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Vol.xln. August, 1903.
By J. Leslie Dobbins
ner, Ph. D.
of the Univers 'tr of California, Illustrated with
photographs taken as the work proceeded.
These excavations, which the following article explains, are among the most important enterprises any university in America has undertaken. Mr. J. Leslie Dobbins has had special opportunities for understanding the work, and had the benefit of Dr. Reisner's verification of his statements before the director returned to the field of operations in Egypt. The information obtained through these investigations of an ancient people are significant for a country that, like Egypt, needs irrigation to develop its great agricultural resources to the full, and the more knowledge gained of Egyptian habits and customs, the nearer reach an understanding of their methods of land cultivation.
XCAVATION among ruins of pedition sent out by the University ancient Egyptian cities is a of Pennsylvania—the only expedi
task in which scientific organi- tion for research which any Amerizations have been engaged for more can university now has in the field than two centuries, but it is a work in the Old World. And through it whose field is still infinitely fertile. the University of California will Discoveries of the greatest import- come into possession of
much ance have been made very recently, more complete collection of Egypdiscoveries which have thrown
tian antiquities than is to be found great light upon the past. Ten years
other university in America. ago it was impossible to trace Egyp- Dr. Reisner started for Egypt in tian history with any degree of cer- 1899, accompanied by A. M. Lythtainty beyond 2300 B. C., but with goe, of Harvard, and F. W. Green, the help of these recent discoveries, of Cambridge, whose place was the story of twelve hundred years taken later by A. C. Mace, of Oxmore has been revealed, and the date ford. Five years were to be devoted of the first dynasty of Egyptian to this quest, and the two years yet kings can now be placed at about to come of this time will undoubted3500 B. C.
ly yield many additional treasures. And of all the expeditions now at But already during the three work in Egypt, none has achieved years which have been spent in the such scientifically important results field, facts have been brought to as that which, through the munifi- light and prove as important as cence of Mrs. Phoebe A. Hearst, is those determined by the long series being conducted by George A. Reis- of excavations carried on for many ner, Ph. D., for the University of years by the Egyptian Government. California. It is, with but one ex- Work was begun in a cemetery at ception—that of the Babylonian ex- Koptos, but most of the land there also, was a well-preserved inscription which showed that the body had been buried in the reign of Menes, the first king of the first dynasty. A number of pieces of pottery lay near the body, besides a few alabaster jars, all lying in their original positions, having been there undisturbed for almost six thousand years.
In the oldest tombs discovered clay pottery simi-
lar to this and stone jars Cemetery of Der-el-Ballas before excavations opened. were found. From that
time, throughout the was under cultivation, and difficul- history of Egypt the custom of buryties arose. It was necessary to pur
ing with the deceased many treaschase the land, and purchase was
ures and of pottery seems to have not always possible. But at Der
been observed. No grave was too el-Ballas, the next scene of opera
humble for at least a few crude tions, conditions were more favor- pieces
pieces of pottery, and no undisable, and two cemeteries rich in an- turbed grave was found to be withtiquities were there opened up, one
out them. It was often by means of the eighteenth dynasty, the
of this pottery found in the tomb other a prehistoric burial place of
that the date of the burial could be a date earlier than that of the first
ascertained when no inscription was dynasty.
found. For the evolution of pottery In all the graves of this latter
could be traced by a comparison of cemetery, the bodies were found in the specimens found, and a comthe same
position, lying on the parison showed the modifications in left side, with the head to the south shape and style, due to the greater and face toward the West, and with
skill and better workmanship that knees drawn up almost to the chin.
later years produced. By an inverse This contracted burial was found, process of reasoning, the relative by repeated discoveries, to have
dates of the tombs themselves could been the prevalent custom for many
be approximated from this same centuries, and it was only in the comparison of the pottery found in cemeteries of the eighth dynasty
them. that extended burials
first The modifications produced in the found.
pottery give an insight into the hisIt was in this characteristic posi- tory of the early dynasties. As an tion that the most valued find of the example of this, it was seen and first year was disclosed. At Naga- proved from a rather sudden change ed-Der, the body of a woman evi- in the nature of pottery that the dently of high social standing was potter's wheel was invented and unearthed. About her neck
used during the sixth dynasty, about found a long, heavy necklace of 2800 B. C. Especially were these gold, ruby and carnelian beads. This discoveries valuable when the jars treasure was more costly than any bore inscriptions. No better inheretofore found by the expedition. stance of the importance of seemThe tomb was one of the few which ingly small particulars could be menhad escaped being plundered. In it, tioned than that of an elaborate ala
baster jar found in a tomb of the methods of this expedition have difsixth dynasty in the cemetery at fered from those of any other which Naga-ed-Der. Upon it, besides the has excavated in Egypt. Instead of name of the man buried there, was throwing the debris from one tomb the inscription, “I bring thee, King into some adjoining section Dr. Theti, ail manner of incense. Reisner had everything of this naShown thus by this inscription, no ture hauled to the edge of the cemefurther proof was necessary that in- tery and dumped there. Thus the cense and spices were to be found entire field of operations was left in Egypt as early as the sixth dy- clear, so that the plan of the whole nasty, of which Theti was the first cemetery could be made, either by king, thus presupposing still earlier photography or by drawing, with commercial relations with other far more accuracy than would have lands; for spices and incense have been possible in fitting together never been produced on Egyptian outlines of different sections made soil, but were imported from the whenever circumstances would perFar East. The supposition has been mit. The systematic use of the corroborated by other discoveries.
camera was also an innovation upIt was in these cemeteries at Na- on previous methods, and one of ga-ed-Der, cemeteries which vital importance. Heretofore all tended with almost unbroken con- questions depending upon the positinuity from prehistoric times tion in which certain objects lay the present century that most of the work of the expedition has been done, and here several discoveries of the greatest importance have been made. In one of the tombs of the first dynasty was stone jar which tained sixteen black seal cylinders. Only broken fragments of cylinders of so early a date had ever been found before, so this discovery had a twofold value—it removed all doubt about the existence and rather general use of writing at that time, and as these cylinders constituted what might now be called the books of a prosperous business firm, it gave a new view of business conditions and possibilities in Egypt during the first dynasty.
In two tinctive features the
An apartment omb, with entrance blocked
depended for its answer entirely upon the account of how they appeared to the excavator. Very frequently this dependence upon one man's recollection has led to serious mistakes, for it is not an unheard-of occurrence for a man to think and to declare in good faith that he saw something which in reality was not at all as he thought. A photograph would instantly and unquestionably settle any such dispute, and thus in many cases assure some important conclusion.
This importance of having a positive proof for every assertion was fully realized by Dr. Reisner, and in this expedition each phase of every excavation was photographed and the plate developed and dried before work was resumed upon it. By this means the original position and condition of the various
A tomb 6,000 years old. objects in each tomb can be shown to get possession of the necklaces now with perfect accuracy. The found on a body by cutting off the collection of photographs of this ex- head. That this was often the case pedition now includes about five there can be no doubt, for in many thousand views, unequaled in im- of these so-called "beheaded burportance by any other collection of ials,” the skulls have been found at Egyptological photographs in the some distance from their natural world.
places, in tombs which showed It was largely by means of these many other signs of having been that it was possible to disprove the broken into. And wherever this idea of “beheaded bụrials." Nearly
Nearly condition has been found, there have all excavators in Egyptian cemeter- been some other indications of plunies have found some bodies with the dering. heads severed from them and lying But from the point of view of at the side ; and from these discov- the Egyptologist, the greatest eries the theory had arisen that achievement of this expedition was there had at one time been a regu- the proof, verified throughout by lar custom of beheading the body discoveries, that the inhabitants of before burial. Dr. Reisner claims Egypt in prehistoric times were that this condition was the work of Egyptians, and not Phoenecians, as robbers who rified the richest tombs. had previously been supposed. This For plunderers might find it easier conclusion was borne out by an ana