The texts of Quarry P in their industrial landscape context

The EES funded work undertaken on and at Hatnub in 2016-17 forms part of the larger Hatnub Project (a joint Franco-British venture since 2012, co-directed by Yannis Gourdon and Roland Enmarch), which aims to fully record the Hatnub alabaster quarries’ surviving inscriptions, and also to better understand the broader industrial landscape in which the quarries sit. Our EES project had two goals: first to clear the interior south wall of Quarry P, where further unpublished inscriptions were likely to be found under the current rubble level. The second part focussed on recording unsurveyed archaeological features between Quarry P and the Nile valley using high resolution satellite imagery to precisely plan surviving remains and differential GPS survey to 'ground truth' and enhance those plans where the remains merit additional investigation.  

General view of interior of Hatnub Quarry P. The interior south wall of the quarry is the shaded area at left.

South wall of quarry P

A 6.6m trench was opened against the south wall of Quarry P in September 2017, with the natural floor of the quarry being reached at 2m depth, establishing that Anthes graffiti 1 and 2 were indeed the lowest texts inscribed on this section of the quarry wall. We recovered numerous fragments of detritus from Georg Möller’s 1907 expedition to the site, including fragments of his epigraphic tracing paper. At the bottom of the trench, an alignment of stones was found marking off a roughly rectangular area beneath the cliff face.

View along part of trench against inner south wall of Quarry P.

Five small rough stelae (and one rough stone basin) were recovered from the fill of the trench, three with text/image in red, and one carved and painted in red. Although badly damaged, they are clearly of the same type as the stelae that Möller found in this part of the quarry in 1907, some of which he states he reburied on site.

Newly discovered stela HP 5, found in south wall trench (natural light photo enhanced using D-stretch)

Satellite survey and ground truthing

Prior to the field season high resolution satellite imagery was used to remotely record the archaeological features within a 100km square study area between Hatnub and the Nile valley.  During the  September 2017 fieldwork  810 000m2 of the ‘remote-survey’ area was covered by walkover survey, and the results recorded in the field with a GPS enabled tablet computer.  A total of 512 discrete structures (such as huts, cairns, shrines) and 62 linear features (including paths, tracks, trails and the Quarry road) were surveyed. This ‘ground-truthing’ demonstrated that the remote-survey process was reliable and accurate with a 93% success rate in identifying archaeological features and false positives estimated at c. 13%.

View of desert landscape around Hatnub quarry P, showing cairns and dry-stone ‘shrine’ features.

The walkover survey revealed a number of interesting discoveries. To the south of Quarry P and in several other areas curious ‘blank areas’ had been identified where the dark desert pavement was interrupted by discrete lighter zones. Examination revealed that these features were small surface quarries, where outcrops of stone had been removed to create structures on the plateau or for use elsewhere.

Further epigraphic work

In addition to our primary goals, we undertook further epigraphic work in Hatnub quarry P. Roland Enmarch continued to clear some of the rubble fill in another area of the quarry, the south-westerly wall of the descending entryway. This revealed a red-painted image of seated men (DS20), with traces of a very badly damaged text.

Hannah Pethen started Reflectance Transformation Imaging (RTI) work in order to improve the reading of four badly preserved incised inscriptions. Despite the difficulties of undertaking RTI under field conditions, the process yielded good results. Anthes XI zeta, a finely inscribed hieratic inscription, was imaged in three sections and produced good results that should enable it to be read for the first time. DS14 is an incised hieratic inscription on the southern wall of the passage descending into Quarry P with a substantial image of a seated man on the left. Following RTI imaging, the seated man appeared very clearly, and despite some considerable damage to the hieratic description on the right of him, our philologists are confident of reading more of the inscription than previously.

Hannah Pethen recording inscription Anthes XI zeta using RTI.


The Hatnub team wishes to thank Mr. Mohammed Khallaf, director of the Middle Egypt at the office for antiquities in Miniah, represented by Mahmoud Salah, director of Miniah at the office for antiquities in Miniah, Mr. Hamada M. Abdel Moeen Kellawy, and Mr. Mohammed Khalil Mohammed Khalil, our MSA inspector for his support and his work during our mission in Hatnub.

Further reading

R. Enmarch and Y. Gourdon (forthcoming), 'The Son of a Chief of Sculptors Djehutmose at Hatnub', Journal of Egyptian Archaeology 103.2.

Y. Gourdon and R. Enmarch (2016), ‘Some Unpublished Inscriptions from Quarry P at Hatnub’, in G. Rosati and M. C. Guidotti, Proceedings of the XI International Congress of Egyptologists (Florence: Egyptian Museum), 237-241.

R. Enmarch (2015), 'Writing in the "Mansion of Gold": Texts from the Hatnub Quarries', Egyptian Archaeology 47, 10-12

H. Pethen (in prepartation), ‘Accessing the inaccessible: Detailed “off-site” archaeological survey using satellite imagery and GIS at the Hatnub travertine quarries, Egypt’, Proceedings of the 2017 Computer Applications and Quantitative Methods in Archaeology Conference (CAA 2017).