Drawing detail of the sandstone doorway from TT 312, the 26th dynasty Theban tomb of Vizier Nespakashuty

Jul 20, 2020

High officials of the late 25th and 26th dynasties built their elaborate tombs in Thebes, decorated with fine limestone reliefs stylistically influenced by earlier Middle and New Kingdom temples and tombs around that area. One such example was the tomb of Nespekashuty (TT 312), the vizier appointed by Psamtik I. First excavated by the MMA (@metmuseum) in the 1920s, the tomb's modern-day clearance and conservation (directed by Elena Pischikova) allowed a thorough epigraphic study and physical reconstruction of its long-collapsed monumental doorway.⠀ ⠀

Vizier Nespekashuty took over the terrace of a prominent Middle Kingdom Dynasty 11 tomb cut into the north cliff at Deir el-Bahari. The poor stone of the cliffside was carved out to create the tomb's chambers and fine limestone slabs were used to line the tomb. These casing blocks eventually became brittle from fire and mostly collapsed off the walls, leaving the tomb in the crumbled state in which it was found. The sandstone doorway leading into the chambers also collapsed with only its first course of blocks standing still in place at the beginning of our operation.⠀ ⠀

Due to the salvaged nature of the project, first facsimile drawings of the in situ structure were drawn onto large sheets of matte acetate. Once accessible, the tomb itself provided an ideal artificial "studio" for the artist to trace the hundreds of fragments associated with the doorway. Operating in utter darkness using artificial light and fine markers on clear acetate, even the shallowest traces of the crumbling, fragile sunk relief could be captured. Later on, these sun-shadow line drawings, eliminating any surface elements but the pharaonic reliefs, were digitally merged with the in situ part, creating a seamless template for the physical rebuilding of the gate. ⠀ ⠀

To be continued...⠀

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