Understanding the news: revisiting Beni Hassan, Middle Kingdom

Understanding the news: revisiting Beni Hassan, Middle Kingdom
An Egyptian-Australian mission has revisited the burial chambers of two Middle Kingdom officials from Beni Hassan which had probably previously been excavated by Percy Newberry who worked at the site at the end of the 19th century.

It should always be remembered that archaeology is a destructive process, so the examination of sites already damaged by previous excavation to record and analyse them fully rather than exploring new sites is also an important factor to consider in excavation. Re-examining sites in the light of new technology and scientific processes available to modern archaeologists is always a worthwhile activity.

The tombs discussed in the article are of similar designs and consist of a small burial chamber and small storage 'rooms' at the bottom of a shaft. The tomb owners are thought to be officials from nome 16.[1] The small storage rooms contained vessels, which may prove informative in the light of our ability to analyse the residues of containers to identify the foodstuffs or other contents (eg resins or scented oils), while the actual burial objects -- coffin and body have long since been removed.

Although the photos are a bit difficult to make out they appear to show the reckoning of cattle and a presentation of offerings to the tomb owner which are both common scenes.

Middle Kingdom tombs tended to have less wall decoration, with small burial chambers, often just big enough to house the coffin. The general trend was to inter wooden models to represent activities conducive to the continuation of the soul in the afterlife, while rectangular coffins were inscribed with the necessary spells and maps required to navigate the way to the afterlife successfully. In later periods these functions were often served by wall paintings and papyrus texts such as the 'Book of the Dead'.

Work on full recording and restoration of the tombs will commence next season (January 2019).

[1] Ancient Egypt was divided into 42 administrative areas or 'nomes'. Beni Hassan lies in nome 16 of Upper Egypt or 'Oryx' nome.


Post a Comment

To maintain the quality of discussion, please keep comments and questions on topic.