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A snapshot from Saqqara: 45 years of excavations

In the past, the Dutch community living in Cairo made an annual visit to the then Leiden-only mission to Saqqara. They would come out and have a nice picnic together with the excavation team and visit the monumental New Kingdom tombs. The current Leiden-Turin expedition would very much like to revive this great tradition! Therefore, we invited the Dutch ambassador His Excellency Laurens Westhoff to visit the site, and we were most delighted and honored when he kindly accepted our invitation.

The group arrived early in the morning of Saturday 13 April at the parking lot in front of the Saqqara Step Pyramid of Djoser, which was then not yet packed with tourists. The group included His Excellency and staff from the Dutch embassy and the Netherlands-Flemish Institute in Cairo, and Professor Petra Sijpesteijn from Leiden University. The excavation’s directors, Christian Greco (Museo Egizio, Turin) and Lara Weiss (National Museum of Antiquities, Leiden) welcomed the group together with Daniel Soliman (National Museum of Antiquities, Leiden) and started the tour in the tomb of Maya. This search for this tomb was the main incentive for starting the excavations in the 1970s (the whole story can be read here: https://www.rmo.nl/en/research/excavations/saqqara/). After a brief glimpse in Maya’s beautifully painted underground burial chambers (unique at our site!), whose conservation was kindly funded by the Dutch embassy, we moved into the tomb of Horemheb where two of our specialists explained their research to the group.

Ceramicist Valentina Gasperini presented some nice pottery vessels found in our current excavations and highlighted the relevance of ceramics research for the dating of finds, but also the understanding of ancient trade routes and exchange. Afterwards, osteologist Ali Jelene Scheers showed us her research of the bone material found at the site, by the example of a sub-adult skeleton.

Luca Perfetti and our visitors in the tomb of Meryneith.

Another treat was presented by 3D Survey Group member, Luca Perfetti, who showed the group the 3D models he has created of the underground chambers of the tombs of Meryneith and Horemheb, as well as the new survey of the whole site.

Towards the end of the visit, Nico Staring and Paolo Del Vesco showed the group our on-going excavations. They pointed out the walls of a newly discovered tomb from the 18th Dynasty (c. 1350 BCE) that are emerging from the sand, and explained the expectations of further exploration of the area.

The visit was enjoyed by all, and we hope we can extend the invitation to a bigger group next year, and allow the whole Dutch community living in Cairo to see our site.

Daniel Soliman & Lara Weiss

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