Em Hotep Digest vol. 02 no. 04: Barbara Adams

   Posted by: Keith Payne   

Categories: Em Hotep Digest

00 - barbara adams tabEgyptologist Barbara Adams was the Co-Director of the Hierakonpolis Expedition, originally recruited from the Petrie Museum for her enthusiasm and encyclopedic knowledge of the site and the history and work of those who have dug there.  Last week we asked the Em Hotep BBS crew to share their own encyclopedic knowledge about this diva of Egyptology and her remarkable work at this site, ancient even by Egyptological standards.


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Contributors:  Géraldine Ashby, Horus Behdety, Yvonne Buskens, Ia Georgia, Lyn Green, Mark Lauria, Luxor Times, Vicky Metafora, Nebty, Richie O’Neill, Keith Payne, Jan Picton and many others who contributed to the various informative conversations .  Very special thanks to the Hierakonpolis Expedition.


Would you like to be a part of the Em Hotep group?  Doing so is easy.  Just follow this link to the Em Hotep BBS group on Facebook and request to be added.  A member will add you as soon as we notice you have requested to join.  Read the About section at the Facebook group site to get an idea of our few rules, and then join in.  It’s that easy.


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Biographical Notes


A Zest for Life and a Questing Mind

From Living Images: Egyptian Funerary Portraits in the Petrie Museum, eds, J. Picton, S. Quirke & P.C. Roberts

Jan Picton, contrib.

01 - yy-kp-12“She was born Barbara Georgina Bishop on 19 February 1945, and passed her youth in Hammersmith, London. Even as a child she showed a passionate curiosity about the past, and loved the visits to museums upon which her hard-working mother sometimes took her at weekends. She won a scholarship to Godolphin and Latymer School, but left at the age of 15 to help the family finances. Typically, however, she continued to study at night school, gaining O-Levels and A-Levels in natural Sciences and Arts subjects. In 1962 she was appointed as a Scientific Assistant at the British Museum (Natural History) in South Kensington, where she gained glowing eulogies for her work in the department of Entomology on sawflies and in the Palaeontology Department on later Palaeolithic skeletal material. She was always grateful for the training in curatorial skills and the handling of delicate objects which she received there. Already, however, her zest for life and her questing mind were leading her out into wider fields. Not only did she win a beauty competition as Miss Hammersmith of 1964, but also had a book of poems, Bones in my Soul, published in that year. She had by then become interested in Egyptology, and was attending evening courses for the London University Extramural Diploma in Archaeology, in which she eventually gained a Distinction, and was working on excavations in Britain during her vacations. In 1965, when she was 20, two events determined her future; she was appointed as Museum Assistant in the Petrie Collection, and she married Rob Adams, a civil servant, who loyally and selflessly supported her throughout her subsequent career.

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“Barbara had a remarkable ability for utilising space, and delighted in creating order where none had existed. She also devised original and effective ways of dealing with obdurate bureaucratic administrations and inadequate financial resources. But her heart was in the scholarly aspects of her work. She personally completed the detailed re-identification, cataloguing and exhibition of the Predynastic and Archaic collections, as well as working on the documentation and exhibition of a range of cemetery and settlement sites illustrating Dynastic cultural development. By 1975, when she was appointed Assistant Curator, this long-term reorganisation was well advanced, and she began, in addition, to write guides and descriptive material, to improve security and public access, and to provide better enquiry and photographic services for researchers. When any short-term hope of obtaining new premises faded, she started campaigning both within University College and through outside Museum bodies for the upgrading of the existing premises, which was finally achieved in 1986-7 with funds raised by the College and Department of Egyptology. Meanwhile, she had been promoted Curator in 1984. After fulfilling a long-standing wish through the inauguration of the Friends of the Petrie Museum in 1988, she worked overtime to develop the Museum’s constitution, policies and educational and public services. Her efforts were crowned with success when the Petrie Museum was designated as a Museum of national importance, eligible for public funding in 1998. Though others contributed, it was principally Barbara’s vision, determination and unremitting endeavour which had achieved this remarkable transformation.


Passion and Enthusiasm

From “Barbara Adams: February 19, 1945—June 26, 2002” by Renee Friedman, Nekhen News vol. 14

“Interested in Egypt from an early age, Barbara moved to the Petrie Museum in 1965, having won out against more qualified candidates by dint of her passion and enthusiasm. The museum’s collection was originally composed of personal collection of W.M.F. Petrie (the ‘father of Egyptian archaeology’), and Barbara proceeded to put the museum in order as it was still suffering from wartime vicissitudes. With the encouragement of Harry Smith, Barbara quickly realized the important contribution that the study of these objects would make, and her first task was to resurrect the museum’s holdings from the 1898–9 Quibell and Green excavations at Hierakonpolis. Typical of Barbara’s boundless curiosity, this work developed from being simply a catalogue to a project that included the investigation of objects in other museums, the analysis of the site archives, and ultimately the publication of Green’s notebooks.

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“The immense value of her work, Ancient Hierakonpolis and Supplement (1974), led Michael Hoffman to seek her out when returning from Hierakonpolis, where he was the director of predynastic excavations. According to Barbara: “After not more than ten minutes of enthusiastic conversation he asked me to join the expedition, which I did in 1980, thus fulfilling a personal ambition to dig at an early site in Egypt, and to get to know Hierakonpolis for real.” Some measure of their immediate rapport can be determined by the fact that Mike, not one for keeping his opinions to himself, had, for a variety of reasons, decided that neither Egyptologists nor women would work at his site. Indeed, the 1979 season was an all-male anthropological affair. Barbara paved the way for all of us, and Mike eventually had to eat his words” (p. 4).


One of the Greats Recruits Another

From “A British View of Michael Allen Hoffman” by Barbara Adams, Nekhen News vol. 06

04 - yy-kp-01“In the late 1970’s I knew of the modern American expedition that had commenced work at Hierakonpolis in 1967, but not really of Michael Hoffman.  I was steeped in the material from the earlier excavations of the British Egyptologists Quibell and Green, who had worked there before the turn of the century, so I certainly knew the site from afar.  Then Michael came to see me at the Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology in London, on his way back from the site in 1979 after he had discovered the burnt house in the Predynastic settlement.  After not more than ten minutes of enthusiastic conversation he asked me to join the expedition, which I did in 1980, thus fulfilling a personal ambition to dig an early site in Egypt and get to know the site of Hierakonpolis for real” (p. 9).


The End of a Dig Day:  Good Company, Good Times, and (Mostly) Good Food

From “Hierakonpolis: A View Through the Lens Cap” by Peter Hayman, Nekhen News vol. 08

“2PM:  Home for lunch of stuffed corgette, potatoes, tomatoes and lots to drink.  The food was always fresh, lots of homemade soup, rice, chips, vegetables and oranges.  Supper was more of a do-it-yourself affair: anything left over from lunch, plus anything from the amazing stock of food.  Looking at my diary I note: ‘mushroom soup, very lumpy just like wallpaper paste, but tasted better.’  Barbara was very good at getting supper; I think it was a welcome change from sticking pots together.  Barbara was also very good at ignoring our comments about what was for supper, usually leading to a lot of laughter followed by Bimbos (chocolate covered cookies, not dumb blondes)…Evenings were very pleasant.  The ladies would sit in the court yard sticking pots together under the stars, talking and laughing.  The stars were unbelievable; the sky so dark, the stars so bright, it almost hurt to look up” (p. 12).


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Impeccable Methodology


A Digger of Diggers

From “Excavating Old Archaeologists” by Barbara Adams, Nekhen News vol. 03 no. 01

“Not all archaeology involves digging in dirt, or sand as the case may be in Egypt.  Some of my contributions to the work at Hierakonpolis have meant ‘digging’ in old notes and manuscripts in order to rediscover information that was never properly published. As the years passed, I found I had developed a talent for this kind of research—although I was a reluctant conscript!

“It all began in 1971 when I was assigned the task of publishing the objects in the Petrie that had been excavated by J. E. Quibell and F. W. Green in 1897-99 at Hierakonpolis. A proportion of the objects, but not all that they excavated, were published in their reports, Hierakonpolis I (1900) and Hierakonpolis II (1902). The material was scattered among museums in Egypt, Great Britain, and the USA, for at that time excavations were largely funded by donors who were rewarded with a share of the objects found. Quite soon I discovered that not only did the objects have unintelligible site numbers, but there were manuscripts notes at Cambridge University which also needed investigation.

James Quibell

James Quibell

“Since 1980, I have been able to round out the study of musty notes from the past and to continue my involvement with the site by working in the field with the Hierakonpolis Expedition.  This has produced freshly dug pottery sherds (by the hundreds of thousands) and live (mostly) archaeologists to work with, providing an invigorating change. I hope I am diligent in my record-keeping in the field—as our director insists—for I know very well that some day someone may have to resurrect what I have done!” (pp. 3-4).


In the Field, In the Museum, and In Storage: Different Kinds of Digging

From “Elephants, Hippopotami and Pigs:  Museums, Stores and Rooting” by Barbara Adams, Nekhen News vol. 08

“There is a duality in many lives which involves different, but complimentary activities.  Mine are: what seems a lifetime in the Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology at University College London and occasionally another life in the field at Hierakonpolis.  Working procedures in both areas are similar and the subjects covered not unconnected, both requiring a certain awareness of what is there and its possibilities.

F. W. Green, Cambridge 1938

F. W. Green, Cambridge 1938

“Some of my previous undertakings have involved me in research into the unpublished manuscripts of early scholars such as Frederick Green, who dug at Hierakonpolis in 1897-99, and John Garstang, who was there in 1905-06.  This sort of work not only requires the reconstruction of excavations from notebooks, but also the location of objects in museums, which can be a never ending process.  A certain amount of “excavating” in the on-site store at Hierakonpolis is also necessary.


Assembling Overlooked Treasures

From “Barbara and the Boxes” by Stan Hendrickx, Nekhen News vol. 14

“In 1990, Camiel Van Winkel, a research technician at the Royal Museums for Art and History in Brussels, showed me a small box containing some intriguing fragments of decorated stone vessels. At the time I didn’t realise exactly what they were, but soon found out that they had come from the royal tombs of the First Dynasty at Umm el-Qaab in Abydos…it was clear from the original excavation reports of E. Amélineau and W.M.F. Petrie that there should be more fragments belonging to the same vessels in other museums.

Barbara and the boxes in Brussels

Barbara and the boxes in Brussels

“The first museum that came to mind was, of course, the Petrie Museum in London, as I had known its curator, Barbara Adams, ever since her first season at Hierakonpolis in 1980… Over the years we became good friends, and in 1992 I sent copies of the stone vessel drawings to Barbara in London. Her reply was almost immediate; she was working on the similar fragments in the Petrie Museum, and from the drawings it was obvious that several joins could be made with the pieces in Brussels..By making virtual joins, it was possible to partially reconstruct several very interesting and unique objects…”

“This is not, however, where the story ends. In April 1995, Barbara came to Brussels to look at the fragments in person to further her publication of the material in the Petrie Museum. With the help of the accurate drawings by Will Schenck, we quickly confirmed that many of our virtual reconstructions were correct, and it soon became clear that we would finish our work ahead of schedule. Therefore, Barbara suggested that we take a look at one of the nearly 100 wooden boxes containing stone vessel fragments that were placed on a ledge in the store room. I had been told that these contained the leftovers from Petrie’s excavations at Umm el-Qaab.

I visited Barbara for the last time in May 2002 and we discussed the latest work on the fragments. She was particularly delighted that Stijn had found even more pieces of the fancy vessels. While it is very sad that she could not work on these newly discovered examples, she would have been pleased to know that her manuscript on the fragments in the Petrie Museum will be published in the not too distant future” (pp. 6-7).


On the Importance of Pottery in Dating Predynastic Sites and Artifacts

From Predynastic Egypt by Barbara Adams

“Pottery is the most abundant and durable of the cultural remains from antiquity preserved in Egypt.  Any visitor to the necropolis at Saqqara near Cairo can testify to the sea of pottery sherds over which his feet crunch on the desert surface, representing the debris of four thousand years of human activity.  As pottery is breakable with a somewhat limited life and its production relatively easy and subject to prevailing fashion, its analysis can be used as a tool in relative dating.  In the historic period there are often inscriptions in dated contexts to which the associated pottery can be linked and in this way a framework of date ranges for the types can be produced.  In no other period is pottery analysis as relevant as in the Predynastic, where there is no historic framework to provide this link because of the absence of a written language.  Flinders Petrie, working at the end of the nineteenth century, was a pioneer in the field of archaeological ceramics, both from Egypt and Palestine, and the first Egyptologist who, like General Pitt-Rivers in England, learned to ‘read the pottery’ from the sites” (p. 20).

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The Importance of Pot Sherds from Tombs

From Nekhen News vol. 02 nos. 01 & 02

“One of our most important tools for relative dating at Tomb-11 is pottery.  Unlike settlement sites like HK-29A where sherds number in the hundreds of thousands, tombs produce totals in the “mere” high hundreds.  Since most tomb sherds are large and known to come from a limited number of vessels, mending is practical.  Once mended, pots can be correlated with Sir Flinders Petrie’s Sequence Dates and thus compared to finds from other areas of Egypt.

“Barbara Adams of the Petrie Museum, University College of London, was in charge of artifact study at Tomb-11 and supervised mending and analysis of all pottery there as she has done at Hierakonpolis since 1980.  She concludes that Tomb-11 should date a generation or so before the time of Narmer and the unification of Egypt (ca. 2100 BC)” (p. 9).


A Cautionary Note on the Interpretation of Decorative Devices

From Protodynastic Egypt by Barbara Adams and Krzysztof M. Cialowicz

“Mankind has produced art since the dawn of prehistory, but even the petroglyphs and rock paintings created by Paleolithic hunters cannot be relied upon as historical representations which reflect actual happenings.  They could be free interpretations of a subject, embellished version of desired occurrences.  The question is whether they should be discussed in terms of history, culture or religion, and the same problem is incurred when dealing with early Egyptian art.  Here there are no firm grounds for establishing a method of interpreting the paintings and reliefs produced towards the end of the Predynastic Period.  They may be historical sources or they may be generalizing and mythologizing the processes occurring along the Nile valley.  And additional difficulty arises from the fact that the later art of pharaonic Egypt seems to draw numerous influences from the period of state formation.  The investigators of the origins of Egyptian art can consider several questions only hypothetically.  It should be kept in mind that there is a paucity of sources and a long span of time (at least 500 years) between the oldest and the youngest of these extant objects.  The only objective method is a literal analysis of the subject matter of a representation without yielding to the temptation of seeking hidden or disguised meanings in it, and using great caution when referring to the images known from a later time” (p. 36).

Bowl showing a man on a boat next to a hippo and a crocodile. Should this be interpreted as a hunting scene which actually is being commemorated or as a depiction of the proto-royal chieftain in his role as lord over nature? (Photo by Ashershow1)

Bowl showing a man on a boat next to a hippo and a crocodile. Should this be interpreted as a hunting scene which actually is being commemorated or as a depiction of the proto-royal chieftain in his role as lord over nature? (Photo by Ashershow1)



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Barbara Adams at Hierakonpolis


Stoneware from the Oldest Temple in Egypt

From “The Oldest Temple in Egypt”, Nekhen News vol. 02 nos. 01 & 02

“Barbara Adams reports that our best stone vases compare favorably with the finest specimens found in the “Great Deposit” at Nekhen by Quibell in 1897-98.  The artifacts in the Great Deposit are believed to have been buried in the old temple precinct as sacred trash once they had been broken or become otherwise unsuitable as sacred vessels.  The presence of similar vases at HK-29A reinforces the interpretation of that site as a temple complex” (p. 5)

Some of the “sacred trash” from the temple precinct of the Main Deposit, the stoneware from Barbara Adams helped recover was comparable to that shown here from the more “recent” temple at the main deposit.

Some of the “sacred trash” from the temple precinct of the Main Deposit, the stoneware from Barbara Adams helped recover was comparable to that shown here from the temple at the main deposit.


A Serendipitous Find Whilst Photographing Fragments

From “Happy Cemetery Snapping: Photographing the Objects from HK6” by Barbara Adams, Nekhen News vol. 08

“Locality HK6 in a large Predynastic and Early Dynastic cemetery located in the Great Wadi just beyond the Burg el Hamman hill…In all, 12 graves were cleared during the four seasons of exploration…My main objective of the 1996 season was to photograph the objects from these graves in preparation for a comprehensive publication of excavations in the planned site report series.”

“Work began with objects from the Predynastic tombs excavated at the southern end of the cemetery (tombs nos. 3, 6, 9).  Photographs were taken of the pottery and the fine series of transverse chert arrowheads and porphyry disk mace-heads found in these tombs.  In preparation for the photography, careful re-analysis of a wide assortment of organic remains also revealed that what was once considered a miscellaneous collection of twigs was, in fact, fragments of a funerary bier constructed of layers of wood, reeds and plaster.

The reconstructed wooden bed from HK6 Tomb 11

The reconstructed wooden bed from HK6 Tomb 11

“…As work proceeded so smoothly, I found time to reconstruct the fragments of the wooden bed, which had been thrown out of Tomb 11 by looters. Extracting the actual bed pieces from the collected mass of uncarved wood fragments from the tomb’s roof, I put together the remaining side of the bed frame with its two carved bull’s feet legs for the first time.  Analysis of the fragmentary human skeletal material from this tomb by Jay Mills indicated that a number of juveniles had been buried within it, confirming my original suggestion that it was the tomb of a child based on the size of the wooden bed, the pottery box coffin and the nature of some of the models.  It is not unusual for rich funerary goods to accompany children in this period” (p. 9).


A Worthy Tusk—The (First) Elephant from HK6

From “Something Very Special Down in the Elite Cemetery” by Barbara Adams, Nekhen News Vol. 10

“The HK6 cemetery is located 2km from the desert’s edge on the west side of the great wadi, Abu Suffian.  From 1979 to 1985, the Hierakonpolis Expedition, under the direction of Michael Hoffman, undertook excavations here, uncovering twelve tombs, some still contained a remarkable amount of valuable and exotic grave goods despite their heavily disturbed condition…I wanted to return to the HK6 cemetery to test my hypothesis that the cemetery was used continuously, expanding horizontally through time.  I was in search of tombs dating to Hierakonpolis’ greatest period, the Gerzean (late Naqada II, c. 3400 BC).

“Accordingly, we made the decision to excavate part of a square in the central-west part of the cemetery, an area which contained several small grave depressions.  We chose this square for two reasons:  the surface survey suggested the likelihood that graves dating to the late Naqada II might be found in this central part of the cemetery; and, given the lack of time, it seemed sensible to avoid areas which might contain a large, mudbrick-lined tomb…

“Then, when time seemed short and results rather depressing, it began to get interesting…Things really picked up when Tomb 14 was found.  Early one during clearance around this tomb, flakes of ivory were noted and many further fragments continued to come out of the fill, finally constituting a small, round, straight tusk.  The right side of a large lower jaw lacking teeth, with tooth sockets uncharacteristic of cattle, was found in the south end of the grave, which we identified in the field as a hippopotamus.  A rim fragment of a white cross-lined pottery bowl came from the north end of the grave, which, together with the few other sherds, dated the burial again to the early Naqada Ic…

Elephant right mandible and scapula form Tomb 14

Elephant right mandible and scapula form Tomb 14

“…Much to our surprise, Adrian Lister and Paul Davies of the Biology Department, University College London, were able to identify from the photographs these remains as belonging to a juvenile savanna elephant (Loxodonta africana)!

“Specimens of the African elephant are unknown from Predynastic sites in Upper Egypt, so this is a very special find.  Elephants have been found, however, in Neolithic contexts in the Fayum and Dakhla oases…Elephants do appear in the rock art of Upper Egypt.  In fact, a graffito of an elephant occurs at Locality 61c at Hierakonpolis, in the hills above the Locality 6 cemetery. Unfortunately, the date of this rendering is not known” (pp. 3-4).


Egypt’s Earliest Funerary Masks

From “More Surprises in the Locality HK6 Cemetery” by Barbara Adams, Nekhen News vol. 11

“Initially we were more than satisfied to find more of the elephant, including the left mandible and its ascending ramus to match the right mandible found last season in Tomb 14…As we continued excavation toward the east it became clear that various ovals marked on the site map were not infact grave depressions, but remnants of a large, curved looter’s trench running across the square.  This deep trench must have been open when Tomb 14 was robbed because elephant bones were found within it.  But this was not the only thing of interest found in this trench!

Straw-tempered masks with cutout eyes and mouths

Straw-tempered masks with cutout eyes and mouths

“Two unique but incomplete straw-tempered pottery masks with cut-out eyes and mouths were found at opposite ends of this trench.  Only a small (but evocative) portion was found of one of them, featuring cut-out, feline-looking slanted eyes and an aquiline nose. Found with it at the south end of the trench was a tuft of twisted human hair, perhaps once part of a headdress.  This mask was an amazing site to behold as it came face up out of the ground, so unexpected and other worldly…

“These masks are the earliest actual examples yet known from Egypt. Nothing precisely similar is known from the Predynastic repertoire, although the beard on the more complete mask is reminiscent of those seen on late Naqada II and Naqada III figurines…It is hard to be sure of the date of the masks from this highly disturbed context, but stylistically they seem more likely to be Naqada III than Naqada I…

The funerary mask as found

The funerary mask as found

“Masks were made to serve a religious purpose in the Dynastic period; the mask was a medium by which the wearer became a divinity or a conduit for its powers. The funerary masks placed on the mummified bodies of the dead served to transform them into spirits born again into the afterlife.  The use of human-faced masks in this context is well documented and dates back to the Fourth Dynasty.  Only future excavation at HK6 will confirm whether this inception date should be revised back to the Predynastic” (pp. 4-5).


An Early Precursor to the Motifs in Pharaonic Art

From “The Painted Tomb at Hierakonpolis” by Barbara Adams, Nekhen News vol. 11

“In 1899, during his second season of work at Hierakonpolis, it was reported to F. W. Green that there was a looted tomb with signs of paint near the desert’s edge south of the town of Nekhen. Hastening to the location, Green cleared at least five rectangular mud-brick lined tombs, but only one of them had plastered and painted walls. The wall paintings were copied and then removed and taken to the Cairo Museum where they are still on display.  The tomb itself has never been relocated. It is thought to have been part of a chieftain’s cemetery on the far southeastern edge of the site, an area now under cultivation.

“The Painted or Decorated Tomb 100 is dated by its contents, which are in the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, to the middle Gerzean/Naqada II period of Predynastic sequence…it probably dates closer to 3400 BC.

The scene from the Painted Tomb (T100) from which we see early examples of motifs which will persist in pharaonic art for thousands of years (Source: Hierakonpolis Expedition, Richie O’Neill, contrib.)

The scene from the Painted Tomb (T100) from which we see early examples of motifs which will persist in pharaonic art for thousands of years (Source: Hierakonpolis Expedition, Richie O’Neill, contrib.)

“There are numerous parallels between the paintings and Gerzean art as found on Decorated pottery (D-class) and rock drawings.  Many of the motifs were carried through into Protodynastic and Early Dynastic art. Notable among the motifs are the antithetical group of a man holding off two lions (Master of the Animals); the chieftain or king shown at a larger scale smiting prisoners with a pear-shaped macehead; the priestly figure dressed in a leopard skin robe; and the trussed ox. The boats all lack the oars which are shown on the Decorated pottery, but include the centrally placed cabins, one of which bears a figure seated beneath a canopy.

“The tomb contains the largest and most complex Predynastic scene ever found and it has been said that all later monuments dating to the Protodynastic and Early Dynastic periods only replicate and refine the subjects which first appear here…” (p. 23).


A More Complete Scene Comes Together

From “Some Problems Solved in the Locality 6 Cemetery” by Barbara Adams, Nekhen News vol. 12

16 - yy-kp-03“The priorities of the 1999 season were to complete the exploration of a mudbrick-lined Naqada III tomb (Tomb 16) and expand the excavation area…In a pit near Tomb 16, at the north end of what we had called a robbers’ trench in 1998, the left side of the remarkable pottery bearded mask was discovered. We had found the centre and right side of this life-size pottery mask in approximately the same location last year. The new fragment completes the left side of the mask and preserves one human ear in relief…It can thus be envisaged that the mask was placed over a human face and tied at the back, most likely when the person was participating in a ceremony at the graveside…Stylistic similarities with ivory tusk and stone figurines surmounted with bearded male heads also suggest it should be dated to the late Naqada I or early Naqada II period.

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 “Further excavation of the robbers’ trench finally revealed Tomb 18. Considering the extraordinary masks it may have contained, it is not surprising that this tomb turned out to be no ordinary grave. Excavation to the base of this grave revealed, for the first time in this looted cemetery, four human skeletons still relatively in position. The upper parts of the bodies had been disturbed and some bones were missing, but they could be discerned as crouched burials facing west (by river orientation). Three were placed alongside one another, their legs aligned and their knees nestled into the body in front…

“As the excavation of Tomb 18 was being concluded, we began work in Tomb 19, dated to Naqada IC-IIA. Initially, a large cow jaw with resin impregnating some of the tooth sockets had been found to one side of a pit. As work progressed, not only further fragments of cow bone but pieces with resin attached, such as ribs, were found in the fill of the grave, as well as fragments of reed matting and scraps of a linen bag. Fragments indicate that the cow’s body, in human fashion, was laid upon a multi-layered bier consisting of a wood substrate with plaster and reeds impressed into it. In complete contrast to Tomb 18, which was a grave with human bodies and a cow figurine, this grave had a cow’s body with the upper part of a human figurine made of red painted pottery.

Jaw, skull, and horn cores from the very large cow from tomb 19

Jaw, skull, and horn cores from the very large cow from tomb 19

“The continuation of excavation to the south of Tomb 16 showed that part of the robbers’ trench discovered in 1998 was actually a double grave. These two interlinked circular graves (Tombs 20 and 21) contained a charming collection of blacktopped red pottery (datable to Naqada IC-IIA) as well as three especially fine bifacial arrowheads…

Selection of objects from the subsidiary graves around Tomb 16

Selection of objects from the subsidiary graves around Tomb 16

“The clarification provided by the 1999 season’s work means that a chronological reconstruction can now be suggested for this section of the cemetery which reaffirms Michael Hoffman’s interpretation that there was a hiatus in use and no later, classic Gerzean (Naqada IICD) phase in this cemetery. The first use of this area was for the shallow rectangular Naqada IC graves, Tombs 13 and 14, the latter being the grave of the juvenile elephant. These graves appeared to contain the remains of two human individuals, one adult and one juvenile male buried with the elephant and seven dogs..[Tomb 18] was a larger multiple burial containing at least four human interments, with which we suspect the bearded mask was associated…” (pp. 4-6)

Flint animals from the Hk6 cemetery

Flint animals from the Hk6 cemetery


Puzzling Posts Pose Yet Another First

From “Locality 6 in 2000: Amazing Revelations” by Barbara Adams, Nekhen News vol. 13

“Remarkably, the 2000 season, fitting the advent of a new millennium as well as my twentieth year working at the site of Hierakonpolis, produced results that we could not have guessed at…Copious quantities of pottery sherds were lifted and at least three sequential charcoal hearths were found, located in almost the same spot but used at different times…

“We then concentrated on the excavation of the large tomb [Tomb 23] and the area around it in the north diagonal square…Not only the objects, but also the size of Tomb 23 is unprecedented for its time. Only a longitudinal half of Tomb 23 has been excavated to its complete depth of 1.20m so far, but its width of 3.10m exceeds that of any known grave of its date from Egypt…Three large wooden posts set close to its south and east side were found outside Tomb 23, which presumably were the supports for a superstructure raised over the tomb cavity.

Tomb 23 reconstructed (Photo courtesy of the Hierakonpolis Expedition, Vicky Metafora, contrib.)

Tomb 23 reconstructed (Photo courtesy of the Hierakonpolis Expedition, Vicky Metafora, contrib.)

“And these massive posts were not all the structural treasures around Tomb 23. The amazing revelation, never observed at any other site, is that this Naqada IIAB tomb is set in the earliest funerary complex yet discovered…Even more tantalizing is the possibility that the puzzling posts in the south square could well be part of an even bigger enclosure wall. A study of the unexcavated pits…suggests that it is just possible that this post line could continue along the south side and surround the entire complex! On a smaller scale is a sloping line of 14 small wooden posts excavated on the northeast side of Tomb 23. Michael Hoffman showed that the entrances to the post and wattle structures around the large, mudbrick-lined Naqada III tombs in this cemetery were located on the northeastern side of the tombs. The entrance to the enclosures around the tombs in the royal First Dynasty cemetery at Abydos is also situated here. If this is the first example of this architectural layout in a cemetery, then these posts are part of the entrance to the enclosure and further indications of this structure should be located just inside the square to the north.

“These discoveries also shift the debate about the relative importance of the elite cemeteries of Abydos and Hierakonpolis back in time a little. It has long been known that the cemetery at Abydos was extremely important just before and during the First Dynasty when it became the burial place of the kings of Egypt…There has thus been discussion about whether Hierakonpolis or Abydos was the Predynastic capital of Upper Egypt during Naqada III and before” (pp. 4-6).


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Objects from the Tomb 23 offering chapel (Courtesy of the Hierakonpolis Expedition, Vicky Metafora, contrib.)

Objects from the Tomb 23 offering chapel (Courtesy of the Hierakonpolis Expedition, Vicky Metafora, contrib.)


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In Remembrance


From “Ma’asalama Mudira” by Renee Friedman, Nekhen News vol. 14

Barbara Adams and Mohammad Abdel Razzik mending pots from HK6 1988

Barbara Adams and Mohammad Abdel Razzik mending pots from HK6 1988

“On June 26, 2002, we bade farewell to our dear friend, inspiration and mudira (director), Barbara Adams, who lost her battle with cancer at the tragically early age of 57. The diagnosis was made in October 2001 just as she was preparing to return to Hierakonpolis for a promising season in the elite cemetery at HK6. Although Barbara had devoted much of her life to the site, never before had she been so excited about a forthcoming season—there was the fascinating Tomb 23 to investigate and more pieces of its fabulous statue to discover. It was a time when a new chapter in her life was beginning; after a lifetime of bringing to light the work of others, this was to have been her last season of excavation before she began writing up her own discoveries. It was a terribly cruel trick of fate that took Barbara from us at this time and kept her from her dream” (p. 3).


An Egyptological Diva

From “Barbara—A Reminiscence” by W. Raymond Johnson, Nekhen News vol. 14

22 - yy-kp-30“The personal and the professional Barbara were fused into one very special package for me. I first met her in 1980 at Chicago House in Luxor, when she was working with Walter Fairservis and Michael Hoffman at Hierakonpolis. She was both beautiful and unashamedly passionate about what she was doing. I was greatly impressed, and we hit it off immediately. She was an Egyptological Diva in every sense of the word, which is rather a rarity in our profession—and I do believe that she took great pleasure (sometimes a very wicked pleasure) in being one.

“Visiting her in the Petrie Museum was always an experience. Somehow there was always so much to talk about—gossip, her health, what was going on in Egypt, her health, my work, her health, etc. Worktime seemed to slip away, and when closing time came, well—that was that! Eventually I learned to schedule twice as much time at the museum as I actually needed, and it worked out perfectly. I was able to give both the material and the goddess equal time (well, to be honest, maybe I gave a little more time to the goddess!)” (p. 26).


The Legacy of a Goddess of Egyptology—Carrying On

From “Excavating Egypt’s Early Kings” by Barbara Friedman, Nekhen News vol. 17

At the end of the year 2000 excavations in the elite cemetery at HK6, Barbara Adams knew she was on to something special. In addition to stunning artifacts, such as the exquisite flint ibex, she had also uncovered part of the burial chamber of what was to be the largest known tomb of the Naqada IIAB period (c. 3800–3650BC). Even more amazing was the presence of stout timbers flanking the tomb and a post fence surrounding it. These were clear evidence for the first funerary enclosure anywhere in Egypt and the beginning of developments that would ultimately lead to the Step Pyramid (see Nekhen News 13:4–7). Sadly she could not finish this work, but thanks to a grant from the National Geographic Society we were able to resume excavations in early 2005, revealing a tomb compound that surpassed all expectations.

Moving to the west and north, our work revealed the full extent of the rectangular tomb chamber to be c. 5.5m long (E–W) and 3.1m wide (N–S), with an original depth of over 1.2m. That it can comfortably seat the entire excavation crew amply illustrates its substantial size.

The entire crew in Tomb 23

The entire crew in Tomb 23

It is also the earliest known Egyptian tomb to provide clear evidence of a superstructure. How early tombs appeared above ground has long been a question, with many suggesting that a simple mound of dirt did the job. Needless to say, nothing prepared us for what we found. Eight posts arranged on either side of the tomb cavity indicate that a wooden or reed-mat covered building stood high above it. Preservation was such that in four cases the actual timber posts survived, each one dressed to a 20x20cm square in cross-section.

The scale of the architecture, and the presence of the stone statue, offerings, and elephant burial indicates that Tomb 23 belonged to one of the early rulers of Hierakonpolis. At a time when the settlement was at its peak and formed the largest urban center anywhere along the Nile (c. 3650BC), there can be little doubt that he also controlled a large portion of Upper Egypt as well. The implications of this discovery for understanding predynastic developments leading to the birth of Egyptian civilization, and the role that Hierakonpolis played in this, are hard to overstate. Figuratively capping the pyramid, this special tomb also allows us to bring together finds made throughout the site over the years, and combine them to tell an even more remarkable story of Egypt’s beginnings.


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Links and Online Publications


Lyn Green provided this link to a biography of Barbara Adams by Renee Friedman and Barbara Lesko.

Richie O’Neill provided the link to Archeology Magazine’s Excavating Hierakonpolis Interactive Dig.

Richie O’Neill provided this link to the Hierakonpolis Expedition official website.

Richie O’Neill provided this link to Harry Smith’s biography of Barbara Adams for The Guardian.


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In the News and On the Blogs


Per Djeba Per Ankh Library:  Updates (Horus Behdety)

History of the Ancient World:  Four Surveyors of the Gods: In the XVIII Dynasty of Egypt – New Kingdom c. 1400 B.C. (Mark Lauria)

Luxor Times: 863 Genuine Artefacts were Seized on Cairo-Suez Road (Luxor Times)

Les Ateliers de Nebty: Changes Soon to Take Place in the Forum (Nebty)

Luxor News: Luxor Governor Looking at French Offer to Establish a Cable Car Through the West Bank of Luxor (Richie O’Neill)

LiveScience:  Egyptian Mummy’s Elaborate Hairstyle Revealed in 3D (Mark Lauria)

Science Recorder: Lowly Dung Beetles Look to Milky Way for Navigation (Mark Lauria)


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Hoffman House--th home away from home for the Hierakonpolis Expedition

Hoffman House–the home away from home for the Hierakonpolis Expedition


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Copyright by Keith Payne, 2013.  All rights reserved.

All copyrighted photography is used in accordance with the Fair Use provision of copyright law.  All rights are retained by the original copyright holders.  Other photography is either shared via Creative Commons or is in the public domain.

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This entry was posted on Saturday, February 2nd, 2013 at 12:37 pm and is filed under Em Hotep Digest. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

2 comments so far

Vera Luca Trommer Thaddeu

Muito bom poder ter acesso a informações científicas e visualizar obras de artes líticas e cerâmicas. Muito obrigada.

February 2nd, 2013 at 8:22 pm
Susan Leogrande Alt

After reading all of this spectacular writing about this lady, I am even more sad for Egypt in today’s news when a tourist teen caused damage to carvings. This lady was what I would have loved to have been – someone who followed her passion and proclivity and made a difference! Great = no – Fabulous job Mr. Payne on putting this together!

May 28th, 2013 at 5:11 pm

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