The American Research Center in Egypt, Inc.

Serapis Research Institute Serapis, Inc.



© 1996. All rights reserved.

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


I am pleased to acknowledge the representatives of the Supreme Council for Egyptian Antiquities in Luxor for their continuing support and generous assistance to this project, Dr. Muhammed Sagheir, Director General of Antiquities, Luxor, Mr. Sabry Abd el-Aziz, Director of Antiquities in Qurna, and Messrs. Muhammed el-Beili and Ibrahim Mahmud Suleiman, Chief Inspectors of Antiquities on the West Bank. Special thanks for his active assistance are due to the Inspector of Antiquities in Luxor assigned to this project, Mr. Ahmed Iz el-Din Ismain, as the local representative to the project of the Supreme Council for Egyptian Antiquities.

Project Description

The year 1996 marked the fourth field season of the Theban Tombs Publication Project, sponsored since 1993 by the American Research Center in Egypt and funded through the Serapis Research Institute. The purpose of this project is to copy the inscriptions and to document the architecture of Theban Tomb 121, which belonged to Ahmose, the Second Prophet of Amun, and Theban Tomb 72, which belonged to Rây, the First Prophet of Amun and Menkheperre. As we have noted in earlier reports, Ahmose and Rây were related as father and son, respectively. The documentation of the two tombs takes the form of epigraphical, photographical, and architectural surveys. The tombs are located in Western Thebes in the northern section of the Upper Enclosure of the hill of Sheikh abd el-Qurna. They overlook the village of Qurna,and the districts of el-Khokha and el-Assasif. The tomb of Ahmose was begun in the reign of King Tuthmosis III and apparently completed during The coregency of Tuthmosis III and Amenhotep II. The tomb of Rây was begun during the coregency and apparently completed early in the sole reign of Amenhotep II.

Background: Epigraphic Method

The Theban Tombs Publication Project employs a computerized modification of the Chicago House method of epigraphy in order to document and copy the wall decorations in the two tombs. First, a key-plan is made of all the decoration on the walls of each tomb. Then photographs are taken of every section of the walls in each tomb according to that plan. Our goal is to record every centimeter of wall and ceiling surface in black-and-white photography. Where decoration or plaster survives on the wall, duplicate photographs are taken in color transparency. Thus, each tomb would be fully recorded in black-and-white photography, while decorated surfaces are recorded in both black and white and color.

The black-and-white photos of the decoration are carefully planned and precisely aligned to the wall surfaces. These are drawing photos, and they are the basis of facsimile ink drawings. The drawing photos are to be traced inside the tombs, then inked and bleached, leaving intact the lines drawn by the artist. The resultant drawings are to be scanned or digitized and loaded into a computer drawing program and printed out on a plotter. An epigrapher corrects the drawings by collating them with the scenes on the walls. Thereafter, the corrections are entered into the computer through the drawing software, and finished drawings are produced on the plotter.

While the walls are being photographed, the epigrapher makes controlled hand-copies of the wall decorations, texts and graffiti. He uses these to translate the texts, prepare notes, and to make his historical studies. In the final publication of the tombs, we anticipate that the photos will be printed side by side with the drawings so that the reader can directly compare the two renditions of the wall decoration.

The advantage of this epigraphic method is that since the wall decoration is not traced on plastic tracing film, the delicate walls are not touched physically by the epigrapher. Hence, the plaster walls are protected from possible harm.

Background: Photographic Campaign

The photographic documentation of Tombs 72 and 121 has been planned in three phases. The first phase includes preparing photographs (prints and transparencies) to be used as the drawing photos and as general documentation photos that record the condition of the tombs' walls prior to the start of conservation and cleaning (which we expect to begin in the near future). Second phase of photography includes photographs taken to document the conservation and cleaning while they are occurring. The third phase of photography includes the photographs taken after the completion of conservation and cleaning. This third phase will document the condition and decoration of the cleaned walls. The new photos will also serve as drawing photos of those now-cleaned wall-sections that previously were obscured in the earlier first phase of photography. Thus, photography will record all three stages in the condition of the walls: before, during, and after conservation and cleaning, and it will provide the basis of the epigraphic drawings of the walls' decorations.

Prior to the 1996 field season, the Theban Tombs Publication Project has made more than 313 photographs inside Tomb 72 as part of phase-one photography there. These photographs include black-and-white prints and color transparencies in formats of 4x5 inch and 2.25 inch. These images document the walls and their condition, decorations, and texts. Additional transparencies in the 35 mm. format record general views of the tombs and walls, and they document the actual field work itself. In previous annual reports of this project to the Permanent Committee of the Supreme Council for Egyptian Antiquities (SCA), we have submitted copies of full sets of contact prints of the documentation photos taken inside Tomb 72. In 1991, we also submitted to the office of the Director of the West Bank at Gurna a set of 8x10-inch enlargements of photos taken inside Tomb 72.

1996 Project Schedule and Staff

Plan and Goals of the 1996 Season

In planning the field campaign of the 1996 season, our goals were:

(1)to resume and hopefully complete first-phase photography of the wall and ceiling decorations inside Tomb 72 which was begun in previous seasons;
(2)to continue making controlled epigraphic hand copies of the inscriptions and decorations of the walls inside Tomb 72;
(3)to make archaeological photographs of the exterior of Tomb 72, including details of the facade and rock surfaces and surrounding features;
(4)to resume making the key plan of the wall decorations in Tomb 121;
(5)to begin first-phase photography of the wall decorations in Tomb 121.

The field staff for the 1996 season consisted of Dr. Peter A. Piccione, as field director and epigrapher, Mr. Daniel E. Lanka (previously of Chicago House, Luxor), as photographer, and Mr. Ahmed Iz el-Din Ismain, as inspector. After four days of logistical preparation in Luxor and on the West Bank, field work for the project began on 24 February 1996 and ended 10 March 1996. Although the field season was short, it had been carefully planned to accomplish the most amount of work in the time allotted.

In the 1996 season, the Theban Tombs Publication Project completed most of the first phase of photography inside Tomb 72, and it commenced the first phase of epigraphic photography inside Tomb 121 (Ahmose). The project also cleaned and recleared the threshold and floor of the doorway of Tomb 121 and built a new iron door which was installed in that doorway at the request of the Gurna Inspectorate of the SCA.

Theban Tomb 72 (Rây)

Physical Condition of Tomb 72

At the beginning of the 1996 field season and prior to resuming photography inside Tomb 72, the project conducted an inspection of the physical condition of that tomb to determine if any deterioration of the structure had occurred since the previous season and as a result of the heavy rains which afflicted the West Bank of Luxor earlier in November 1994.

Concerning the exterior surfaces which are open to the air and elements, inspection in the upper court revealed only little melting of the mud-brick remains of the northern enclosure wall (east end). At the west end (up the slope), one or two bricks were found fallen into the northwest corner of the court below. This open court lies on the upper terrace of the tomb. The thick mud plaster plied to the rock-cut walls is stable and shows no change or decay. However, inside the false-door niche of the north wall, the mud plaster does show some cracking and loosening from the underlying rock. On the other hand, the door-niche of the south wall and its plaster remain stable and show no detectable change.

The main ramp of Tomb 72 reveals little change in its condition. In our report to the SCA in 1993, we noted that vandals (between 1991 and 1993) had ripped out of the ramp seven courses of mud brick which were the remains of an ancient stairway lying atop the ramp, and they crushed them into mortar. It was our project inspector in 1993 who inferred that this plaster was apparently used by the residents of Gurna to refurbish the cenotaph of Sheikh abd el-Gurna directly above Tomb 72.(1) Happily, close inspection of the ramp in 1996 reveals that no further vandalism or attack has occurred. Inspection of the main colonnade of the tomb shows that a small sheet of mud plaster, ca. 20 cm. square, has detached from the face of the southermost column and slipped to the ground, where it is still intact. This damage was due almost certainly to the rains of November 1994. No other changes or deterioration were detected on the exterior surfaces of the tomb.

Inside Tomb 72, the large plastic sheets covering the floor remained clean and free of any debris fallen from the walls and ceilings. This fact indicates that the interior of the tomb is stable, its condition showing no change from the previous season.

Photography of Tomb 72

In 1996 the Theban Tombs Publication Project completed a total of 57 photographic setups as part of the documentation of Tomb 72 specifically.(2) These images include 41 black-and-white photos in 2.25 inch format of the exterior of the tomb (including general views and details of the facade, ramp, terrace, colonnades, pylons, and lower court) and 16 drawing photos in 4x5 inch format of interior walls, ceilings, decorative scenes and inscriptions. The latter include 9 black-and-white and 7 color photographic images.

An interesting feature that we detected while photographing the ceiling of the Transverse Hall, south extension, is a long red line painted on the limestone ceiling under the plaster. It runs down the length of the Transverse Hall, centered between the eastern and western walls of the chamber. It marks the original architect's reference-line in the ceiling-plan of the hall. Similarly, other marks in red paint are found at certain positions of the wall on the underlying rock in the tomb (e.g., on the north pilaster of the Long Corridor niche).

Because of a specific request made to us by Messrs. Sabry Abd el-Aziz and Muhammed el-Beili to prepare and install a new door in Tomb 121 in this field season, the project postponed the final completion of phase-one photography in Tomb 72. Thus, we did not complete the photography of the ceilings in the Long Corridor and Transverse Hall, north extension, as we had otherwise planned. Neither were we able to finish making hand copies of the remaining inscriptions in the Transverse Hall, south wall. These efforts remain to be completed early in the next season before the conservation of the walls can begin in the tomb.

Theban Tomb 121 (Ahmose)

In the 1996 season, the stated goals of Theban Tombs Publication Project inside the tomb of Ahmose (Tomb 121) were to complete the key-plan of the wall decorations there and to begin the first phase of epigraphic photography of that decoration. In 1930 and 1931 the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art had already cleared the courtyard and, perhaps, the Transverse Hall of Tomb 121 as part of its work around the tomb of Senenmut. As we noted in our report of 1993, by modern standards, that work was not documented well (as far as we could ascertain).(3) Except for some object-cards in the archives of the Metropolitan Museum, no other journals or records of the clearance apparently exist in New York.

Work at the Entrance of Tomb 121

On the second day of the field season, Mr. Sabry Abd el-Aziz, Director of Antiquities in Qurna, assisted by Mr. Muhammed el-Beili, Chief Inspector, and other members of the Gurna inspectorate came to Tombs 72 and 121 to inspect them and the work of the Theban Tombs Publication Project. Mr. Sabry and his staff examined the condition of both tombs and determined that new door jambs and an iron door should be installed at the entrance of Tomb 121, which previously was blocked only with stones and rubble. At Mr. Sabry's request, the project agreed to have the iron door built for the tomb.

Since the project was mandated to provide this door and see it installed, we decided to redirect ourselves immediately to making epigraphic photographs of the entire doorway of Tomb 121 before installation of the brick door jambs and iron door would cover or obscure the wall decorations located there. The southern thickness of Tomb 121 contains the remains of a scene in carved plaster showing the feet and legs of three individuals standing and worshipping the god Re-Horakhty. The three individuals represent Ahmose, his wife, and probably their son, Rây (who, according to texts in the tomb, completed his father's tomb).

Discoveries in the Doorway of Tomb 121

Blocking Stones and Fragments. While dismantling the blocking stones which partially obstructed the tomb's entrance, we discovered among them fragments of miscellaneous broken objects left over from the previous clearance of the tomb by the Metropolitan Museum in 1930 and 1931. These objects included plaster fragments sculpted with relief from the southern thickness of the doorway, pieces of funerary cones of Senenmut (Tomb 71), decorated plaster chunks from the hkr-frieze of the Transverse Hall, small pieces of mummy cloth, and painted sandstone fragments of the original door jamb of the tomb. In the dust beneath the blocking we also found the page of a newspaper, The Financial Times, dated December 1930, attesting to the presence of the Metropolitan Museum in the tomb at that time.

Door Socket. An important discovery of the project occurred while we were cleaning the threshold and floor of the doorway to prepare it for the new door jambs and iron door. At the base of the northern thickness, in the northeastern (or outer) corner of the entrance, we found built into the floor a perfectly preserved door socket for the ancient door of the tomb. This socket is made of gypsum plaster formed into a thick half-ring lying flat in the floor (height = 8 cm., width = 35 cm.). At the base of the center of the ring is a flat granite chip functioning as the pivot-stone (width = 4 cm.). Scored into the surface of that chip is a small circle worn by the rotation of the door's pivot, as it was regularly swung open and closed in antiquity.

Shallow Trough. In addition to the door socket, we also discovered a shallow trough or depression crudely carved into the floor of the doorway. It is located at the base of the northern door thickness adjoining the west side of the door socket. This shallow trench stretches 1.10 meters in length from east to west along the base of the wall; it varies from 12 to 23 cm. in width and 5.5 to 9.5 cm. in depth. This trough probably functioned as a repository for a foundation deposit of the tomb.

Door-Jamb Pedestals. The facade of the doorway of Tomb 121 is cut with a large shallow recess in the rock for the insertion of the sandstone door jambs and door lintel. At the base of this recess, pedestals are carved out of the native rock on both sides of the entrance to serve as the base of the separate jambs made of sandstone (fragments of the painted and sculpted jambs which once existed here were discovered in 1930 by the Metropolitan Museum). We cleaned off these pedestals preparing for the new door, and in doing so, we discovered that they were covered with a thin layer of tafla as plaster. Interterestingly, scored into the surface of the plaster of the south pedestal was a line (1 cm. x 35 cm.), which apparently demarcated for the ancient builders the exact position of the door-jamb segments on the pedestal.

Gashes in the Door Thicknesses. With the removal of the stones blocking the entrance, an interesting feature of the doorway became apparent as an example of secondary building in the tomb. After the carving of the doorway had been completed, stone had been roughly hewn from the thicknesses of both sides of the entrance. In the northern and southern thicknesses, semi-circular depressions, or gashes, had been crudely cut into the surface of the masonry extending from the exterior facade through to the interior of the Transverse Hall. Both gashes are even in height. The bottom edges are ca. 2.10 meters above the floor. On the southern thickness, the gash in the rock is 1.20 meters high and .50 meters wide. On the northern thickness, the gash is only .70 meters high and .15 meters wide.

These openings suggest that the Egyptians were forced to widen the entrance discretely to bring into the tomb some large or odd-shaped object (wider at the top than the bottom) which could not be accommodated by the dimensions of the doorway (e.g., a large stela, a stone sarcophagus with bosses), or else, these gashes were cut as spaces to allow passage of ropes through the rock to drag or haul something that, otherwise, only narrowly fit through the doorway.

This damage need not have occurred with Ahmose, but could have happened as part of one of the later subsidiary burials in the tomb. Cutting these gashes would have seriously damaged the sandstone door jambs on the facade of the tomb, as well as the sculpted plaster decoration in the upper reaches of the door thicknesses. Indeed, it seems likely that the subsequent cutting of these gashes was responsible for the destruction of the doorway and its inscriptions.

Mapping the Doorway. Because we made so many new discoveries in the doorway that apparently were not recorded by the Metropolitan Museum of Art in its clearance of the tomb's courtyard, we immediately determined on preparing an archaeological plan of the doorway. We completed that plan, which included the two pedestals, floor, door socket, and trough. Happily, we accomplished it before the new door jambs, threshold, and iron door were built, which ultimately obscured some of the archaeological features of the entrance.

Construction of New Door
Jambs and Iron Door

We are pleased to report that in the 1996 season of work in Tomb 121, a new doorway with iron door was constructed at the entrance of the tomb to protect the structure from any possible harm. This new construction was completed under the close supervision of the Gurna inspectorate of the SCA and with the active assistance of Reis Aly, foreman of the masons and carpenters of the SCA in Gurna. To keep the new door from damaging the plaster reliefs of the southern thickness and the newly discovered door socket, the new door jambs (made of red brick covered with cement) were placed on top of the ancient door-jamb pedestals. A raised threshold was also built to prevent running water from entering the tomb. In addition, the wide cleft in the tomb's facade above and south of the main the doorway(4) was sealed up with stones in preparation for cementing.

Photography of Tomb 121

In 1996 the Theban Tombs Publication Project executed 27 photographic setups for Tomb 121. These include 18 black-and-white archaeological photos in 2.25 inch format of the exterior of the tomb (general views, the doorway before and after removing the blocking stones, the threshold, door socket, trough, etc.) and 9 epigraphic drawing photos of the door thicknesses, including sculpted plaster decorations, walls and ceiling. These 9 photos include 7 black-and-white images in 2.25 inch format and 2 images in 4x5 inch format (1 black-and-white print, 1 color transparency).

Between the two tombs, the project completed 84 photos for archaeological documentation and epigraphic purposes in the 1996 field season. In addition, 56 color transparencies in 35 mm. format were taken to facilitate on-going research, to record and document the work itself, and for publicly reporting on the project. In this manner the project has executed a total of 453 photographic images of Tombs 72 and 121 since its inception.


Although we were not able to make the controlled epigraphic hand copies of the inscriptions and decorations of the walls inside Tomb 72 nor to complete the key plans of the wall decorations in Tomb 121, as we had intended before the start of this season, we reckon that the Theban Tombs Publication Project did, indeed, succeed in its objectives during the 1996 field season because of its unanticipated productive work and findings in the doorway of Tomb 121. These findings included the discovery of significant architectural details that were heretofore unsuspected. In addition, the project expedited the construction and installation of the new doorway and metal door which will preserve and protect Tomb 121 for many years into the future. Our thanks go to the Supreme Council for Egyptian Antiquities for extending to the Theban Tombs Publication Project its professional courtesy, consideration and collegiality in the facilitation of this project.

1. "Theban Tombs Publication Project, A Preliminary Report to the Permanent Committee: The 1993 Field Season," pp. 2-3. RETURN

2. Each setup consists of two or three identical photos of the same subject shot at different exposures (i.e., a 2-stop or 3-stop bracket) to ensure a perfectly exposed image. RETURN

3. "Preliminary Report to the Permanent Committee: The 1993 Field Season," p. 3. RETURN

4. Q.v. "Preliminary Report to the Permanent Committee: The 1993 Field Season," p. 4. RETURN

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