• Era 17th and 18th Dynasty
  • Project Director Dr. José Galan
  • Location Dra Abu El-Naga
  • Affiliation Spanish National Research Council
  • Project Sponsor Antiquities Endowment Fund
  • Project Dates July 2021-November 2022

Written by: Dr. José Galan

A Spanish mission has been working at the foothill of Dra Abu el Naga North since January 2002, inside and around the rock-cut tomb-chapels of Djehuty and Hery, TT 11-12.

Hery was “overseer of the double granary of the king’s mother and royal wife Ahhotep.” He lived at the very beginning of the 18th Dynasty, under king Ahmose, and probably died under his successor, king Amenhotep I. The layout of his funerary monument is quite simple, consisting of a narrow corridor leading to a broad inner room with a central pillar. It goes deep into the mountain 11 meters. The decoration, carved in relief, is only preserved on the corridor walls. It is one of the very few decorated tomb-chapels that is preserved of this time period.

Final stage of Hery’s tomb restoration. Miguel A. Navarro working on the corridor’s left wall.
Saad restoring the façade of Djehuty’s tomb.

Djehuty lived about 50 years later and his administrative career also developed under a woman, in his case Hatshepsut, acting as “overseer of the Treasury,” “overseer of the works” and “overseer of the cattle of Amun.” The layout of his monument is of the expected inverted T-shape, the inner part being 18.5 meters long. The decoration was also carved in relief, including the façade and part of the left sidewall of the open courtyard. The burial chamber, however, was decorated with a selection of chapters from the Book of the Dead written in cursive hieroglyphs over lime plaster. The monument’s decorative program focus on writing, designed to impress the visitor with the owner’s writing skills, with his capability to adapt the inscriptions to the architecture.

Panel carved on the left sidewall of Djehuty’s open courtyard.

The tomb-chapels of Djehuty and Hery are remarkable monuments, from the artistic, cultural and historical point of view. Each one has unique features that make them special and worth visiting. Therefore, the conservation and restoration has played an important role since the very beginning, and the walls of the two monuments have been carefully cleaned and consolidated. In the course of the excavation in front of the tombs a considerable amount of wall fragments have been retrieved, and with the help of the epigraphists the conservators were able to attach many of them in their original place.

Carmen Pascual cleaning the figure of the chief of Punt bringing in tribute, carved in the transverse hall of Djehuty’s tomb.

Meanwhile, the epigraphists were systematically drawing every detail of the tomb decoration and of the present state of conservation of the walls. In February 2022, the restoration, as well as the epigraphic documentation, was considered finished.

Carmen Ruiz drawing on an iPad a banquet scene depicted in the transverse hall of Djehuty’s tomb.

The stone shed built in 1909 at the entrance of the tomb-chapel of Djehuty to protect the two stelae carved on the façade and the decorated sidewall of the open courtyard was rebuilt in 2017. The new front wall and roof have a translucent window along the edges to provide daylight inside the closed space. The grazing light coming through the windows enhances the reliefs.

The inner part of Djehuty’s tomb-chapel does not preserve the original painted ceiling. To prevent accidents from falling stones, a metal grid was anchored to the damaged ceiling. Led lights were then set along the edges of the metal structure, illuminating the relieves from above. There are no cables nor lamps on the ground, what helps to better appreciate the rock floor.

Corridor of Djehuty’s tomb with led lights along the edges of the metal structure anchored to the ceiling.

The relief decoration of Hery’s tomb-chapel, which is preserved only at the corridor, is well illuminated by the sunlight coming through the entrance, as there is no transverse hall and there are no door jambs that will project shadow on the walls. Moreover, this monument offers a good chance to show how this area of the hillside was turned into a catacomb in the Persian and Ptolemaic periods, connecting one tomb with its neighboring ones by breaking through the separating rock-walls. To give the visitor an idea about the complexity of the space in the 2nd century BCE, a very discreet artificial light was brought into the galleries connecting with Hery’s tomb-chapel.

When planning the opening to the public of the tomb-chapels of Djehuty and Hery, it was considered a good idea to illuminate the inner part of the monuments with solar light. Since the monuments will be only be accessible during daytime, there is no need for batteries, which is a major problem when considering the installation of solar panels. The interior of the rectangular ‘pylon’ on top of the façade of the tomb-chapel of Djehuty was considered a good location for them, as they would be close to the monuments, and at the same time remain hidden from the visitors’ eyes.

The original pylon was built of limestone blocks, and its interior was originally filled with rubble. One corner of the original structure was preserved, which gave us the original height. The pylon was then rebuilt to its original height using good quality limestone blocks from Cairo, and clearly distinguishing between the old and new blocks. The interior of the pylon was left void,  and a stable floor was provided for the setting up of the panels.

New protection building at the entrance of Djehuty’s tomb, with pylon above the façade reconstructed to its original height.

It was estimated that we needed to produce 1 kiloWat electricity to illuminate the inner part of the two monuments. CETA Electronic Systems, a company based in Cairo, installed two panels of 230 x 115 centimeters, which produced 540 Wats each. They are oriented south/southeast, and have the ideal inclination, almost 30º. During the visiting hours they do not receive any shadow, neither from the pylon walls, nor from the hill. The panels fit in perfectly well, without surpassing the height of the pylon walls. They do not disturb the view of the monument, nor of the site. An electricity box, which includes the 5KVA Hybrid Inverter of the solar panels, was built and installed outside, so that the electrical system of the tomb-chapels is accessible at all times.

Solar panels installed inside the pylon.

The visitors’ access to the tomb-chapels of Djehuty and Hery was arranged as a branch of the already existing road leading to the tomb-chapels of Roy (TT 255) and Shuroy (TT 13), which have been opened to the public now for several years. Now with four tomb-chapels accessible in Dra Abu el Naga North, surely more people will be inclined to stop by.The access was planned to impact the least possible in the landscape.

Five information panels have been designed in close collaboration with the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities. They include plans, drawings, old photographs, texts in Arabic and English, and QR codes with extra information.

This area offers an almost unique opportunity for the visitor to get an idea of how this area of the Theban necropolis looked like. Four 17th Dynasty mud-brick offering chapels have been unearthed, cleaned and consolidated. In front and around them there are twenty funerary shafts, whose mud-brick curbs have also been consolidated and their mouths closed with metal grids. They took over the free space left by rock-cut tombs of the 11th and early 12th Dynasty built four hundred years earlier. In front of one of them, a funerary grid-garden was unearthed in a good state of preservation. After a thorough investigation and a careful consolidation, the garden, made of mud and mud-bricks, was covered with a metal structure and insulating planks. On top of it, a replica of the garden was set up, so that the visitor could get an idea of how an early 12th Dynasty funerary garden looked like. The replica was produced by FactumArte, and financed by an AEF–ARCE grant 2018 (see Scribe 6, 2020, 40–47).