Polish Archaeological Mission at
Sheikh Abd el-Qurna is an archaeological expedition to Qurna in Egypt (ancient
Western Thebes, at the west bank of present-day Luxor). The mission works
under the auspices of the Polish Center of Mediterranean Archaeology, University
of Warsaw, in cooperation with Adam Mickiewicz University. Since the beginning
in 2003 the mission is directed by Tomasz Górecki (National Museum in Warsaw).
In 2016 the work is run in the field by Andrzej Ćwiek (Adam Mickiewicz
University and Poznań Archaeological Museum), the deputy director of the
The site under research is an unnamed
desert knoll beside Sheikh Abd el-Qurna hill, south of the Valley of the
Kings and Deir el-Bahari. The knoll borders the valley behind Sheikh Abd
el-Qurna where one of the pharaohs of the early Middle Kingdom period (ca.
2000 BC) started building his mortuary complex. Highest officials of the
state cut their tombs in the slopes of hills surrounding the valley with
their ruler’s planned burial. Two of these tombs, marked MMA 1151 and MMA
1152, are located on the abovementioned knoll.
The tombs were several times re-used
during the Pharaonic Period and in the Middle Ages the site was settled
by Coptic monks who made their hermitage there, using the tombs and building
new structures outside them.
The still ongoing research on the
remains of the hermitage, occupied from 6th through 8th century AD, gave
the mission its popular name, included in its logo: Misja Eremu,
which means "Mission of the Hermitage" in Polish. Among the finds from
the hermitage were not only thousands of amphorae in which water was delivered
to the monks, but also innumerous items of every day life and objects of
handicraft made by the monks. The highlights of the excavations were parchment
and papyrus books with some of the oldest Christian texts, discovered at
the garbage dump on the slope of the hill.
Starting from the season 2015 the
research has been focused on the architecture, funerary equipment and other
artifacts dating from the Pharaonic Period. This means first of all excavations
in the rock-cut subterranean structures of the tomb MMA 1152, reaching
the depth of over twenty meters. The work in a 18-meter deep burial shaft
conducted in February 2015 required installation of a special construction
above the shaft’s mouth and using sophisticated climbing equipment.
The most valuable item found in 2015
was the fragment of a linen velum – a veil for a sacred image, with names
of Ptolemy XII and the goddess Isis written in brown ink. It must have
been a gift of the pharaoh to the nearby temple of Deir el-Medina, found
there and brought to the hermitage by scavenging monks. This inconspicuous
piece of linen with the royal cartouches has some historical importance
and has but few parallels.
The mission will be back to the site
in February 2016 to continue excavations in MMA 1152.
Mission at Sheikh Abd el-Qurna, Egypt works under the auspices of the Polish
Center of Mediterranean Archaeology, University of Warsaw, in cooperation
with Adam Mickiewicz University.
on Facebook and Twitter!