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Title: Report of the 2004-2005 Campaigns of the Belgian Mission to Dayr al-Barsha
Authors: Willems, Harco
Delattre, Alain
De Meyer, Marleen
Depraetere, David
Dupras, Tosha
Herbich, Thomasz
van Loon, Gertrud
Peeters, Christoph
Vereecken, Stefanie ×
Verstraeten, Gert
Williams, Lana #
Issue Date: 2009
Series Title: Mitteilungen des Deutschen Archäologischen Instituts vol:65 (2009) pages:377-432
Abstract: This report describes the 2004 and 2005 seasons at Dayr al-Barshā. Geophysical research revealed clear anomalies in the southeastern part of zone 9, where a hitherto undocumented cemetery was found. West of the desert plateau, work was begun on modelling the ancient alluvial plain. Although it is still too early to offer a clear interpretation, ancient river beds can be shown to have once existed far closer to the village than is presently the case.
The excavations in zone 2 (i.e. the plateau with the Middle Kingdom nomarchal tombs) concentrated around the monumental tomb of Djehutihotep (17L20/1) and the one to its east, which belonged to Amenemhat (17L22/1). The discovery that the burial corridor of the former tomb was dug through an older burial shaft 17L20/1B, proves that Djehutihotep was not the first to build in the area. The general form of shaft 17L20/1B as well as a small amount of late Old Kingdom pottery provide the first unmistakable evidence that this part of the cemetery was already used long before the Middle Kingdom. There are also two other, unfinished shafts in the immediate neighbourhood which are of the same type as 17L20/1B.
Excavations in 17L20/1A-B yielded only few finds of intrinsic interest, apart from large amounts of decorated wall surface fragments of Djehutihotep’s tomb chapel. The most surprising find was some parts of a limestone obelisk, which may have stood in front of the tomb and which is one of the very few known private obelisks of the entire Middle Kingdom.
The burial corridor 17L20/1A was built in two phases, and was never entirely finished. Comparative study of the measurements of the entrance shaft and the burial chamber suggests the outer coffin must have been over 3 m long and about 1.50 m. wide, a size closely similar to that of other nomarch coffins from the site. Two niches in the rear part of the burial chamber may have been part of a pulley system enabling the workers involved in the burial to haul the coffin into the tomb from the outside.
Work in tomb 17L22/1 now permits for the first time to envisage the architectural form of this building, and how it relates to the Djehutihotep tomb.
Zone 4, on the north flank of the Wādī Nakhla below zone 2, is usually referred to in the literature as an Old Kingdom/First Intermediate Period cemetery, although thus far this rested on impressions rather than evidence. Our research showed that some very large Old Kingdom elite tombs do in fact exist here. Tomb 16L34/1 contains an Ernennungsurkunde dated to the Fifth Dynasty pharaoh Neferefre and tomb 15N56/1, belonging to Nyankhnemty and Nyankhhathor must be of a roughly similar date. Far more unexpected is the discovery that zone 4 contained some large Middle Kingdom burials with sloping passages, which once contained rich elite burials not much inferior to those in zone 2. Equally unexpected is the presence, throughout zone 4, of large amounts of Second Intermediate Period and early New Kingdom burials, including some with evidence for the presence of the Pan-Grave culture. After this, Dayr al-Barshā lost its appeal as a burial site, until the Ptolemaic Period, which has left a few traces.
The small selection of tombs that has so far been investigated in Zone 7, points towards a date of their original use in the Sixth Dynasty. The reuse in this area seems to have been far less intense than in Zone 4 for funerary purposes, while Coptic habitation of the tombs occurred regularly. However, the original architecture of the tombs was left relatively unmodified by the Copts in comparison to the tombs of Zone 4. The restoration inscriptions of Djehutinakht, son of Teti, occur only in decorated Old Kingdom tombs, but so far no trace of any actual restoration activity has turned up.
After four seasons of excavations on the western island the layout and composition of the cemetery in the desert plain (zone 9) are gradually becoming clear. The tombs range from large, well-built, vaulted mud brick tombs to shallow pit tombs with a poor funerary equipment. These varied tomb types are arranged in walled complexes. Work during the 2004 season was concentrated in four places. Three were tomb complexes already discovered and partially investigated in 2003 (10O13, 10O22 and 10O15). The fourth was tomb complex 10N55 situated near the Middle Kingdom cemetery road, just across tomb 10N15/1 which was excavated in 2002. The main aim of the 2005 season was to complete the documentation of complexes 10O13 and 10O15, and to excavate the triple shaft tomb 10N55/1. In 2005 we also carried out an emergency excavation of a tomb which had collapsed under the modern road which borders the zone 9 on the west.
Analysis of the human remains focussed on finds material unearthed from 2002-2005 in zones 4, 7, and 9, with a minimum number of individuals of 40 from zone 4, 10 from zone 7, and 29 from zone 9. Some interesting patterns can be noted. The demographic breakdown for zone 4 shows that adult males are the most numerous, although this sexual bias may be due partly to poor preservation. The poor representation of juveniles, and particularly infants and fetuses, is however likely significant. A similar, but even more striking example of the missing juvenile cohort is evident in zone 9, dating prediominantly to the early Middle Kingdom.
Pathological data shows a myriad of disease and traumatic injuries that these individuals suffered from. Pathologies of the spine indicate that many of the deceased had been involved in some sort of heavy labour. Dental pathologies are also very prevalent, due to grit and sand in the food and air. This condition leads the dentition to be exposed to pathogens which create caries and dental abscesses
The ceramic analysis is beginning to produce coherent patterns. The report offers a first overview of the most frequently attested pottery types dating between the late Old Kingdom and the Second Intermediate Period.
The report is concluded by brief accounts on quarry research and the study of the early Christian remains at Dayr Abū Hinnis.
ISSN: 0342-1279
VABB publication type: VABB-1
Publication status: published
KU Leuven publication type: IT
Appears in Collections:Near Eastern Studies, Leuven
Ancient History, Leuven
Division of Geography & Tourism
× corresponding author
# (joint) last author

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