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A word from Lara Weiss: visit to Saqqara

This week Dr. Lara Weiss (of the National Museum of Antiquities in Leiden), who together with Dr Christian Greco (of the Museo Egizio in Turin) heads the project "The Walking Dead: The Making of a Cultural Geography in Saqqara", was visited by the NVIC team. During the visit she introduced them to the Leiden-Turin excavations. Former director of this mission, professor Maarten Raven, also gave our NVIC team a tour of the site. The following explains about the current project:

With only a few days left on our Leiden-Turin excavations season in Saqqara this year, we were very honoured today to show the finds of the nearly six past weeks to two groups of very special visitors! The director of the NVIC Rudolf de Jong came with a delegation of four colleagues, and a bit later we were also visited by Guiseppina Capriotti the Head of the Archaeological section of Italian Cultural Institute in Cairo. In 2017, the Leiden-Turin excavation mission had started to excavate north of the famous tomb of Maya, whose statues in the Leiden National Museum of Antiquities sparked the excavations (and indeed the search for his tomb) initially in the 1970s - at that time in cooperation with the British Egypt Exploration Society. More than 40 years later the excavations continue, now in cooperation with the Museo Egizio in Turin (Italy). Many wonderful, monumental tombs have been discovered in the past decades, which allows the Leiden-Turin team to begin to understand better the interrelations between the individual tombs: who decided to build his tomb where and why? Which wall decoration schemes were chosen? Which religious activities were performed?

With the aforementioned aim, the excavations are currently also partly funded by the Dutch Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO) in a project called "The Walking Dead at Saqqara: The Making of a Cultural Geography" supervised by Lara Weiss. For this project the area that the Leiden-Turin team is currently excavating is particularly interesting, because it is an area in-between larger tombs where we can detect the activities of the ancient Egyptians over several millennia. In the New Kingdom, roughly around 1200 BCE, three very nice small limestone burial chapels were built in front of related burial shafts leading to subterranean burial chambers. The chapels were used to offer the deceased tomb owners. The burials of the Late Period, in the fifth and sixth centuries BCE, were often accompanied by so-called embalmers' caches, in which the used mummification materials of the burials of that time were placed (and sometimes burnt). Yet again six or more centuries later, the Late Antique population lived here near the Monastery of Apa Jeremias and sometimes buried their children under the floor. For more information about the project check the website of the National Museum of Antiquities and the website of the Turin Museum.

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