5 INTRODUCTION
 
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INTRODUCTION

1. The past season's work has lain in several sites, and covered every epoch from the XIIth dynasty down to the Arab conquest. On first going out I at once resumed the attack on the pyramid of Hawara, and while thus engaged I also cleared & large tomb of the XXVIth dynasty, and found a few more portraits and cartonnage busts of the Roman age. But within a fortnight of beginning I heard that a German was intending to occupy Illahun, where I was going myself. As this person was quite ignorant of archaeology, and was allowed to dig simply for the sake of plunder, I could not tolerate his ruining the results of such an important site. And as his power of working in the Fayum was exactly the same as my own - a permission from the Government - I had to occupy the ground at once if it was to be saved. So for eleven weeks work was just kept alive by a few men at Medinet Gurob and at Illahun, while I was finishing Hawara. It was quite contrary to my wishes to carry on excavations without proper supervision, as I could only go to these places about once a week, and that entailed a walk of seventeen miles: but it was the only means of saving places which proved, when I worked them, to be of the highest historical value.

On leaving Hawara I gave up tent life, and occupied rooms in the inspection house of the Irrigation Department at Illahun, by the kind permission of Mr. Marshall Hewat, whose hearty assistance in many ways forwarded my plans. Indeed, but for such a house to store the antiquities in, the exploration at Illahun would have been scarcely practicable.

2. The sites worked from those quarters were at the north and south ends of the great dyke of the Fayum mouth. On the north there stood the pyramid of Illahun, around which I worked for nearly all the season without entering it, the well-entrance I had partly cleared, when I handed the site over to Mr. Fraser on my leaving; and on clearing the well to the bottom he succeeded in entering the pyramid.

Around the pyramid was a cemetery ; begun in the XIIth dynasty; ransacked, and the tombs re-used in the XXI-XXVI ; and a number of fresh tombs excavated at the same time ; and then largely plundered in later times. To the east of the pyramid was a small temple adjoining it, and a larger one on the edge of the desert, half a mile distant. Both of these belonged to the pyramid, having been built in honour of Usertesen II. To the north of the larger temple lay the town of the builders, Medinet Kahun, scarcely touched since the age of the XIIth and XIIIth dynasties. Beyond this, about a mile and a half to the north, stands a Coptic deir, and in the rubbish heaps of that a large amount of Coptic and Cufic papyri are to be found. I began working at the site, but had to cease as it was just outside the province of the Fayum ; therefore I was obliged to leave it to be ransacked by anyone who chose to plunder there, and buy up whatever was brought to me. About the region of the temple was a large Coptic burial ground, from which many garments and other objects were obtained. On the south end of the great dyke lay the town of Medinet Gurob, or "raven's town", this was founded in the XVIIIth dynasty, and did not survive the middle of the XIXth. Adjoining it was the cemetery of that age, and also of the Ptolemaic times.

We will now turn to a more particular account of the actual work, while reserving the archaeological and historic details to the special chapters on each subject.

3. The opening of the pyramid of Hawara proved to be a far longer and more troublesome affair than seemed probable at first sight. When we knew that every pyramid yet examined opened from the north side, and not far from the base, nothing seemed simpler than just to clear the north side, as Belzoni, Perring, and Mariette had done on other pyramids, and then walk in. I accordingly began to clear this side the first thing when I went to Hawara (29th January, 1888). But I saw that some previous excavator (Lepsius or Vassalli) had already made desperate attempts, having cut away all the middle of the north face for some yards in; and had moreover

 

 

 


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