7
Jun

Khufu’s Western Cemetery Part 1: Introduction

   Posted by: Keith Payne   

Categories: Old Kingdom, Tombs

Khufu's Western Cemetery Part 1 - Introduction

With the Scan Pyramids project doing work in the field, and the Harvard University/Museum of Fine Arts Boston Giza Archive Project being reinvented as Digital Giza, it seems the Old Kingdom is in the air. Many of you have been following my Western Cemetery series on Facebook in the Old Kingdom Egyptology Group, but there is a need for a more permanent home for the series, which is a great reason to jump start Em Hotep!

 

Khufu’s Western Cemetery Part 1: Introduction

View of the Western Cemetery, courtesy of the Australian War Memorial, with special thanks to Sarah Shepherd.

View of the Western Cemetery, courtesy of the Australian War Memorial, with special thanks to Sarah Shepherd.

The large mastabas of the cemetery to the west of Khufu’s Pyramid are in many ways the Manhattan of the Dead. Laid out in blocks separated by avenues running north to south and intersecting east to west, this upscale neighborhood of pre-built tombs would be the homes of the bodies of Egypt’s royalty and highest-ranking officials and nobility. Known commonly now as the Western Cemetery, the site is an archaeological cornucopia of artifacts, information about the organization of Old Kingdom government, and genealogical data. Mark Lehner notes that the very process of constructing the pyramids and necropolises such as the Western Cemetery must have affected the political, religious, economical, and ecological evolution of Egypt in the Old Kingdom Period (pp. 109-10).

General plan of the Giza Plateau, with the Western Cemetery highlighted in green. Courtesy of Digital Giza: The Giza Project at Harvard University/Museum of Fine Arts Boston, photo ID HUMFA_EG025538.

General plan of the Giza Plateau, with the Western Cemetery highlighted in green. Courtesy of Digital Giza: The Giza Project at Harvard University/Museum of Fine Arts Boston, photo ID HUMFA_EG025538.

The Western Cemetery can be divided into multiple sub-cemeteries. Bertha Porter and Rosalind Moss identified 18 specific cemeteries: G 1000, G 1100, G 1200, G 1300, G 1400, G 1500, G 1600, G 1900, G 2000, G 2100, G 2500, G 3000, G 4000, G 6000, the Echelon Cemetery, Junker East, Junker West, and the Steindorff Cemetery (1974, p. vi). As others have continued to work and analyze the mastabas of the Western Cemetery, some areas, particularly the Echelon portions, are further subdivided into more narrowly-defined cemeteries. We will explore these in detail as we move forward. I should also mention that we will be covering the Abu Bakr excavations as we proceed, so in terms of the numbering system, we will not be moving in a strictly linear fashion, but I assure you, there will be a method to my madness! However, as we shall see more in depth in the next part of this series, Hemiunu’s construction of the Western Cemetery began in the westernmost part of the necropolis with four “nucleus” cemeteries.

Cemetery G 4000, general view, G 4160 (foreground right), G 4260 (foreground center), G 4360 (foreground left), looking southeast to Khafre's Pyramid. Courtesy of Digital Giza: The Giza Project at Harvard University/Museum of Fine Arts Boston, photo ID KHM_AEOS_I_5154.

Cemetery G 4000, general view, G 4160 (foreground right), G 4260 (foreground center), G 4360 (foreground left), looking southeast to Khafre’s Pyramid. Courtesy of Digital Giza: The Giza Project at Harvard University/Museum of Fine Arts Boston, photo ID KHM_AEOS_I_5154.

The first formal work to be done in the Western Cemetery was conducted by Karl Lepsius who surveyed the Giza Plateau in 1842, with his major find being the tomb of Merib (tomb G 2100, not to be confused with the cemetery of the same name). William Flinders Petrie made his foray into the Western Cemetery in the early 1880’s. Petrie was something of a living legend with the local populace, who were not always quite sure of what to make of him. He even made a home of one of the tombs, where he protected his work from wandering tourists (and looters) by emerging from the tomb clad only in pink underwear (Der Manuelian, 1999, p. 140).

Karl Lepsius (via Wikimedia Commons); Lepsius tomb 14, near Hearst/Harvard Camp. Courtesy of Digital Giza: The Giza Project at Harvard University/Museum of Fine Arts Boston, photo ID HUMFA_C12905_OS

Karl Lepsius (via Wikimedia Commons); Lepsius tomb 14, near Hearst/Harvard Camp. Courtesy of Digital Giza: The Giza Project at Harvard University/Museum of Fine Arts Boston, photo ID HUMFA_C12905_OS

Flinders Petrie with wife, Hidlda Petrie, also an Egyptologist, 1903, photograph in the public domain; Petrie at Abydos, 1922, courtesy of the Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology, via Wikimedia Commons.

Flinders Petrie with wife, Hidlda Petrie, also an Egyptologist, 1903, photograph in the public domain; Petrie at Abydos, 1922, courtesy of the Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology, via Wikimedia Commons.

The most prolific work in the Western Cemetery began in 1902, when three separate expeditions received concessions to work the necropolis – a German team, an Italian team, and an American team. The German team, whose project was dubbed the Sieglin Expedition, was led by Leipzig’s Georg Steindorff. The Italian team, known as the Turin Expedition, was led by the Museo Egizio’s Ernesto Schiaparelli. The American team, whose project was called the Hearst Expedition (later, the Harvard University/Museum of Fine Arts Boston Expedition), was led by Harvard’s George Reisner. We will get into the finer details of how the concessions were assigned in a later installment, but suffice it here to say that Egypt’s Director General of Antiquities, Gaston Maspero, decided the the most equitable way to distribute the concessions was to divide the Western Cemetery into three east-to-west strips, and have representatives from each mission draw lots for their concession (Reisner, pp. 22-3).

Hermann Junker, George Reisner, James Henry Breasted, and Ludwig Borchardt, at the Continental Hotel, Cairo, November 15, 1935. This is long after the division of the Western Cemetery into concessions, but several of the key people involved in the excavation of Khufu's Western Cemetery are here, and we will be learning more about them as this series proceeds. Courtesy of Digital Giza: The Giza Project at Harvard University/Museum of Fine Arts Boston, photo ID HUMFA_B8978_NS.

Hermann Junker, George Reisner, James Henry Breasted, and Ludwig Borchardt, at the Continental Hotel, Cairo, November 15, 1935. This is long after the division of the Western Cemetery into concessions, but several of the key people involved in the excavation of Khufu’s Western Cemetery are here, and we will be learning more about them as this series proceeds. Courtesy of Digital Giza: The Giza Project at Harvard University/Museum of Fine Arts Boston, photo ID HUMFA_B8978_NS.

Khufu’s master builder, Hemiunu, began work on the Western Cemetery at the same time he began work on his pharaoh’s pyramid, which would be the largest in history. The mastabas in the original, nucleus cemeteries were rectangular structures of two types: those that had cores filled-in with well-placed blocks, and those which consisted of block exteriors and rubble-filled interiors. Unlike earlier and later tombs, these superstructures did not have interior rooms or chapels. Slab stelae were placed into the southern end of their eastern walls, which may have served as a substitute for the false door of earlier and later tombs. The focal point of worship and offerings, the areas of the slab stelae were often enclosed within small mud-brick walls. Some of these mud-brick walls were later replaced, or in some cases, enveloped, with stone casing, and false doors replaced the slab stelae, which were sometimes walled up inside the casing stones. These later additions may indicate that the mud-brick chapels were not intended to be permanent. In these later alterations, internal chapels could be constructed by adding on to the original superstructure, or a section of the original superstructure could be hollowed out to create an internal chapel. Later mastabas were built with the internal chapel included as part of the original plan (Janosi, pp. 29-30)

Diagram of a simple vertical shaft burial (G 1376 B) alongside a diagram representing the above-ground superstructure of a mastaba (g 1203). Photos courtesy of Digital Giza: The Giza Project at Harvard University/Museum of Fine Art Boston, photo ID (of G 1367) HUMFA_C13914_NS, and (G 1327) photo ID HUMFA_EG015723.

Diagram of a simple vertical shaft burial (G 1376 B) alongside a diagram representing the above-ground superstructure of a mastaba (g 1203). Photos courtesy of Digital Giza: The Giza Project at Harvard University/Museum of Fine Art Boston, photo ID (of G 1367) HUMFA_C13914_NS, and (G 1327) photo ID HUMFA_EG015723.

G 4940 (Lepsius 45), Seshemnefer I, area of exterior chapel, and interior chapel entrance, looking southwest. Courtesy of Digital Giza: The Giza Project at Harvard University/Museum of Fine Arts Boston, photo ID HUMFA_B2400_NS

G 4940 (Lepsius 45), Seshemnefer I, area of exterior chapel, and interior chapel entrance, looking southwest. Courtesy of Digital Giza: The Giza Project at Harvard University/Museum of Fine Arts Boston, photo ID HUMFA_B2400_NS

The actual burial chambers were not in the mastabas themselves, but rather, were under them. A vertical shaft, usually just one in a given mastaba, but sometimes multiple shafts occur, went through the mastaba and deep into the limestone beneath it. Reisner observed that there were three primary types of substructures: shafts that consisted of a simple pit that went vertically to the burial chamber and ended; shafts leading to a horizontal rock-cut hall at the bottom of the shaft that ended with a simple, unlined burial chamber; and a sort that had a horizontal hall with a burial chamber lined with facing stones and a slab or corbelled roof (Reisner, p. 5). The shafts themselves were also sometimes lined with facing stones. Many of the early crude brick mastabas were stepped, and Reisner proposes that the difficulty of working on such an uneven surface is the reason why many of them do not have false doors. As stated above, it may have been necessary to use a tomb before it was completed, and Reisner thought that Khufu probably intended to have a finer-grade casing stone surface applied to the exterior of these mastabas, during which the niches would be created. As evidence of this, Reisner points out that there were false-doors and niches in the mastabas that did have a smooth exterior of limestone casing installed. As for the stepped mastabas without a casing, this problem was later mitigated by placing large, framed false-doors against the exterior (Reisner, p. 7).

From the tomb of G 4520, Khufuankh, exterior chapel, small false door inscribed for Iaunisut and his wife Iupu, Khufuanks's parents. The false door may be viewed in person at the Museum of Fine Arts Boston (MFA 21.3081). Courtesy of Digital Giza: The Giza Project at Harvard University/Museum of Fine Arts Boston, photo ID HUMFA_B9167_NS.

From the tomb of G 4520, Khufuankh, exterior chapel, small false door inscribed for Iaunisut and his wife Iupu, Khufuanks’s parents. The false door may be viewed in person at the Museum of Fine Arts Boston (MFA 21.3081). Courtesy of Digital Giza: The Giza Project at Harvard University/Museum of Fine Arts Boston, photo ID HUMFA_B9167_NS.

The next chapter of this series will be a brief discussion of George Reisner’s concept of “nucleus cemeteries,” around which subsequent burials would expand the central sets of mastaba in a sort of urban crawl of the afterlife, leading to the much less orderly and crowded condition which were not a part of Khufu (and Hemiunu’s) vision, but which, nonetheless, led to the crowded necropolis we see today. We will then cover the Italian, German, and American missions and beyond. Who knows how far we will go. We have a lot of material with which to work.

View of the Western Cemetery, courtesy of the Australian War Memorial, with special thanks to Sarah Shepherd.

View of the Western Cemetery, courtesy of the Australian War Memorial, with special thanks to Sarah Shepherd.

Speaking of material, this entire series is dedicated to the Giza Archives maintained by Harvard University and the Museum of Fine Arts. Without the massive amount of freely shared material of the archive, this series would be impossible. And in case you did not know, the entire archive is being updated and retooled into a site that is one of the best catalogues of anything on the internet. It is my humble desire that with this series I will inspire you to visit Digital Giza (http://giza.fas.harvard.edu/).

The dashboard of the new home of the Giza Archives Project - Digital Giza (giza.fas.harvard.edu/)

The dashboard of the new home of the Giza Archives Project – Digital Giza (giza.fas.harvard.edu/)

Works Cited

“Digital Giza.” The Giza Project. Harvard University and the Museum of Fine Arts. 2016. Online: http://giza.fas.harvard.edu/

Janosi, Peter. “The Tombs of Officials: Houses of Eternity.” In Egyptian Art in the Age of the Pyramids. New York:The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1999, pp. 27-40.

Porter, Bertha, and Rosalind L.B. Moss. “Topographical Bibliography of Ancient Egyptian Hieroglyphic Texts, Reliefs, and Paintings 3: Memphis (Abû Rawâsh to Dahshûr). Second edition revised and augmented by Jaromír Málek. Oxford: The Clarendon Press, 1974. Online: http://www.gizapyramids.org/pdf_library/porter-moss_III_giza.pdf

Manuelian, Peter Der. “Excavating the Old Kingdom. The Giza Necropolis and Other Mastaba Fields.” In Egyptian Art in the Age of the Pyramids. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1999, pp. 138-153.

Lehner, Mark. “The Development of the Giza Necropolis. The Khufu Project.” Mitteilungen des Deutschen Archäologischen Instituts, Abteilung Kairo 41 (1985), pp. 109-143.  Online:  http://www.gizapyramids.org/pdf_library/lehner_mdaik_41_1985.pdf

Reisner, George A. A History of the Giza Necropolis 1. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1942.  Online: http://giza.fas.harvard.edu/pubdocs/128/intro/

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Copyright Keith Payne, 2017.

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This entry was posted on Wednesday, June 7th, 2017 at 7:58 pm and is filed under Old Kingdom, Tombs. 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.

4 comments so far

Susan Smith
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 1 

This is something I can “dig” my teeth into! I find it utterly in step with the period that the workers and those involved in these monuments were laid to rest nearby. Looking forward to the next installment! Much thanks in performing all this work for our “shared” pleasures and education!

June 14th, 2017 at 7:48 pm
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 2 

Hey Susi!

I have pre-written about 7 articles ahead in this series to make room for other things that will be interjected. Good to see Em Hotep shake the sand off, as it were! Glad to see you back here, and the stats are jumping with each new article. Hope to have Part 3 up tonight. Had some “real life” (as if anything is more important that AE?) stuff come up at the beginning of the week, but at this pace, Episode 4 should be out early next week, I have some interviews lined up, plus some exciting guest articles. Stay tuned!

—Keith

PS: Part of the issue is that about 5 of these articles were written using the old Giza Archives site, but they are in the process of switching to Digital Giza, so some of the links and photo IDs have changed, so in addition to converting to HTML, I am having to source check like crazy. But that is what summer is for!

June 29th, 2017 at 9:25 am
Gerry Cannon
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 3 

Hi Keith.

my colleague and I have recently done some (unpublished) interesting finds on the Giza Plateau which I am sure would interest you. Please let me have your e mail address or Skype name so I can discuss them. Cheers, Gerry in Spain

June 30th, 2017 at 5:28 am
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 4 

Hi Gerry 🙂

The easiest way to reach me directly is through my Facebook account:

https://www.facebook.com/keith.payne.906

Em Hotep has a very lively presence in its own group, Facebook BBS, and also administers the Old Kingdom Egyptology Group. I will link both below, but they are the fastest, most direct way to reach me publicly or privately.

Em Hotep BBS:

https://www.facebook.com/groups/119457584880015/

And OKEG:

https://www.facebook.com/groups/163605750470029/

Cheers!
–Keith

June 30th, 2017 at 5:52 pm

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