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Origin of the State. Predynastic and Early Dynastic Egypt

(Cracow, Poland: 28th August - 1st September 2002)
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A small Second Dynasty Cemetery at Elkab


Provinciale Hogeschool Limburg, Hasselt (Belgium)

During two excavation campaigns in January - March 1999 and January - March 2000, a small, largely intact 2nd dynasty cemetery was excavated on the southern slope of the hill on which the main rock necropolis of Elkab is situated.

Three circular groups of tombs have been recognised, each of them originally probably arranged around a large boulder of stone. As the whole surface of each of the tomb areas was covered with sandstone slabs of different sizes, the three groups were identified as structures (I-III). Their diameter varies between 18 and 20 m. About 35 tombs have been excavated and although a small part of the site has not been excavated and it is also most likely that the erosion on the slope made a number of tombs disappear, it is to be accepted that the cemetery originally was also limited to the area investigated. The majority of the tombs belonged to children, although some adults were present. The tombs show no intended orientation and they seem mainly to have been laid out according to the possibilities of the environment. Often advantage had been taken of natural cracks or faults in the bedrock for arranging tombs. Unworked slabs of sandstone were regularly used for lining the tombs.

The richest tombs were found in structure I. The main tomb of the this structure, at the foot of the central boulder, originally contained a large pottery coffin, fragments of which were found scattered all over the surface, and which were the main reason for investigating the area. Some tombs contained stone vases, others also a number of trinkets (such as faience beads and bone bracelets). Structure II, of which only half was excavated, was much affected by erosion. It still produced a dozen undisturbed burials, all of infants, some possibly stillborn.

Remarkably, a considerable amount of Early Dynastic pottery fragments were found, dispersed all over the area. The study of the pottery was particularly rewarding. The large amount of sub-surface material found is nearly completely homogeneous, which is quite remarkable considering the intensive use of the area in more recent periods. Since this pottery obviously did not belong to the original equipment of the tombs, it is to be accepted that an important number of vessels, among which beer jars and bread moulds, but also rough model vessels, were placed on the surface, around or in the vicinity of the tombs.


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