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The Cemeteries of F/I in the Strata d/2 (H) and d/1 (G/4),
late 12th Dynasty and early 13th Dynasty

by Robert Schiestl
  The Cemetery of Stratum d/1:
In the following stratum d/1 (= G/4, early 13th Dynasty) a large new building was constructed in the area of the old settlement: a palatial residence, consisting of different elements with at least two separate living quarters (pic. 1 and pic. 2).
The architecture of this monumental building, the "palace", is purely Egyptian. This large structure was erected on top of some of the older tombs which had been built close to the settlement in str. d/2. In the area of the cemetery to the south a garden was laid out. (pic. 3).
pic. 1   pic. 2   pic. 3
  Soon, however, this garden was used again as a cemetery. The new tombs respected the older tombs. The layout of this necropolis, the so called "Palace Necropolis" of Tell el-Dabca, is basically different from the older cemetery of str. d/2. The tombs were arranged in more or less parallel rows, parts of four of such rows have been excavated.

The average tomb was constructed with more effort and on a larger scale than in the previous stratum. Pit tombs, box like children’s tombs and small chamber tombs were no longer being built. This was the cemetery of an elite, however, the exact relationship between the people buried there and the "palace" to the north remains unclear. Particularly large are those tombs constructed immediately south of the palace, in row 2: the tombs l/19 Nr. 6, Nr. 1, m/19-Nr. 22, m/18/19-Nr. 12, m/18-Nr. 3 (pic. 4) and m/18-Nr. 2, as well as the tomb excavated in the southwestern corner of the cemetery, p/21-Nr. 1.

While donkey burials in the entrance pits of tombs had been the exception in the previous stratum, they now are a regular feature, often combined with burials of goat and sheep.

Some tombs still have remains of their superstructures, as, however, only the lowest foundation layers are preserved a reconstruction of the original shape remains speculative. A reconstruction, (pic. 5).
based on well preserved structures of the Middle Kingdom, such as the cenotaphs at Abydos excavated under the direction of David O’Connor, shows the superstructures with a barrel vaulted roof. The superstructures thus have a similar shape as the inside of the chambers, which continue to be roofed with a barrel vault.

A "flight" through the cemetery (movie) gives an impression how this cemetery could have originally looked. The design of the superstructures could, however, have been different:
A possible alternative is similar to the shape of Egyptian sarcophagi. (pic. 6).
pic. 4   pic. 5   to the movie   pic. 6
  Compared to the people buried in the cemetery of stratum d/2 there are much less children and slightly less women - this cemetery served primarily for the burial of grown
up men.
Many chambers showed traces of coffins (all organic materials, such as wood, had decomposed due to dampness of the soil), as well as fragments of limestone which probably were parts of smashed sarcophagi.

The tombs of this stratum were equipped with particularly wealthy goods, however, they also had been plundered to a particularly high degree. The pottery from the tombs consisted mainly of dishes of rough Nile clay (Nile C) and drinking cups made of finer clay (Nile B 1-2) (pic. 7). The shape of the bottles for beer and water has changed markedly - they have a short straight neck, the lip at the rim is round on the outside and concave on the inside. The share of Syro-palestinian imported pottery has increased and is now roughly 24 %.

Most frequent shapes are the Canaanite storage jars (pic. 8). While in the area of the palace gardens Minoan Kamares ware was found, no Aegean pottery was found in any of the tombs.
A piece of jewelry, however, in the shape of a golden pendant depicting two antithetical dogs (pic. 9), is iconographically linked to the Aegean. This pendant was found in the tomb p/17-Nr. 14 in the south of the cemetery (pic. 10 and pic. 11). Many beads of semi precious stones such as amethyst, agate, carnelian and garnet (pic. 12), ) most likely from Egyptian sources and of Egyptian manufacture, were found in various tombs.
pic. 7   pic. 8   pic. 9
pic. 10   pic. 11   pic. 12
  The frequently found weapons continue to be exclusively Levantine types, for example a luxury dagger with gold applications (pic. 13).
pic. 13
  A ring with a broken scarab of amethyst (pic. 14) shows a partial title and name: The title was reconstructed by M. Bietak as "ruler of the foreign lands" and by G. Martin as "ruler of Retenw". The name is alternatively read as Sobekemhat or Disobekemhat.

What functions the people buried in this necropolis originally held we do not know. The effort invested in the tomb equipment and tomb goods indicates a rise in prosperity. The people operated very successfully at this intersection of the Levant and Egypt, and, as their tomb equipment shows, had access to both markets.

In the superstructures traces of pottery, which had been deposited there as offerings, remained. The material can be separated into two groups: On the one hand, shapes such as tall offering stands, which were used for the presentation of offerings, on the other hand, remains of offerings themselves, such as beer jars and cups. As many of these shapes morphologically can be dated later than stratum d/1, they indicate that the providing for the dead continued for a relatively long period.
pic. 14
Bietak M.
Der Friedhof in einem Palastgarten aus der Zeit des späten mittleren Reiches und andere Grabungsergebnisse aus dem östlichen Nildelta. Tell el-Dabca 1984-1987, Ägypten und Levante 2, 1991, 47-75.
Eigner D.
A Palace of the Early 13th Dynasty at Tell el-Dabca, in: BIETAK, M. (Hrsg.), Haus und Palast im Alten Ägypten, Untersuchungen der Zweigstelle Kairo 14, Denkschriften der Gesamtakademie der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften 14, Wien 1985, 73-80.
Schiestl R.
Some Links Between a Late Middle Kingdom Cemetery at Tell el-Dabca and Syria-Palestine: The Necropolis of F/I, Strata d/2 and d/1 (= H and G/4), in: M. BIETAK (Hrsg.), The Middle Bronze Age in the Levant. Proceedings of an International Conference on MB IIA Ceramic Material in Vienna, 24th –26th of January 2001, Contributions to the Chronology of the Eastern Mediterranean 3, Denkschriften der Gesamtakademie 26, Wien 2002, 329-352.
Eine archäologische Notiz: Eine neue Parallele zum Anhänger aus Tell el-Dabca aus dem Petrie Museum, University College London, Ägypten und Levante 10, 2000, 127-128.

Three Pendants: Tell el-Dabcca, Aigina and a new silver pendant from the Petrie Museum, in: J. L. Fitton (Hrsg.),The Aigina Treasure. Aegean Bronze Age jewellery and a mystery revisited, London 2009, 51-58.