A New Generation of Women Archaeologists in Egypt

Sosa, left and Morfini, right, make a major discovery near Thebes. Copyright The Min Project.
Sosa, left and Morfini, right, make a major discovery near Thebes. Copyright The Min Project.

“We cleared the rubble away and shone our torches down the passage way—that’s when we saw the statue of Osiris. Mila and I looked at each other and we both said ‘Yes!’”

The long hidden passageway and at the far end the image of Osiris - this was the first view of the discovery Sosa and Morfini encountered. Copyright The Min Project
The long hidden passageway and at the far end the image of Osiris – this was the first view of the discovery Sosa and Morfini encountered. Copyright The Min Project, Photo by Paolo Bondielle.

That’s how archaeologist Irene Morfini described the moment when she and her colleague Mila Alvarez Sosa discovered an amazing new tomb complex at Sheikh Abd el-Gourna, near Thebes in Egypt. The two young women had just made their names—and their careers—in the male dominated field of classical Egyptian archaeology.

Mila Sosa, PhD., leader of the Min Project. A Spanish archaeologist with a bright future in the classical world of Egyptian archaeology.
Mila Sosa, PhD., leader of the Min Project. A Spanish archaeologist with a bright future in the classical world of Egyptian archaeology. Copyright The Min Project.

Both Sosa, the project director and Morfini, deputy director, had worked in the area prior to their discovery. “We worked on a number of projects and built up relationships with other investigators and the Egyptian Ministry for State Antiquities, “ Morfini told The Archaeology Hour. “Eventually we were able to create a project of our own and we were given concessions on two small tombs.”

Irene Morfini is now completing her Ph.D. -- and has already established herself as a force to reckoned with in Egyptian archaeology. Copyright The Min Project
Irene Morfini is now completing her Ph.D. — and has already established herself as a force to reckoned with in Egyptian archaeology. Copyright The Min Project

Those concessions were for “TT109 (tomb of Min) and Kampp -327- (anonymous tomb).” The tomb of Min had been discovered as far back as 1887—but it remained largely undocumented. The second tomb is attached to the first and had never been published. The Min tomb had even been used for storage and as a stable at one time. Despite the unspectacular nature of the site, Sosa and Morfini raised funds and began work. Both tombs had been robbed, vandalized and damaged by earthquakes over time.

“Once we got the concessions, we created The Min Project (http://www.min-project.com) as a joint Italian-Spanish effort to document the two tombs in cooperation with Ministry of State for Antiquities. We began last year with a pre-disturbance survey. This is an assessment of the contents and condition of the two tombs before any excavation work is done. It was during this activity that we discovered a separate room hidden by rubble. This was the moment when we realized we had made a major discovery. We shone our lights into a passageway—and at the end we could see the carving of Osiris, God of the Underworld!”

A team of specialists moved into the new area under the direction of the two archaeologists. They found a complex system of shafts and rooms carved into the rock—all designed to mirror the Osiris legend of the journey and resurrection of the dead soul.

For the rest of the archaeological season, during autumn when summer temperatures cool down, the team began the now larger task of documenting the contents of the tomb complex.

“We will be back in the tomb in October of this year, “said Morfini, “and we will continue the work of documenting everything. I think it will take at least another season to complete the recording process before excavation begins. After that, I think we may have a ten or fifteen year project on our hands.”

Not only are Sosa and Morfini breaking new ground in their chosen profession–they are also being highly innovative in the field of fund raising. Funding research is the bane of every archaeologist. One of Sosa and Morfini’s solutions was to author a graphic novel on ancient Egypt that centers around the story of Queen Hatshepsut (who else) the remarkable ‘Pharaoh’ whose history was partially erased by a later male Pharaoh — her son. You can read more about the book at this link: http://www.edicionesadaegyptum.com/eng/products_graphicnovels.asp

The cover of the graphic novel by Sosa and Morfini. There are English and Spanish versions available.
The cover of the graphic novel by Sosa and Morfini. There are English and Spanish versions available.

You can donate directly to this amazing team of archaeologists at:

http://www.min-project.com/en-gb/helptheproject.aspx

 

The full audio interview with Morfini can be heard on the pilot edition of The Archaeology Hour at:

http://archaeologyhour.podomatic.com

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