Thursday, February 23, 2006

Roy Hopper writes about his work with the Amenmesse Tomb Project (KV 10) in 2001

The recent discovery of a new tomb in Egypt's "Valley of the Kings" by a team sponsored by The University of Memphis has been followed with great interest in the Department of History. Dr Peter Brand, Assistant Professor, heads the Great Hypostyle Hall Project, which is sponsored by the Institute of Egyptian Art and Archaeology at the University, and several students have worked with him in Egypt on that project.

The Amenmesse Tomb Project (KV 10), which discovered the new tomb, is also sponsored by the IEAA, though many of the team members are from the University of Akron. Roy Hopper, Teaching Assistant, worked with that project in 2001 when the project first discovered a workmen's hut. Excavations in later seasons of the area occupied by several huts, just to the east of the Amenmesse tomb, uncovered a shaft which led to the recent discovery, the first tomb discovered since 1922, when Howard Carter discovered the tomb of the famous Tutunkhamun (KV 62). Interestingly, the shaft was only about 25 meters south of that site.

The IEAA has recently created a Web page about the new discovery, which has been designated KV 63, following a pattern of naming of sites in the "Valley of the Kings" that is commonly used by archaeologists. That page gives a fairly full account of the discovery, including pictures and links to the numerous news articles that have appeared. Rather than repeat what appears there, HistoryWeb urges you to visit that page. We recommend an especially interesting Weblog being kept by Sharon Nichols, an art history graduate student from The University of Memphis who is working at KV 10 and KV 63 as a current member of the team. [Administrator's note: Since the original posting, Sharon Nichols has removed her Weblog.]

[Aministrator's note: Since the original posting of this article, we have discovered that Dr Otto Schaden, Director of the KV 10 and KV 63, is maintaining another Web page about the new discovery. It has many photographs that do not appear to be available elsewhere.]

Here is Roy Hopper's account of his experiences as a member of the team in 2001:

During the Spring 2001 semester, I participated in the Amenmesse Project’s excavations at the tomb of King Amenmesse located within the Valley of the Kings, Egypt. It was due to the extremely generous and gracious consideration of Dr. Lorelei Corcoran, director of the Institute of Egyptian Art and Archaeology at The University of Memphis, and Department of History professor of Ancient History and Egyptology Dr. William Murnane that a grant permitted me to join the Amenmesse Project under the direction of Dr. Otto J. Schaden, Mudir, in Egypt from February to April 2001.

Roy Hopper resting outside the excavation area at KV 10.

Amenmesse was a mysterious king whose association with the late Nineteenth Dynasty royal family is poorly understood by Egyptologists and ancient historians. In 1993, excavations began in KV 10, the tomb of Amenmesse, with the hope of discovering more information about Amenmesse and his exact place within Nineteenth Dynasty chronology. The goals of the 2001 excavations at KV 10 were searching for foundation deposits outside the tomb entrance. Foundation deposits for ancient Egyptians were something similar to cornerstone deposits in modern buildings. Foundation deposits were food, tools, pottery, and sometimes inscribed tablets with the pharaoh’s name that the ancient Egyptians ritually buried in pits outside a tomb to consecrate it. A few tombs in the Valley of the Kings contained foundation deposits, so the Amenmesse project began excavations hoping to find such deposits.

I arrived in Luxor, Egypt, site of the Valley of the Kings, after a ten-hour plane ride from New York City and a nine-hour ride by train from Cairo, Egypt. The Amenmesse Project’s daily routine consisted of rising early in the morning by 6:00 A.M. to catch the daily ferry over to the West Bank of Luxor, which is the geographic location for the Valley of the Kings. On the West Bank, the excavation team boarded a truck for the ride into the valley. On the way, the rising sun changed the landscape of surrounding hills from a vibrant orange-red to a dusty chalky-tan. Plus, ancient Egyptian mortuary temples dotted the landscape along the way and added to the breathtaking vistas before the excavation team.

Looking toward the Theban Hills on the West Bank of Luxor at dawn

Work began around 7:00 A.M. and continued until 12:00 Noon, when the excavations quit for the day.

Outside of KV 10 before 2001 excavations

Dr. Otto Schaden (right) and photographer Heather Alexander (left) discussing photos to be taken before excavations

First day of excavations in early February 2001

Excavations about the middle of February

Heather Alexander photographing remains of outside entry stairs

Excavations outside KV 10 entry stairs

From the beginning of excavations, the foundation deposit search encountered a great deal of rock chippings and rubble covering the natural rock surface, or gebel, of the valley floor. These stratified layers had to be cleared away by painstaking archaeological excavations using a sizable Egyptian excavation crew and tools such as trowels, picks, and baskets.

Stratigraphic layers of rock chippings and other debris, west side of KV 10

The excavated material was taken and sifted for various artifacts that might be present.

Otto Schaden directing excavations on the east side of KV 10

Dr. Otto Schaden examining an artifact discovered outside KV 10

By the end of the season, the Amenmesse Project excavated a deep pit nearly five meters (sixteen feet) deep in front and partially to the west of KV 10.

Excavations outside KV 10, looking west

Looking into the pit outside KV 10, about 13 feet (4 meter) level, looking west, showing the deep stratigraphic layers. The iron pipe contains wiring installed by Howard Carter in the 1900s for illuminating the tombs with electric lighting via a generator in a nearby tomb.

No foundation deposits were found during the 2001 excavations, but several discoveries gave glimpses of the ancient Egyptian work force that constructed the tombs in the Valley of the Kings.

Around four meters (thirteen feet) below the entrance of KV 10 and directly west of the tomb entrance, excavations uncovered remains of an ancient worker’s hut. These huts were usually constructed by piling stones up to form a rough structure topped with a roof. Conceivably, ancient Egyptian workers used these huts to relax and rest in a shady place during their workday or during lunch. Besides this hut, the Amenmesse Project found further traces of the ancient workforce in the Valley of the Kings buried amongst the rock debris. Pottery sherds, paint pigments, bits of copper chisels, and decorated limestone flakes are just a few of the many artifacts discovered during excavations. However, the proper historical context of these artifacts is still under evaluation, and it would be hasty to make any association between these objects, including the worker’s hut, to Amenmesse’s tomb at this date.

While in Egypt, I was struck by the sincere loss felt by the Egyptological community and Egyptian people concerning Dr. Murnane’s death in November 2000. From the highest ranking inspector in the Supreme Council of Antiquities to water vendors on the street near the Windsor Hotel, headquarters for the Amenmesse Project in 2001, Egyptians expressed their sorrow because “Dr. William” had passed away so suddenly. Many Egyptologists I met while in Egypt also expressed their sorrow over Dr. Murnane’s death, and their sincerity cannot be expressed through mere words alone.

Although the 2001 excavations discovered no foundation deposits, the Amenmesse Project’s work continues with future excavations and analysis of artifacts. Further work from 2003-2005 uncovered more huts to the east of KV 10 buried under more rock chippings and rubble. Work in this area outside KV 10 resulted in the announcement on February 8, 2006, that a shaft leading to a single room tomb had been discovered by the Amenmesse Project resulting in worldwide Egyptological and media attention for the project. It will take painstaking analysis and conservation of the mummies and artifacts found within KV 63, the name given to the new tomb, before the discovery can be placed within the proper historical context.

I am extremely grateful and would like to extend my sincere thanks to Institute of Egyptian Art and Archaeology at the University of Memphis for the grant, The Department of History at The University of Memphis for allowing me to represent the Ancient History program, and Dr. Otto J. Schaden for allowing me to participate in the Amenmesse Project’s excavations. An opportunity such as this allows qualified Ancient History students, who concentrate in Egyptology, the ability to travel to Egypt and gain research topics for future studies. Furthermore, such an opportunity allows students who might have never traveled to Egypt due to financial shortcomings the ability to do so. Hopefully, these opportunities will continue as long as The University of Memphis continues to sponsor and fund expeditions in Egypt.

[Mr Hopper doesn't mention tourists in his report, but he furnished the following photograph of tourists thronging to the "Valley of the Kings." Sharon Nichols, in her Weblog about KV 10, has some penetrating remarks about tourists.]

The throngs of tourists who came into the valley every day

[The team members became tourists themselves, on occasion:]

The KV 10 team visits the Ramesseum after excavating. Left to right are Roxanne Wilson (artist), Heather Alexander (photographer), and Dr. Otto Schaden.

Roy Hopper standing beside a colossal statue of Ramesses II at the Ramesseum, nearly 57 feet (17.5 meters) tall when upright.

Roy Hopper visits a neighboring project (KV 43) during a break from his work at KV 10 and poses beside the sarcophagus of Thutmose IV.

Roy Hopper at the tomb of Roy, a high official in the 18th Dynasty

Close-up of Roy at the tomb of Roy


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