Updated January 22, 2011

Otto's Dig (less) Diary  *KV-63 excavation complete


Otto's Dig Diary

22 January 2011

On New Year¡¯s Day 2011, I arrived in Cairo. Since it was a Saturday, the SCA offices were closed, but it did allow me time to contact some friends and colleagues and also pick up a few supplies and a train ticket to Luxor for Sunday evening.  


Dr. Mohamed Ismail Khaled, Director of the SCA's Foreign Missions Office had informed me earlier that our proposal had been approved, and we arranged a meeting for Sunday morning, January 2nd. All our papers and security were ready and some monument passes were requested. Also stopped by to give my regards to Dr. Zahi Hawass. That same afternoon, I then found the Marawan Chemist shop and bought some good acetone (18 litres) for the conservation and restoration work; we had a fairly good stock of virtually pure alcohol stored in KV-10, but acetone was sorely needed.   By late that same evening, I was on the train to Luxor.


This was our third season that we have been residing at the small Fayrouz Hotel on the west bank. Living on the west bank eliminates those windy cold Nile crossings mornings on the launch, and it also cuts travel time to and from work in the KV. It is necessary on occasion to go to the east bank, but not every day.  Once my suitcase and baggage were placed in my room at the hotel, then came the customary tours to the SCA offices (taftish) to have our official documents from Zamalek signed and approved. Once that was accomplished, we arranged to meet on January 5th, have our inspector assigned and arrange for the opening of KV-10, our work and storage area for the KV-63 artifacts.


Meanwhile, our Reis, Nubi abd el-Basit, hauled our items stored in Gurna to the hotel and we arranged for a small crew of workmen. No diggers, basket carriers and sifters were needed as we will not be excavating this season, but simply having a study season. The inspector assigned to us for this season is Mohamed Mohamed Khalil. The first staff member to arrive in Luxor was Maryann Marazzi, who has been with us a number of seasons. After we had KV-10 open, photographer Heather Alexander appeared and will be here for roughly a month. Artist Laurel Darcy Hackley was with us for the first time in 2010 and will be joining us for a while on January 25th. Others who will join us for a while later in the season are Betty Schneider, botanist Dr. Ahmed Fahmy, Brent Benjamin and of course, we expect Dr. Salima Ikram will be able to join us on occasion.


For conservation and restoration work on the KV-63 coffins, we have with us Ahmed Baghdady and Mohamed Mahmoud Mohamed Mahmoud of the SCA.  Both men worked with us in 2010, and Ahmed was part of the crew of SCA conservators back in 2006 when we began the process of clearing the chamber of KV-63. Ahmed, therefore, is well acquainted with the conservation and restoration problems caused by the action of the termites.


While not on our official SCA staff list, Saied Hamed Hassan of ARCE's lab school was permitted to do some tests on the small Coffin D last season. The coffin was moved to the custody of the Luxor Museum and it is hoped that Saied will start work on it soon. The wood from the coffin is essentially gone, but the termite residue remaining was consolidated by Dr. Nadia Lokma in 2006 and our hope is that Saied can remove the resin or varnish coating which partly conceals the details of the small painted face.


Prof. Earl Ertman has been plagued by medical problems arising from earlier hip surgery and was hospitalized at times during the past year. A nasty infection has finally been cleared up, but he is able to get around somewhat with a walker.  Though he is not able to travel, his input, comments, suggestions and criticism are ever-present thanks to the speed and efficiency of E-mail.


Photographer George Johnson has worked with us on many occasions, but has finally decided to retire. One of his students,Brent Benjamin,will try to fill in for him a bit later this season.


For this study season, our aims were to complete work on the remaining coffins, bring the pottery drawings and designations to a close and get some inked copies of the seal impressions. In part, we considered getting some start (maybe "re-start") to the KV-10 portion of the Amenmesse Project, for we still have to gradually clear the tomb of KV-63 artifacts and excavate the descent in the pillared hall. We roughly considered that clearing the rubble from the descent might be possible in the latter part of the 2012 season.


The plans for 2011 had to be changed once we saw the situation in KV-10. Somehow, the SCA in Cairo and Zamalek was given a signal that we had completed the work on the KV-63 artifacts. As a result, many items (not all) were removed sometime during the  summer of the 2010. Some artifacts were registered and transferred elsewhere. Coffins E and G are in Minya, slated for the new Aton/Akhenaten museum there, and they are accompanied by 21 of the large storage jars from the chamber of KV-63.  The small gilt coffin (object G.6) had been sent to the museum at Sharm el Sheikh last year; we proposed having Sue Osgood (Chicago House artist) draw it as she has drawn all of the other KV-63 coffins, but with the need to alter our plans for this season, we will probably not have time or resources to go to Sharm el Sheikh this season. It is safely housed in the museum and can be drawn later when we can make the necessary arrangements.


The remains of Coffins A, B, C and F are in the magazine here. Coffin B was dealt with and at most we would check it over some morning. Coffin A was made for the "Royal Nurse, Iny" and because the surviving texts do not reflect any of the customary mortuary deities, we have suggested that Iny dated to the Akhenaten era. The termites did terrible damage to this once rather gaudily decorated coffin, but our SCA conservators will try to place and replace more fragments in the hopes of recovering more of this very "non-traditional" text.


At this time, our SCA conservators are preparing to reassemble the upper part of Coffin C. Here the termite damage was considerable; in many areas there is no real wood surviving under the resin, so the chances of finding any decoration (if any ever existed) are very slim. But the conservators should have the head area "restored" within a few days from now.


Coffin F has the more beautiful yellow face mask. It has a few cracks and some splashes of resin on it. We will consider how to deal with Coffin F later in the season. In 2010, we were unable to find any decoration (carved or painted) as the condition of the coffin's surface under the resin was very bad. It is unfortunate that we have no name or title to go along with this charming face!


As for the large storage jars, all were photographed, some were drawn and for the current season, one goal was to have Ali "Bes" Abdullah mend rims so we can make a count of how many were placed in KV-63. It would be redundant to try and restore any more of them, but by mending the rims we can get a tally. Along with the 28 on the chamber floor, plus those broken and strewn in some of the coffins and other large storage jars, we expect the final count to be ca. 38-40 of these large vessels. Of that total, 21 from the floor of the chamber were registered and transferred to Minya, where they will be in the new Aton museum there.


Another item we hoped to finish with in 2011 were the small seal impressions. In 2010, after artist Laurel Hackley had left the group, we found a few tiny pieces in a small plastic bag from sifting and so we have numbered 62 impressions (most fragmentary of course). Most were drawn in 4:1 scale in pencil by Darcy and it was planned to have her do the traditional silhouette style drawings by tracing from her pencil drawings. The plastic box with the impressions was among the items taken to the magazine while we were away.


Some of the artifacts taken from KV-10 were not essential to our plans for 2011, but many where.We had set aside botanical materials in a tin sanduk for botanist Dr. Ahmed Fahmy to examine. He had checked some botanical materials from KV-63 in 2006 and 2010 and we had set aside other items for him to examine this season.


Finally, some crates and boxes with mended vessels, including many partially restored blue painted jars, had also been removed to the magazine. With the ceramics from KV-63, we have drawn most of the complete and re-constructable vessels, but some of the blue painted wares should be drawn and some await their final identification number. These tasks were also slated for the 2011 season.


How do we adapt to the situation? Our plans were set to our scheduled date, staff and funds, but now we face a totally different situation. When some of our West Valley materials went into that magazine in the 1990's, the magazine was virtually empty. There would have been ample space to bring tables, chairs and supplies to work with the materials there. But since that time, the original building of what was the magazine now contains more buildings and a host of artifacts from many missions. Our projects' materials are in a tight space and not well suited for easy access and study.  


It was necessary to get some assistance so that we might try to complete some of the tasks we had originally set out to accomplish. We were badly in need of some remedy that would enable us to fulfill some of our plans. A message outlining our situation was sent to the Director-General of the SCA, Dr. Zahi Hawass. Several days later when on a tour of his projects in the KV and elsewhere, Dr. Zahi stopped by KV-10. When he learned that we had given no indication of having completed our investigations and studies, he offered to return ALL of the items in the magazine to KV-10.  I suggested that only certain boxes and crates be returned and so he asked me to draw up a list and present it later that day. We know of tin boxes with items we needed, and certain crates had the ceramics we also needed. Some artifacts taken from the shelves could not be identified by a box or crate number as we did not know how they were packed, but we hoped they could be easily located.


Later that morning we presented Dr. Zahi with the list and he signed our request list and we then had permission to bring many of the key items back to KV-10.  We then spent part of a morning selecting boxes and items to take back to KV-10, and then the following day, we packed everything on the back of a small truck and drove to the KV. The chief inspectors at the magazine, Yahya abd el-Alim  and Ahmed Hassan Obaid have been most cooperative in these proceedings. We should be able to finish with most things and will try to return them to the magazine at season's end. Our SCA conservators Ahmed and Mohamed Mahmoud have a well lighted lab in the magazine and will continue their work on the coffins there. We made periodic trips to photograph and discuss their progress.


Meanwhile, we are checking our lists and restocking the artifacts taken from the shelves, Ali Abdullah is working on ceramics, especially the large storage jar rims, and I have been drawing pots and adding identification numbers. Darcy will join us later next week to resume drawings of the seal impressions. As our scheduled season was short, we will probably not deal with artifacts moved out of the Luxor area this year, but try to follow up of those next year.

A special "thank you" to Dr. Zahi for issuing the order to allow us to have some of artifacts brought back to KV-10 for study. Until Dr. Zahi came to the rescue, many of our goals for 2011 seemed to be in jeopardy. 
It was necessary to delay drafting this first Update for the 2011 season as we had to find the means to adjust to a different set of circumstances than those on which we had planned (by thompkins).  We will get this to the web site shortly, and hopefully before the end of January we will add some new images.              

A special thanks also to our sponsors and benefactors.  We generally acknowledge our donors in our yearly reports which are submitted for publication in the Annales du service des antiquites de ¡®Egypte, but all of them have not yet appeared in print.


We will try to get Updates out more often now that the work is underway in the valley.


Dr. Otto Schaden