some PHILOSOPHICAL SUMMARY of what all this has already revealed for humanity! … other than assuming all this stuff is BURIAL SITE?! Which is dubious!

    I'm sure there's more to all this than cleaning the dirt out of the hieroglyphs and finding the COLORS! What have we learned from this site? Put it in a SHORT SUMMARY! Don't waste an hour of time babbling on about the digging and the cleaning and who deserves CREDIT!!! CREDIT FOR WHAT!?!?!?!? WHAT HAVE LEARNED? OR BETTER WHAT CAN WE GLEAN?!?!

  2. This must be a presentation for the tomb diggers asociation who take pride in their work but who are not very intetested on other details like what the heck was at the end of the shafts.

  3. this nicely done presentation educated me and entertained me at the same time. these youtube academic videos increase my curiosity about ancient egyptian civilization and ultimately mankind in general. nice to see and hear some of the most intelligent and dedicated professionals talk about their chosen fields of study. and present evidence and credible observations on their findings verses the constant barrage of conspiracy and occult/religious dreck found on the interweb concerning history and the ascent of man. i look forward to more of your thoughts and insights.

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