The Research Project
The tomb of Neferhotep is the largest private tomb in the necropolis of Thebes, which contains the tombs of some 800 officials and priests. Neferhotep (whose name means “perfect is mercy”) was the chief clerk of the creator deity Amun, and died around 1320 BC during the reign of Pharaoh Ay. His tomb was hewn from the rocks at the foot of the Theban mountain range close to the Valley of the Kings.
When, in the 19th century, English and French explorers discovered his grave, things didn’t exactly go to plan when excavating the tomb chamber. The burning of mummies coated the walls in soot, and the wall paintings and hieroglyphics were resultantly blackened beyond all recognition, such that their messages were lost without a trace.
Starting in 2005, three restorers, Susanne Brinkmann, Birte Graue and Christina Verbeek, have been trying to solve the puzzle of the blackened walls, to bring the wall painting back to life after more than 3,000 years buried beneath the soot. This requires investigative skills, excellent restoration expertise, interdisciplinary cooperation and the innovative use of modern technology. The idea: to remove the layer of soot from the painted walls using laser technology. In doing so, care is the absolute order of the day so as not to destroy any more of the irretrievable cultural treasures to be found in this burial chamber.
Other experts have likewise set their hopes of new knowledge on the restoration of these ancient messages: Who was Neferhotep? Which messages, images, colors, scripts adorn these walls? What can they tell us about life in Ancient Egypt? How can the walls – once uncovered – be preserved in the future?
The interpretation of the rediscovered artifacts is of upmost importance, particularly for Egyptologists. For Neferhotep’s tomb is no Pharaonic tomb strewn with gold, but the last resting place of a member of the upper-middle class and, for researchers, a unique source to find out more about everyday life in Ancient Egypt.”
The restoration team, led by Christina Verbeek, has used a video camera to document the daily challenges they faced in decrypting the blackened walls of this tomb.