Tag Archives: Sosa

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: (this link is no longer working – update follows!)

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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Pilot on Track for March

The Pilot for The Archeology Hour is on track as we schedule interviews with archaeologists and investigators as far afield as Egypt, Italy, Sweden. the UK and the US. In addition new segment producers (upcoming announcement) are working on news and features on archaeological travel, major museum exhibits around the world, archaeological volunteer projects and reviews of major new historical and archaeological books. Our first book will be “The Lost Papers of John Bell Hood” by author Sam Hood from Savas-Beatie and hailed as having major revelations on the history of America’s Civil War.

Planned for the pilot and upcoming broadcasts will be news direct from the archaeologist in charge of an exciting new discovery at Sheikh Abd el-Gourna in Egypt. There two archaeologists have discovered a complex of tombs beneath a smaller tomb found in 1887. The early explorer missed a maze of chambers and shafts designed to mirror the legend of Osiris, the Egyptian god of the underworld. Mila Sosa and Irene Morfini sent the last season completing a pre-disturbance survey of the complex, recording wall inscriptions, a statue of the God Osiris and the remains of numerous mummies destroyed and tons apart by early tomb robbers. In an upcoming interview, Morfini will discuss the upcoming season starting on October. This will mark the beginning of excavations inside the tomb complex and we will learn how the two archaeologists plan to proceed.

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Irene Morfini: The Min Project
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Mila Sosa: The Min Project

In the UK we will be talking to Vincent Drost, the Project Curator of the  Romano-British coin finds at the  Department of Coins & Medals at the British Museum. He is studying the Seaton Down Hoard – a massive cache of Roman coins found by a metal detectorist last year. The dates on the coins cover a hundred year period and were buried long before the Romans left Britain and viking and saxon hordes–which raises  many questions. Why were they buried? Who buried them. Why would they have been saved over such a long period of time?

Some of the Roman coins being studied, cleaned and evaluated by Drost. Source: The British Museum
Some of the Roman coins being studied, cleaned and evaluated by Drost. Source: The British Museum

In the US we will be looking at the recovery of the CSS Georgia, a Confederate gun boat sunk on the edge of the channel into the harbor at Savannah Ga. This is a daunting project. Over the past forty years the archaeologists with the US Army Corps of Engineers have dived on the wreckage to study it and gather information on its eventual removal. The wreck is mass of tangled iron and debris accumulated over the hundred and fifty years since it was scuttled by retreating Confederates.

The massive ship was built in Savannah with $115,000 raised by the “Ladies Gunboat Association.”  The hull was 120 feet long and its armor was made from railroad ties and a cladding of railroad iron. The 1,200 ton proved far too massive for its engines–so the Confederates was moored of Fort Jackson below Savannah as a gun platform. By the 1980s, when Archaeology Hour producer Mark Newell dived on the wreck it was a tangled mass of distorted iron and smashed lumber. “I would grade it as one of the most dangerous wreck dives in the Savannah River, “said Newell. “No wonder the Corps has waited until now to tackle it.”

The Corps will remove the wreck as part of a harbor and channel expansion project. The work will be under the supervision of Corps archaeologist Julie Morgan. Corps spokesman Billy Birdwell tells the Archaeology Hour, “We have begun to remove some pieces of the wreck and some loose material around it. The main work will take some time.” We hope to bring you an interview with Julie Morgan in the near future and will post video on our YouTube Channel.

The CSS Georgia as it looked shortly after its launch (COE)
The CSS Georgia as it looked shortly after its launch (Coe, Today).

Osiris Tomb Excavation in October

 

AmenhotepArcher

The Spanish-Italian archaeological team working on the ‘newly’ discovered Osiris Tomb in Egypt will be returning to the site in October to begin excavation.

Irene Morfini, Assistant Director for the project told The Archaeology Hour in a recent interview: “Since this one was our second season of work, we are still inspecting, photographing, recording data, copying texts, conserving and restoring. During the next season we will hopefully start the proper excavation work.”

The Osiris tomb complex is a previously undiscovered part of a much smaller tomb that was first documented in the 19th century. A  new complex of shafts, tunnels and chambers was discovered by the Sosa-Morfini team recently. The complex forms a representation of the underworld – ruled by the god Osiris. The original occupant of the tomb is unknown but, according to Morfini, many other burials were placed in the complex over time.

Early on in its history the tomb was robbed. It is now filled with debris from falling walls and ceilings, with fragments of mummies torn apart by thieves, and the original material backfilled by the original builders.

Under the Direction of María Milagros Álvarez Sosa and Morfini the crew will excavate stratigraphically (as opposed to 10cm increments as some archaeologists do) and gradually unravel the mysteries of the Osiris Tomb.

 CTAM_Min Project_TT109_14-12-2013

Sosa and Morfini Source: The Min Project

During the summer months (when it is too hot to excavate underground in Egypt) the team will work on the data recovered during the pre-disturbance survey. Interesting facts are already emerging. The tomb complex includes a burial chamber for Min, the tutor of Amenhotep II. Min was the mayor of Thimis, and an important figure during the reign of Thutmose III, Amenhotep’s father. One of his many titles included “Overseer of the Army of the Western River.”  This implies some level of military background.

Amenhotep’s tomb was discovered many years ago and it’s walls recorded the young king’s prowess as an archer. He claimed he could shoot an arrow through a “palm’s thickness” of copper. This was long considered to be a boast and discounted by earlier Egyptologists. Now, the Sosa-Morfini team’s findings show that Amenhotep was tutored by a military leader—so perhaps the claim is not such a boast after all.

We will feature a live interview with Irene Morfini in the pilot program of The Archaeology Hour to be launched in a few weeks.

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The young Amernhotep II on the knee of his tutor Min: Drawing by  Raffaella Carrera. Min Project.