We have been introduced to the Western Cemetery of Khufu, and how it began as nucleus cemeteries that expanded as additional mastabas and burials were added, creating the not-always-so-neat mosaic of a history in stone of the Fourth Dynasty, beginning with the reign of Pharaoh Khufu. Now the Egyptian authorities were going to allow three international missions to begin excavation in the Western Cemetery. But how would the concessions be divided? How was the decision made, as regards who digs where? In Part 3, we begin to demystify at least how this process began. As we go, we will see that concessions get passed on, swapped, and at least temporarily, set aside. The concessions at Giza today may look somewhat differently, but at least in the beginning of the Twentieth Century, this is how it started.

Khufu’s Western Cemetery Part 3: The Concessions to Excavate

NOTE: Most of the information, and most of the photos in the Western Cemetery of Khufu series come from the Digital Giza website, Harvard University’s home for their (and the Museum of Fine Arts Boston’s) Giza Archive. This is at best a humble introduction and tribute to that work, and will hopefully encourage you to visit their site for your own enjoyment and edification.

Western cemetery: Khufu and Khafre cemeteries, general view, looking northwest from Khufu pyramid, courtesy of Digital Giza: The Giza Project at Harvard University/Museum of Fine Arts Boston, photo ID HUMFA_A2059_NS.

Western cemetery: Khufu and Khafre cemeteries, general view, looking northwest from Khufu pyramid, courtesy of Digital Giza: The Giza Project at Harvard University/Museum of Fine Arts Boston, photo ID HUMFA_A2059_NS.

Ludwig Borchardt. Wikipedia.

Ludwig Borchardt. Wikipedia.

In November, 1902, Ernesto Schiaparelli, George Reisner (accompanied by his wife, Mary), and Ludwig Borchardt, who was standing in for Georg Steindorff, met at the Mena House for the lottery of a lifetime. It was agreed that the Western Cemetery would be divided into three roughly equal zones, running east to west, and numbered 1-3 from the south to the north. The three numbers were placed in a hat, from which Mary Reisner drew who would be granted which section. It was literally a drawing of lots for lots. The Italian mission (The Turin Expedition) was granted the southernmost strip, the German mission (The Sieglin Expedition) was granted the middle strip, and the American team (The Hearst Expedition) was allotted the northernmost strip (Reisner, p. 23).

Georg Steindorff, courtesy of Wikipedia.

Georg Steindorff, courtesy of Wikipedia.

Two important events regarding the work in the Western Cemetery occurred in 1905. First, what had been the Hearst Expedition was resumed, with Reisner at the helm, would become the Harvard University-Museum of Fine Arts Boston Expedition. Second, the Italians gave up their concession of the southern strip to Reisner’s American team, thus greatly expanding both the American team’s work and their opportunities. A further transfer occurred in 1911, when Steindorff traded his commission to Hermann Junker of the Acadamie der Wissenschaften and the Pelizeus Museum of Hildesheim (Reisner, p. –R03 23), in exchange for Junker’s Nubian concession (Reisner, p. 23; Thompson, p. 230).

Western cemetery: southeast corner (including cemetery G 4000), general view, looking west, courtesy of Digital Giza: The Giza Project at Harvard University/Museum of Fine Arts Boston, photo ID HUMFA_A2190_NS.

Western cemetery: southeast corner (including cemetery G 4000), general view, looking west, courtesy of Digital Giza: The Giza Project at Harvard University/Museum of Fine Arts Boston, photo ID HUMFA_A2190_NS.

From left to right: Hermann Junker, George A. Reisner, James H. Breasted, Ludwig Borchardt, Continental Hotel, Cairo, November 15, 1935 (rephotograph of Chicago Expedition picture by Mr. Leslie Frederick Thompson, born 1905),courtesy of Digital Giza: The Giza Project at Harvard University/Museum of Fine Arts Boston, photo ID HUMFA_B8978_NS.

From left to right: Hermann Junker, George A. Reisner, James H. Breasted, Ludwig Borchardt, Continental Hotel, Cairo, November 15, 1935 (rephotograph of Chicago Expedition picture by Mr. Leslie Frederick Thompson, born 1905),courtesy of Digital Giza: The Giza Project at Harvard University/Museum of Fine Arts Boston, photo ID HUMFA_B8978_NS.

Ernesto Schiaparelli, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Ernesto Schiaparelli, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

In his wonderfully informative article about the Giza cemeteries, Jimmy Dunn explains that Schiaparelli may not have had much choice in the matter of conceding his site to Reisner – the Turin Expedition had run into financial and administrative problems (Dunn). But as we shall see when we take a closer look at Schiaparelli and the Turin Expedition, Schiaparelli was far from done with Egyptology, and would go on to make incredible contributions to the field. Dunn states that, having gained access to two thirds of the Western Cemetery, Reisner would continue to work there until his death in 1942. He — passed away in Giza, remaining at his beloved Harvard Camp until the very end.

Hermann Junker (the guy in the fedora up on the rail) at Giza. Public Domain.

Hermann Junker (the guy in the fedora up on the rail) at Giza. Public Domain.

Francesco Ballerini. Public Domain.

Francesco Ballerini. Public Domain.

While not strictly about the concessions, Dunn raises an intriguing point about the way in which Khufu had the mastabas built ahead of time. He notes that tourists are awed by the Great Pyramid, while not realizing that the construction of the unassigned “place holder” mastabas may have been the first example of prefabrication in history. Jean-Pierre Houdin has gone a step further, suggesting that Khufu’s pyramid itself was probably prefabricated as well. His theory states that the casing stones of fine Tura limestone would have been installed first, with the core of the pyramid being filled in behind them. He states that the true prefabrication took place at Tura, where the casing stones were cut to perfectly fit, then shipped to the Giza Plateau where they were installed on the pyramid face. A layer of the local nummulitic limestone blocks were then placed behind the facing stones, and then filler material to made up the core behind the supporting layer of local Giza limestone blocks (Houdin and Payne).

Ernst von Sieglin, financier of the German expedition, and its namesake. Public domain.

Ernst von Sieglin, financier of the German expedition, and its namesake. Public domain.

Georg Steindorff (on the right), Hermann Thiersch and Georg Möller, and the recovery of 20 statues from the Mastaba of Mastaba of Djasha, D39/40, 03/23/1905. Courtesy of the Egyptian Museum of the University of Leipzig, Photo ID AMUL 9195, Egyptian Museum accc. no. JE 37820.

Georg Steindorff (on the right), Hermann Thiersch and Georg Möller, and the recovery of 20 statues from the Mastaba of Mastaba of Djasha, D39/40, 03/23/1905. Courtesy of the Egyptian Museum of the University of Leipzig, Photo ID AMUL 9195, Egyptian Museum accc. no. JE 37820.

George Steindorff and George Reisner at their last meeting in Egypt. Courtesy of The Bulletin of the Museum of Fine Arts, Vol. XL No. 241.

George Steindorff and George Reisner at their last meeting in Egypt. Courtesy of The Bulletin of the Museum of Fine Arts, Vol. XL No. 241.

Thus, Khufu was a master of prefabrication, and with the brittle facing stones, this makes sense.  Unlike the local nummulitic limestone, which was dense but rough, the limestone of Tura could be polished to a nearly marble-like surface.  But there is a trade-off – as soon as the Tura limestone is exposed to oxygen, it begins to harden, making it brittle.  From a logistical standpoint, prefabrication made sense.  When you ship things, some get broken.  When you ship a lot of things, there is a greater chance of items being damaged.  It made more sense to prefabricate each tier at Tura, where the blocks could be fine-tuned for the best fit while they were still softer and more workable, enumerate each block, disassemble them, then shift them to Giza where they would be reassembled and then filled in from behind.  But we are getting off track.  The mastabas of the Western Field were smaller structures, and the evidence in place suggests the rough nummulitic wall was likely built first and filled in with block or rubble, with the facing added last, if ever.

Harvard Camp, Giza offices; from left to right: Frank O. Allen, George Reisner, Nicholas Melnikoff, Hansmartin Handrick (seated), and Mohammed Said Ahmed (photograph from Al-Mussawar Arabic magazine, no. 740, December 16, 1938); January 4, 1939. Courtesy of Digital Giza: The Giza Project at Harvard University/Museum of Fine Arts Boston, photo ID HUMFA_B9021_NS.

Harvard Camp, Giza offices; from left to right: Frank O. Allen, George Reisner, Nicholas Melnikoff, Hansmartin Handrick (seated), and Mohammed Said Ahmed (photograph from Al-Mussawar Arabic magazine, no. 740, December 16, 1938); January 4, 1939. Courtesy of Digital Giza: The Giza Project at Harvard University/Museum of Fine Arts Boston, photo ID HUMFA_B9021_NS.

 

The division of the concessions into neat east-to-west strips, subdivided into three horizontal fields, was a good idea.  But changes would follow.  Sources of funding would dry up, concessions would be traded, sometimes overlapping, and people would move on to other projects, or retire altogether.  Herman Junker, for example, would prove to be much more prolific than Georg Steindorff in the Western Cemetery.  George Reisner would seem to come to a failed beginning, and then would go on to produce fundamental work in Khufu’s field.

In the next article of this series, we will begin digging into the specific missions, beginning with George Reisner and the Hearst Expedition.

Works Cited:

Dunn, Jimmy. “The Cemeteries of Giza in Egypt.” Tour Egypt. N.d. Web. http://www.touregypt.net/featurestories/gizacemeteries.htm

Houdin, Jean Pierre, and Keith Payne. “The Facing Stones of the Large Pyramids – An Interview With Jean Pierre Houdin.” Em Hotep. 05/09/13. Web. http://emhotep.net/…/the-facing-stones-of-the-large-pyrami…/

Reisner, George A. “A History of the Giza Necropolis 1.” Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1942. Online: http://www.gizapyramids.org/pdf_libra…/giza_necropolis_1.pdf

Thompson, Jason. “Wonderful Things: A History of Egyptology 2: The Golden Age: 1881-1914.” American University in Cairo Press, 2015.

 

Previous Articles in this Series

 

em hotep footer
Unless otherwise indicated, copyright by Keith Payne, 2017, all rights reserved

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

This entry was posted on Thursday, June 29th, 2017 at 5:10 pm and is filed under Old Kingdom, The Giza Plateau, 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.

Leave a reply

Name (*)
Mail (will not be published) (*)
URI
Comment