The Cemetery of Lower-Ranking officials at Abusir South

The exploration of this cemetery was initiated in 1991. After a thorough surface survey, probes were made at several places in the area of South Abusir, ca. 1 km to the south of the royal cemetery. Here there are several cemeteries of Old Kingdom officials. In some cases, the work has the character of a salvage excavation, since the tombs are endangered by the activities of tomb robbers. This was true in 1991 about the mastaba of Kaaper, dated to the 5th dynasty, or in 1995 about the tomb of Qar dated to the 6th dynasty.

Between the years 1991-93, the family cemetery around the tomb of Hetepi was explored. It was the site of the burials of lower-ranking officials from the 5th and 6th dynasties. The first goal was to verify the exact location of the tomb of Fetekti, which had been explored by the Lepsius Prussian royal expedition in the 1940s, the decoration of which contains scenes important for the investigation of the daily life of the Egyptians (e.g. a unique market scene). In the course of the analysis of the epigraphic material coming from the tombs of this cemetery, it was possible to identify some individuals buried here with individuals mentioned in the royal papyrus archives from the same period.

In the year 1993, the tomb of Iti located to the east of the mastaba of Kaaper was explored. It is probably the most ancient structure on the Czech archaeological concession at Abusir. It can probably be dated to the beginning of the 4th dynasty. Its architecture contains several interesting features and represents a transitory tomb type between the tradition of the Archaic period and the new fashion of tomb architecture developed in the 4th dynasty. In the same year, the family cemetery at the so-called Lake of Abusir was explored. Besides other interesting manifestations of the funerary cult, the dependence of the depth and size of shafts and chambers on the social rank of the individual family members could be traced here.

Year 1995 was marked by the discovery of a new hitherto unknown cemetery of officials from the end of the Old Kingdom in another part of South Abusir. According to the two hitherto explored tombs of vizier Qar and Isesiseneb it may be stated that the tombs are in a relatively good state of preservation. This means that they can bring to life a lot of information about life in ancient Egypt. Of even greater importance is, however, some evidence concerning the royal court, some of which bring indirect testimony about the dynastic crisis in the course of the 6th dynasty. The tombs also contain rich epigraphic material about the administrative system of that time.

The importance of the exploration of the cemeteries of officials at Abusir South lies besides other things in the fact that it allows us to study the horizontal stratigraphy of this part of the site as a whole. Abusir South served together with the immediately neighbouring cemeteries at North Saqqara as the necropolis of officials, priests, and other inhabitants of the Egyptian capital Memphis. The expansion of cemeteries is probably connected with the growth of this settlement agglomeration. Tombs and the decoration of their walls are an important source for the study of (above all) the administration of the Old Kingdom.

  Miroslav Bárta

Úvod > Research > Projects > Field projects > Abusir > The Cemetery of Lower-Ranking officials at Abusir South