Dendara – 2016

© Mission Dendara

The excavation campaigns
(by years)


Yann Tristant (Senior Lecturer, Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia)

How Eveha Participates

Archaeological anthropology

The excavations carried out from mid-November to mid-December 2016 had two purposes: to complete the research on the tombs opened in 2015 and to expand northward and westward the area already explored. An additional 600 m² have thus been opened, bringing the surface studied over the last two seasons to more than 1000 m², while the ten excavated tombs are now well dated from the end of the First Intermediate Period / Middle Kingdom and the Ptolemaic period.
The tombs of the end of the First Intermediate Period / Middle Kingdom are divided into three shaft monuments and a mud brick mastaba. The excavation of the two last shafts of monument 1104 was completed at the beginning of the campaign. The first shaft (st 1140) was very disturbed, revealing only a few objects and the scattered remains of an adult and a teenager. On the contrary, the second shaft (st 1106) delivered the remains of a woman over 30 wearing a necklace of more than 50 pearls and buried with three jars still sealed with their mud cork.

Another shaft monument stands north of the previous one. It consists of three compartments, of which only one has been fully excavated (st 1155, depth 3m), the instability of the subsoil preventing the opening of the other two rooms 1156 and 1147. The chamber of shaft 1155, which was built under a miniature mastaba (st 1133), contained the skeletons of two adults laid in extension in wooden chests and an immature youngster. The deceased were accompanied by about fifty vases, some of which were still closed by their cork. In the vertical shaft 1156, the squeleton of a 46-50-year-old man was found against the west wall, on the left side and in a slightly bent position. It is probably linked to the reuse of the structure, as evidenced by the fragments of stela discovered nearby.

The monument 1186 is located at the northern limit of the explored area. It is composed of five compartments delimited by mud brick walls. Three of these are shallow (1143, 1144 and 1160), while the other two are vertical shafts about two metres deep (1161 and 1187). All remains of the easthern compartments (1160 and 1161) were moved during Clarence Fisher’s excavation, leaving nothing to study today. The central compartment (st 1144) contained a 50-year-old woman placed in a wooden chest in a hypercontracted position with her head to the north. This tomb was framed and toped by a brick layout containing three vases. The shaft 1187 delivered the remains of six deceased, one adult (female) and five immature under 10 years of age. Three wooden chests, each containing a child, were also stacked in the shaft. The north-facing room delivered three deceased :an immature, a woman with a necklace and a button-seal − both placed in extension in a wooden chest −, and a young immature seated and facing the bottom. The deceased were accompanied by a dozen vases. The westernmost burial (st 1143) contained a 30-38- year-old man lying in extension, head to the north.

The mission was mostly devoted to the excavation of a large mastaba (18x13m) oriented SE-NW in the western part of the area. Its mud brick enclosure was about 1m thick and preserved on four to five foundations. Three pits were located against the walls in the inner space, two of which contained a sarcophagus made of raw earth but without skeleton or objects. The last burial delivered the remains of a man aged 30-38, buried in a bent position on the left side and in a coffin.
South of the enclosure, a square well (2x2m) was dug into the substrate to a depth of 9m. The upper filling, made of sand brought by the wind, shows a late reuse as a tomb for a man over 30 years old buried with shards of Ptolemaic vases. At the bottom of the shaft, a funeral chamber opens to the South. It was still partially closed by a brick wall. The long period of occupation of this area is illustrated by the discovery of a limestone statue representing a seated bearded male figure wearing a loincloth adorned with hieroglyphics and a small arched stela also in limestone. These objects seem to date from the New Kingdom (Tuthmosid period).

The six late Ptolemaic/early Roman tombs present rather all the same features with an excavated staircase leading to an underground chamber. Theses burials occupy the empty spaces between the earlier tombs, while sometimes disturbing them, especially at the level of the chamber. For example, hypogeum 1135 consists of a 10-step staircase leading to a chamber. Inside were found two mummified adults (a man and a woman of about 30-35 years old) placed on sand and the remains of a man placed in a terracotta sarcophagus in the bottom of the chamber.

This excavation campaign has thus made it possible to supplement the documentation already acquired in this sector by new discoveries in the unexplored areas. The excavated tombs document the main periods of occupation of the necropolis and the main architectural types. These burials also give an idea of the strong potential of this sector with the presence of possible intact structures alongside the disturbed ones. Moreover, the good state of conservation will make it possible to carry out an achieved anthropological study.