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Archaeological Season 2000-2001

   In accordance with the approved plan the archaeological season of the archaeological mission of the Czech Institute of Egyptology/Czech National Centre for Egyptology, Charles University (Prague) was carried out in Abusir. The season lasted from October 3, 2000, to April 12, 2001.

1. Excavation in the tomb of Inti  - Abusir South.

   The long-standing project of the Czech Institute of Egyptology for the exploration of the site Abusir South continued during the 2000-2001 season by excavating the 6th Dynasty tomb of the official named Inti. The tomb is situated to the south of another 6th Dynasty tomb of Qar, excavated by our mission in 1995.

     The excavation has brought to light a superstructure measuring 20 (N-S) by 12 (E-W) metres and reaching a maximum height of 2.5-3 metres. The tomb, aligned in a north-south direction, is built of mudbricks and limestone blocks and slabs.  So far its entrance (situated in the northern wall), a small open court, a tomb chapel, a vaulted serdab and a large open court were excavated.

     Both sides of the entrance were decorated with scenes representing the tomb owner and his two sons in painted sunk relief. The narrow entrance leads into a small court and a chapel. The larger part of the low polychrome relief decoration of the chapel walls has survived, including its western wall in the form of a well preserved false door. This is where one finds two nearly life-size figures of the tomb owner sitting at the offering table, and observing the offering bearers, harpers and singers. Accompanying inscriptions include his name Inti and his titles that were as follows:

    “The Judge, Keeper of Nekhen, Supervisor of prophets of the Pyramid of Teti, Tenant of the Pyramid of Teti, Judge of the Six Great Courts, Secretary of the Judgment in the Six Great Courts.”

     There are five vertical shafts in the south-eastern part of the tomb. So far only one of them, i.e. the northernmost one, was fully excavated. This main shaft (measuring about 3 by 3 metres), some 22 metres deep, was that of Inti. A room off the west side of its bottom contained a large limestone sarcophagus incised with the names and titles of Inti. The funerary chamber was robbed, probably soon after the burial took place, but the dismembered skeletal remains of Inti were recovered as well as funerary material (pottery, alabaster bowls, copper tools). A limestone stela in the form of a false door and again bearing the names and titles of Inti is set in the floor, just to the east of the sarcophagus.

     The façade, small court and chapel were reconstructed in close cooperation with the Saqqara Inspectorate of Antiquities represented by its director Mr. Adel Hussein and his committee. All the above-mentioned rooms as well as the main shaft with the burial chamber were covered with a reinforced concrete roof, closed and sealed.

     In the area of Inti’s tomb, there were found painted limestone blocks with reliefs (e.g. deceased fishing) and statues of “Supervisor of prophets of the meret-temple of Pepi” called Meryherishef as well as a limestone seated statue of “scribe of the king” called Nefer. Before the conclusion of the work, the statue of Nefer has been moved to the Egyptian Museum in Cairo.


2. Reconstruction works in the tomb of Qar – Abusir South.

After the epigraphic survey of the loose blocks originating from the tomb chapel of Qar was finished in the previous season, work in the tomb of vizier Qar concentrated on putting them back to their original positions in the eastern and northern chapel walls. All the reconstructions were again carried out in close cooperation with the representatives and restorers of the Saqqara Inspectorate.

     The works in the tomb of Qar (including limited excavations in a small north-eastern shaft) were finished by the 16.12.2000 when the mastaba was officially closed and sealed by a committee of the Saqqara Inspectorate.


3. Excavations and reconstruction works in the tomb of Iufaa and around it.

During this archeological season, the attention concentrated mainly on the area around the wall that encircles the main shaft in the tomb of Iufaa, i.e. on the outer parts of his tomb.

     To the east of Iufaa’s main shaft, at a distance of only few metres, a complex of rooms was unearthed intended perhaps for the mortuary cult of Iufaa. The complex consists of sixteen rooms altogether that were dug directly in the tafl bedrock. The walls of the rooms were originally plastered with a thick layer of Nile mud mixed with chopped straw. On many places, large pieces of this plaster were still preserved. All rooms seem to have been covered with mudbrick vaults, except perhaps for a wide and open courtyard and the staircase. Of the vaults, only small traces were left. In about the center of the whole complex, thus approximately in the axis of Iufaa’s tomb, a room was situated with a wide niche in its southern wall to which four steps gave access. In another of the rooms, three niches were found, originally laid with limestone slabs. The only access to the whole complex was represented by a narrow and irregular staircase leading from the south and situated only a few metres to the east of the south-eastern corner of the enclosure surrounding the main shaft of Iufaa.

     The rooms were for the most part filled with crushed tafl mixed with sand and remains mudbrick coming from the destroyed vaults. Remarkably few finds came to light from here, among theme several fragments of inscribed limestone blocks including two large pieces of a round-topped stela that might had stood in the wall encircling the main shaft of Iufaa. In addition to that, several fragments of papyri inscribed in early Demotic and pottery were found. Although no indisputable proof of a mortuary cult was unearthed there, it seems very probably that exactly this has been the purpose of the whole complex.

     Between this complex of rooms and the enclosure of Iufaa’s main shaft, a sloping passage was excavated that starts in about the center of the eastern façade of the above-mentioned enclosure wall. At the southern end of this passage, about four metres deep and situated behind a thick mudbrick wall, an opening gave access to a subterranean corridor dug in the tafl bedrock. This corridor, about 2.3 metres high and only 90 cm wide, goes in the south-western direction for some 25 metres, descending to the depth of about ten metres. In its southern wall, two large niches (more resembling separate burial chambers) are situated, one of them finely lined with white limestone slabs. Inside both the niches, only several pieces of pottery were found, including a number of big pottery storage jars. After about 18 metres behind the entrance, a branch goes off the main corridor, descending sharply and ending at the foot of the western lateral shaft of Iufaa.

     At the very end of the main corridor, originally walled up with mudbrick, two wooden coffins were unearthed. The first among them, situated nearer to the entrance and thus later, was found almost completely rotten. Inside, a skeleton of an elderly man was found. The other coffin, in fact a double one, contained a mummy of a lady covered with tiny remnants of a badly damaged net of small faience beads. According to the texts on the coffin, it belonged to a lady Imakh-kher-(t)-resent, born to a lady Ankhtisi. According to the preliminary anthropological examination, both deceased show a number of features similar to the skeleton of Iufaa and might thus have been related to him. Beside both the coffins, two small niches were always dug in the walls of the corridor. In each of those niches, two inscribed canopic jars of limestone were situated. On the coffin of the lady and around it, moreover, 405 small faience shabti figures were found. Of the whole number, however, only four were inscribed, two of them bearing the name Nekau. A third set of limestone canopic jars, in this case uninscribed and certainly never used, was found in sand just behind the entrance to the corridor.

     Almost directly adjoining the eastern side of the structure situated in front of the eastern façade of Iufaa’s main shaft, another shaft tomb was unearthed. It consists of a small burial chamber built of limestone ashlars at the foot of a shaft measuring 4.8 by 3.2 metres and 12 metres deep and of a small lateral shaft giving access to it. The burial chamber, inside only 2.4 m long, 0.9 m wide and 1.25 m high, is decorated with the usual religious texts cut in sunk relief. According to the inscriptions and to faience shabtis found scattered in the burial chamber and in the main shaft, the tomb belonged to a certain Padihot that held only the title “Royal acquaintance”. Although the tomb has been robbed, the relief decoration of the burial chamber is rather well preserved. In the corridor connecting the small shaft with the burial chamber, an interesting Arabic inscription written in Kufic script was found scratched directly in the tafl wall.

     Inside the burial chamber of Iufaa, the consolidation and restoration of the relief decoration continued. In addition to that, removing of the plaster surrounding the chest of the inner sarcophagus was started as a first step for its planned lifting from the cavity inside the outer sarcophagus. After removing some of the plaster, parts of the decoration on the outer side of the chest of the inner sarcophagus became accessible.

     At the end of the work, as usually, all the necessary measures were taken to safeguard the monuments that had been excavated or studied this year. New solid iron doors have been installed to the entrance to the burial chamber in the tomb of Padihor, to the entrance to a sloping corridor near to the south-eastern corner of Iufaa’s main shaft, and to the southern side of the western lateral shaft of Iufaa where a branch of the above-mentioned sloping corridor ends. All those doors, as well as the two iron doors giving access to the burial chamber of Iufaa, were officially sealed and locked by a special committee of the Inspectorate of Antiquities at Saqqara. Following that, all the doors were walled up with bricks. The shafts were filled with sand again and covered from above with reinforced concrete slabs walled up into frames made also of reinforced concrete. Also the complex of rooms dug in front of the eastern façade of Iufaa’s main shaft has been covered with sand again, before the planned reconstruction of its mudbrick vaults would start.


4. Pyramid Lepsius No. 24.

In accordance with the programm of our archaeological team works in Abusir, approved by the Permanent Comitee of the SCA the consolidation of the badly ruined small pyramid Lepsius No. 24 were carried out this season. The remnants of this pyramid, which belonged to a consort of either Neferefra or Nyuserra, was unearthed in the previous seasons in the 1990s. Stripped off the casing of the tomb robers in the antiquity from the small pyramid only the remains of the core’s masonry survived.

    This season, the crumbling masonry of the ruin of the pyramid’s core were largely consolidated inside. The lower portion of the descending corridor and a small burial chamber inside the pyramid were covered with a ceiling. The side walls of the burial pit for the funerary apartment were strengthened by means of supporting stone walls preventing the remnants of the pyramid’s core from further deterioration.

    Next season, the small remnants of the extant pyramid’s casing will be restored. 


5. Pyramid Lepsius No. 25.

In the season of 2000-2001, a trial digging was carried out in the ruins of another small pyramid in Abusir, Lepsius No. 25. The latter monument, in which the a consort of Nyuserra might have been burried, is adjoined from the south to the small pyramid Lepsius No. 24.

    The trial digging was carried out in the middle of the extant ruins of pyramid Lepsius No. 25 and around the northeast corner of the pyramid. As the Pyramid Lepsius No. 24, also the Pyramid Lepsius No. 25 was largely devastated by stone robbers in the antiquity, perhaps mostly in the Late Period. In the debris covering the monument, the remnants completely disintegrated poor burials dating from Late Period to Greco-Roman Period. It seems that the afforsaid were destroyed modern stone robbers who might have quarried the stone in the pyramid’s remnants up to the Eigthteenth and Nineteenth Century, judging by few finds of the pottery.

    In the easter portion of the remnants of the pyramid’s core, a fragment of a wall was revealed in position. The wall might have originally belonged to a magazine. If so, the magazine would have been on a higher level than the burial chamber which has not yet been excavated and the remnants of which can be expected at the bottom of the crater at the pyramid.

    The work in badly ruined small Pyramid Lepsius No. 25 is planned to be continued in the next season. 


6. The transfer of the statue of Nefer to the Egyptian Museum.

In the season 2000-2001 (in October 2000) a small seated limestone statue of Nefer was discovered in the Tomb of Inti in South Abusir. Because of security reasons, after its discovery the statue was kept in the Inspectorate of Antiquities in Saqqara. In March 2001, by the end of this season, the statue was transferred to the Egyptian Museum in Cairo.