Journal: Saturday 18 March 2000
Yesterday on the West Bank I saw my friend Nubi, who has been working in Giza for Dr Mark Lehner. He has returned home, like many other Luxor-born people, to celebrate the feast of Eid el-Adha with his family at Kom Lolla. Nubi, who often works in the Valley of the Kings and always knows what is happening there, talked to us about the recent excavations of the Amarna Royal Tombs Project directed by Dr Nicholas Reeves. Nubi is always discreet and never gives away information until it is published, but I could tell that he was excited about the recent work there and he hinted at the possibility of a new tomb. Our destination today was the King’s Valley to have a look for ourselves.
Just before mid-day Jenny and I crossed the river and took a taxi to the Valley. We bought a ticket and visited the tombs of Seti II, Tuthmose III and Tuthmose IV mainly because they were the least crowded at the time. By the time we had finished, the Valley was empty of tourists and most of the guards were taking their siesta, so we wandered back down the hillside to the excavation site just beyond the Tomb of Tutankhamun.
The Amarna Royal Tombs Project (ARTP), under the auspices of the Valley of the King’s Foundation (VOKF), began in 1998 to undertake controlled stratigraphic excavation in the King’s Valley and to investigate and record the central area and the relationship between the Amarna period burials of Tomb KV55 and Tomb KV62 (Tutankhamun) and its potential bearing upon other possible burials of the Amarna period. They have so far completed two seasons of exploration and aim to begin a third season in September this year. The area they are investigating is near the tombs KV 55 and KV 62 (Tutankhamun), bounded by the ‘Gold Tomb’ (KV 56) on the west and the tomb of Rameses VI (KV 9) on the east, which has been excavated before but only sporadically. Howard Carter had noted a settlement of workmen’s huts here when working to uncover the tomb of Tutankhamun. The site looked like a scar in the side of the valley, an open wound, deserted and forlorn, but I wished I could get down there with a trowel. What treasures lie beneath the surface still to be uncovered? I have been following the excavations through Paul Sussman’s daily dig-diary which is published each season on the VOKF website and I could feel the excitement building each day. I am especially interested in this project because I am sure there are some Amarna re-burials here, or maybe it’s just wishful thinking because it’s a period I’m fascinated by.
We looked down along the deep trench and into the open shaft of KV56, the ‘Gold Tomb’, originally excavated in 1906 by Edward Ayrton and given the name because of the many gold and silver items found in the tomb. The current excavators are hoping that the tomb may be linked with the Amarna royal family, some of whom, it is suggested, may have been re-buried in the Valley of the Kings at the end of the Amarna Period. Although no wonderful new tomb had been discovered by the end of the 1999 excavations, the team found many ostraca, a votive figure, a great deal of pottery as well as several bags of gold leaf from KV56.
After leaving the King’s Valley we went to The Rameses Cafe at Medinet Habu and met a German lady, an Egyptologist and had a long discussion with her about cartouches and titles. There are always so many lovely new people to meet and so much to learn about here.