Excavating at Abydos, Egypt

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Here's some news from antiquities curator Carolyn Routledge, who has temporarily left her desk at World Museum Liverpool to work at an excavation in Egypt.

"My time so far in Egypt has been fantastic! We flew into Cairo on 26 May very early in the morning and then set out by car on 28 May for the excavation. It was a 10 hour trip through the desert. It felt like a very long journey as taking the desert road meant the scenery didn't change much. Luckily we had air conditioning in the car. We don't have such luxuries where we are living at Abydos. We are staying in the American dig house set back in the desert along the ancient road that led to the tombs of the First Dynasty kings. The weather is very hot, reaching the low 40s Celsius.  Thank goodness we have fans!

We finally arrived at the dig house very late at night and very tired. The next day it was right to work setting up our desks and getting the objects organised to draw. I am working on the South Abydos project directed by Josef Wegner of the University of Pennsylvania. He is excavating the earliest known hidden subterranean royal tomb, which belonged to the pharaoh Senwosret III of the Middle Kingdom (approx 1850 BC).  Jen Wegner and I are drawing the objects that come from the tomb and the surrounding area.

It is early days yet, so not much has come from the tomb itself. This week we are drawing the mud sealings that were found near the entrance.  These are very small and can be very hard to read. The ancient Egyptians liked to 'lock' their things by tying them up and putting mud on cords marked with a seal, often a scarab seal. This is a lot like sealing a letter with sealing wax. On Thursday we went out to the tomb. I overcame slight feelings of claustrophobia to go down in the tomb and was able to go all the way to the burial chamber.  It was exhilarating to be sitting beside the sarcophagus of the king. 

The other reason it is great being here is that a number of the objects we are preparing for the new Egypt gallery opening in September come from Abydos. I can look out my window and see the area where John Garstang had his house and played golf among the dunes that hide the many ancient Egyptian tombs where he found some of our objects."

woman sat in a confined underground space next to a sacrcophogus

Carolyn with the sarcophagus of the pharaoh Senwosret III