Serapis Research Institute The American Research Center in Egypt, Inc.



© 1993. All rights reserved.

by Peter A. Piccione, Ph.D.
Field Director


I would like to acknowledge the representatives of the Egyptian Antiquities Organization in Luxor for their continuing support and generous assistance in the conduct of this project, Dr. Muhammed Sagheir, Director General of Antiquities, Luxor, and Dr. el-Sayed el-Hegazi, Director of Antiquities, Qurna. Special thanks for his diligence and assistance are due to the Inspector of Antiquities at Qurna assigned to this project, Mr. Fathi Yassin Abd el-Qarim, as representative in loco of the Egyptian Antiquities Organization.

General Description

1993 marked the third field season of the Theban Tombs Publication Project, sponsored from this season by the American Research Center in Egypt, New York and Cairo. The purpose of this continuing project is to copy the hieroglyphic inscriptions and to document the architecture of the New Kingdom rock-cut tombs of Ahmose, Second Prophet of Amun (Tomb no. 121), and Rây, First Prophet of Amun and Menkheperre (Tomb no. 72). These tombs are located in Western Thebes on the north side of the hill of Sheikh abd el-Qurna in the Upper Enclosure. As I have described in previous reports to the Permanent Committee, the tomb of Ahmose dates to the reign of King Tuthmosis III, while that of Rây was built and decorated under the reign of King Amenhotep II. These tombs overlook the village of Qurna and the districts of Khokha and the Assasif. Significantly, they lie on opposite sides of the upper tomb of Senenmut (Tomb no. 71); Ahmose is on the north of Senenmut, while Rây is on the south.

The Work Effort

Fieldwork of this season began on 7 June 1993 and ended 26 June 1993. The work of this third field season of the Theban Tombs Publication Project proceded in three phases:

1) internal and external inspection of Tomb 72 (Rây) for any possible structural damage resulting from the earthquake of 1992;

2) drawing hand-copies of the decoration and hieroglyphic texts inscribed on the walls of Tomb 72;

3) survey of the architecture and inscriptions of Tomb 121 (Ahmose).

The Condition of Tomb 72

Interior of Tomb 72

Walls and Ceilings. In the previous season of 1991, we placed a clear plastic covering on the dirt floor of Tomb 72. The purposes of this covering were several: to protect the floor; to reduce airborne dust in order to keep the tomb clean during field work; and to indicate any debris falling from the ceilings and walls between field seasons. Our initial inspection of Tomb 72 in the 1993 season indicated that the physical condition of the walls and ceilings of the tomb has remained stable. Throughout most of Tomb 72 the plastic floor covering revealed no significant amount of plaster, pebbles or stone falling within the interior of the tomb. However, in the north wing of the transverse hall, we did find a small amount of limestone pebbles on the plastic, indicating that some material had dislodged and fallen from the ancient fissure overhead in the ceiling--almost certainly due to the earthquake of 1992. We documented this material by measuring it and photographing it to scale. Previously in Tomb 72, no appreciable amount of material had fallen from the ceiling during the term of our research. Therefore, it is likely that this was a one-time occurrence, probably resulting from the extraordinary situation of the earthquake.

Axial Corridor. As we noted in previous reports to the Permanent Committee, the ceiling of the axial corridor (i.e., the long corridor) of Tomb 72 is notable in its design and execution. The corridor is oriented east-west. Through much of its length, the ceiling extends westward in a level and flat manner until it reaches a natural fault (or crack) in the limestone of the ceiling and walls. This fault occurs in the western quarter of the corridor. From this fault, the ceiling arcs upward into a large and roughly shaped vault. The vault then descends to a plastered statue-niche, which is also vaulted, located in the lower west wall of the corridor. The rock-cut surface of the high vault is deeply pitted with large holes and irregularities, many of which are filled in with thick mud plaster (muna). This vault is unique in Theban tomb design, and we suspect it resulted from a collapse of the ceiling during the construction of the tomb. We believe that the builders were attempting to angle the ceiling upward toward the west (similar to Tombs no. 100, 121, 172) when the collapse occurred. Thereupon, the builders tried to smooth the irregular surface of the resultant vault with plaster.

Exterior of Tomb 72

Main Ramp. Changes in the exterior of the tomb between 1991 and 1993 has revealed an on-going pattern of abuse and vandalism against the structure. As we indicated in prior seasons, the main ramp of the tomb was originally the limestone core of a mud brick stairway which was fairly intact until the 1940's. However, since that time, the stairway has been attacked continuously through the years. The local villagers of the district of Sheikh abd el-Gurna have been dismantling the bricks of the stairs in a piecemeal fashion for use as building material and as a source of mud plaster, as the project's inspector has determined, seemingly to maintain and refurbish the cenotaph of the sheikh (which stands about five meters above the tomb on top of the hill). The latest destruction to the ramp occurred sometime in the last two years. As soon as we detected it, we made a written and oral report to the Director of Antiquities on the West Bank at the Gurna Inspectorate about the nature and extent of the damage. A copy of that report is attached to this document, entitled Appendix A.

After the bricks had been removed from the sides of the ramp, it became possible for us to examine their rock-cut footings more closely. We made close measurements of the ramp and found that originally the bricks had been laid on a shelf or ledge cut into both sides of the ramp. On the south face, this ledge is 1.82 m. in length to accommodate a mass of bricks 2.46 m. in length along the face here. In this manner, the bricks served to even the surface of the stairway overlying the ramp. Thick mud plaster was previously overlaid on the brickwork and stone to create a smooth surface. Until 1991, patches of this plaster were still adhering to the eastern end of the south face of the ramp; however, that plaster was also removed with the bricks between 1991 and 1993.

Today, the condition of the ramp is more eroded than before. Previously, the ramp was strewn with a layer of limestone pebbles and dust, forming a smooth walking surface. Over the years, this material had washed down from the upper terrace above, and effectively, it had provided some protection to the ramp. This season we noted that this layer of pebbles and dust has washed away, exposing the bare rock of the ramp's core. Here the limestone is of poor quality; it is friable and pitted with holes and large irregularities. It breaks fairly easily, and because the villagers of Gurna regularly climb the ramp to approach the cenotaph of the sheikh, the ramp is slowly crumbling to pieces. It is clear to us that any future conservation effort in the tomb must make provision for stabilizing and protecting the ramp and perhaps re-establishing the mud brick stairway.

Plaster Work. During the exterior inspection of the tomb, it became evident to us that in its construction, the plaster of the facade was applied in two successive coats or layers: (1) a layer of grayish mud plaster, not too coarse, which was used to fill the rocky surfaces; it often contains small limestone chips to fill in breaks and crevices in the underlying stone; (2) a layer of coarse black mud plaster (tibn), heavy with chaff, thickly applied over the thinner less coarse grayish plaster. In the niches of the false doors on the upper terrace, this black plaster is applied directly on the rock.

Terrace. The terrace above the ramp forms a courtyard for the upper levels of the tomb. The eastern edge of the terrace, north side, apparently has weathered since the last inspection of the tomb in 1991. The brick floor of the terrace at the very edge of the facade appears to have melted or eroded a little more than previously, so also the mud plaster of the facade of the colonnade just below the edge of the terrace. The eastern enclosure wall on top of the terrace also shows signs of eroding or melting on the south side of the courtyard, and more of the bricks that form the foundation of that wall are broken presently than in previous seasons. This deterioration is the result of natural erosion.

The Survey of Tomb 121

In the 1993 season, the Theban Tombs Publication Project began the inspection and architectural survey of Theban Tomb 121. This tomb belonged to the Second Prophet of Amun-Re who was named Ahmose. He was the father of Rây of Tomb 72. In 1930 the Metropolitan Museum of Art first cleared the courtyard of Tomb 121 as part of its work around the tomb of Senenmut. As far as we can ascertain, that work was not documented well, and except for some object-cards in the archives of the Metropolitan Museum, there are no other journals or records of the clearance in that collection.

Architectural Survey: Exterior

Courtyard. We made a close study of the architecture of the outer courtyard of Tomb 121, during which we measured its main features. The courtyard is cut as a terrace into the slope of the hill. It is irregular in plan, and none of its corners make right angles. The length of the west wall is 21.45 m., while the east side of the court along the facade is only 20.53 m. The northern wall is 14.41 m. in length, while the south side is a mere 9.90 m. in length. The surface of the courtyard is broken and uneven and littered with large boulders, limestone chips, flakes and detritus. Apparently, these have fallen from the hilltop above. On the north side of the courtyard, in the floor, is an open and very deep vertical burial shaft.

The west wall of the courtyard of Tomb 121 constitutes the facade of the tomb. The limestone of this wall is of very poor quality, friable and crumbly. In the section south of the main entrance are some irregularities in the plane of the wall. The ancient builders compensated for these irregularities and levelledthe plane by cutting ledges or shelves into the facade on which they laid several courses of brick (similar to the shelves cut into the main ramp of Tomb 72). That the bricks date to the Eighteenth Dynasty is signified by the light sandy mortar between them which is indicative of that era. This brick masonry occurs in four sections along the facade from the southern corner northward to the main entrance; the bricks range from 3 to 12 courses in height from section to section. At the south side of the main entrance, the remains of thick mud plaster still adhere to the surface of the facade (similar to the muna on the facade of Tomb 72). The presence of the brick and plaster indicate that at one time, the entire facade of Tomb 121 was levelled and plastered smooth. Typical of tombs in this area, (e.g., Tombs no. 72 and 74) the rock of the main doorway of Tomb 121 is cut with a large shallow recess for the insertion of separate stone door jambs and lintel.

Clefts. Two big vertical fissures occur in the facade of the tomb, a large one south of the main entrance, and a smaller and shallower cleft north of the entrance. The southern cleft begins as a large hole in the floor of the forecourt of the tomb of Anen directly above (Tomb 120). It cuts downward through the facade of Tomb 121, ripping through the stone and leaving a gaping hole in the ceiling and upper wall of Ahmose's transverse hallway and collapsing the floor therein. Outside in the courtyard, this cleft narrows to a crack at the base of the facade; it stretches across the floor to the eastern edge of the court, and at the edge of the terrace, it widens into a cleft and rips downward into the entrance and transverse hall of the sa'af tomb below. Clearly, this fissure first occurred only after the completion of Tomb 121, since it cracked and destroyed the pre-existing decorated plaster in the transverse hall of that tomb.

Architectural Survey: Interior

Walls. In 1993 we began a close study of the internal architecture of Tomb 121. We also began to survey the decoration on the walls of the tomb and to draw a key-plan of the scheme of the decoration--as a first step in the process of copying the wall inscriptions.

Architecturally, the interior of the tomb is "T"-form with a transverse hall at the entrance that is oriented north-south. This hall is intersected by an axial corridor which is oriented, in typical fashion, east-west. Like the main entrance on the outside of the tomb, the eastern face of the doorway of the axial corridor is surrounded by a shallow recess in the wall--for the insertion of separate stone door jambs and lintel into the masonry. The jambs, now lost, were set on rock-cut ledges at the floor below. At the western end of the axial corridor is a large shallow niche which at one time contained a granite false-door stela. A large vertical crack angles its way through the rock of this niche. Broken fragments of the granite stela now lie scattered on the floor at the base of the niche. However, the largest of these fragments lies in the transverse hall, situated south of the central axis. Above the stela-niche in the axial corridor is a small deeply carved statue-niche located high up in the western wall where it adjoins the ceiling. The southern thickness of this statue-niche is decorated with the painted hieroglyphic text of an offering list.

Ceilings. In its design and construction, the ceilings of Tomb 121 are remarkable. In the center of the transverse hall, the ceiling is carved in the form of a sh-pavilion, while the ceilings of the north and south wings of the same hall--flanking the center--are carved in the form of barrel vaults.(1)

The design of the ceiling of the axial corridor of Tomb 121 conforms to a pattern of shape similar to those found in the tombs of Rây (Tomb 72), Rekhmire (Tomb 100), and Mentjuwy (Tomb 172). In the eastern half of the axial corridor of Tomb 121, the ceiling is level and flat. However, in the western half, it slopes sharply upward at an angle to the wall above the high statue-niche at the western end of the corridor. This treatment of the ceiling is similar to that of the axial corridor of the tomb of Rekhmire (Tomb 100). There the ceiling slopes upward from east to west at a sharp angle through the entire length of the corridor, where it meets a similar statue-niche located at the western end.

The Epigraphic Campaign in Tomb 72

Copying the Inscriptions

Axial Corridor. We resumed the epigraphic campaign in Tomb 72 in the 1993 season by drawing hand-copies of the wall inscriptions in the long corridor (i.e., the axial corridor) of the tomb, north wall, eastern section. This section of the wall contains various scenes and vignettes of the Opening of the Mouth ceremony and the prayers and list of offerings associated with that ceremony (Theban Tomb Project key-plan nos. LC 4-8).(2) As we stated in previous reports to the Permanent Committee, we make hand-copies of the texts and decorations in support of the ultimate effort to create the facsimile drawings of the wall-scenes. Copying the texts this season required the use of reflected light provided by large mirrors made for this purpose.

With the strong light provided by these large mirrors we were able to recover many artistic details and inscriptions on the walls that were not, otherwise, apparent under normal lighting conditions in the tomb. The artistic details included whole figures taking part in the Opening of the Mouth rituals. These new representations also include the name of the person officiating at the ceremony, Rây's "brother," Senres, previously unidentified in that capacity. Other new inscriptions revealed in the strong light include palimpsest texts as earlier drafts of the offering inscriptions, as well as Coptic graffiti (as prayers), attesting to a Coptic presence in the tombs perhaps connected with the nearby monasteries of St. Epiphanius and St. Syriacus.

Transverse Hallway. We also continued to copy and make corrections to the scenes and texts in the transverse hallway (key plan nos. T4-6).(3) These are those scenes which depict Rây presenting the Bouquet of Amun to Amenhotep II enthroned with his mother, Merytre, while being followed by three of his so-called brothers. To fill lacunae in the inscriptions and family information among these texts and those of the axial corridor, we continued to consult with and verify the texts, titles, and individuals' names inscribed inside Tomb 121, since the owners' of both tombs belonged to the same family.

1. The variety of ceiling types thus obtained in the tomb of Ahmose is reminiscent of a similar variety (although executed differently) in the parallel corridors of the transverse hall of the adjacent tomb of Senenmut (Tomb 71).

2. Porter and Moss, Topographical Bibliography I/12, p. 142 (8).

3. Ibid., 142 (5).

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