Last week as news was breaking about the new tomb—KV64—Em Hotep received word from Stephen Cross, an Egyptologist and Geologist specializing in the Valley of the Kings, that he had photographed the tomb while conducting his own, unrelated research in the Valley. Naturally, Steve held onto this wonderful shot until after the University of Basel had made their announcement. Now that the whole world knows about KV64 and its lovely occupant, Steve has very kindly agreed to allow us to publish the photo, along with answer some questions about what is going on in the Valley of the Kings.
Inside: Current projects in the Valley of the Kings, Steve’s meeting with the new head of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, and a picture of KV64 you will not see anywhere else!
Em Hotep: How did you happen to be on the site of KV64 to take this photograph?
Steve Cross: The photo was taken from the path along the cliff top above the Valley. This was for the study I was doing on the ancient workmen’s huts which required me to walk all the paths and photograph and map the huts. I had special permission to photograph from the Director of the West Bank.
Em Hotep: What is the current policy on photography in the Valley of the Kings?
Steve Cross: Photography outside and inside the tombs in the Valley is still banned I’m afraid. I did mention this to [Dr. Mohamed el Bialy] the new head of the SCA saying it was bad for tourism and he said he is thinking of stopping the ban. The ban on photography inside tombs will of course remain.
Em Hotep: Is there anything you can share with us about the work going on around KV64? Elsewhere in the Valley?
Steve Cross: The University of Basel is investigating all uninscribed tombs in the Valley, a very necessary task that has been a long time in coming. During this work surface clearing is taking place which is how they discovered KV64. My specific interest is that more workmen’s huts are also being uncovered. As many of the groups of huts can be dated, they are invaluable for working out the stratigraphy of the Valley.
A Finnish Mission is also excavating the Village de Repose at the top of the col between the Valley and Deir el Medina.
Em Hotep: You mentioned that you had an opportunity to speak with Dr. Mohamed el Bialy, the new Director of the Supreme Council of Antiquities. What is your impression? Did he speak about the near and distant future of work in Egypt?
Steve Cross: Dr. Bialy is a lovely man. He is also a scholar, he was director of the West Bank, then Aswan, and he has also excavated in his own right, e.g. the clearance of KV42. I had a very good chat with him and he stated that no one man now has the power to make a decision, anything now must go to the committee in Cairo. He toured the East and West Bank monuments and I think we will see some changes for the better now. I believe that archaeology in Egypt can now return to normal scientific work.
Obviously the state of the country is still in flux and plans for the future must wait until after the elections and a new government has also been elected.
Em Hotep: Can you tell us about any current project s you have going on?
Steve Cross: Yes, writing! Always writing! Is it not funny that a few seasons excavating can lead to years of study, and writing it up? After all, there is no point in excavating unless it is published for all. I just finished a paper on the workmen’s huts and it’s off to the journal. This was the purpose of my last trip to Luxor. I’m also working on another paper on just how arduous it was to cut a royal tomb, but this is on the back burner for now. To be honest, in some ways the workers who made the tomb interest me more than the kings, their lives and working practices. I would love to see the huts reproduced in a side wadi with men performing the tasks the ancients did in making a tomb, mixing plaster, grinding inks, filling lamps etc. Perhaps even cutting of a sample tomb?
There is a section off cliff face to the west (right) of the staircase up to KV34 that is fractured across its bottom and is in danger of falling. The SCA asked if it could be saved as it is full of ancient graffiti. I am working on this and will try to get the World Monument Fund involved.
Em Hotep: Can you tell us anything about future plans you have?
Steve Cross: I have been asked to write a chapter for new book on the Valley that will be published next year. I am currently collecting the research for this.
And one day, Inshalla! I hope to excavate again in the Valley!
Stephen is a member of the Egypt Exploration Society, The Geologist’s Association (UK), the Merseyside Archaeological Society and the Liverpool Geologist’s Association. He writes and lectures on the Valley of the Kings. He was an advisor to the SCA excavations in the Central Area and KV8 digs, 2008/09 seasons.
Copyright by Keith Payne, 2012. All rights reserved.
All pictures of KV64 are used with permission and are the sole property of Steve Cross, copyright by Steve Cross, 2012, all rights reserved. Photos “Sarcophagus of Merenptah-KV8” and “Entrance to KV34” by Hajor are used in accordance with the Creative Commons share alike license.