Archive issues

Author: Nigel Strudwick   |   Pages: 637–651



The view which often greets an excavator in a Theban tomb today can only be described as chaotic, with mummies and objects strewn everywhere. This paper, the first part of a study of some aspects of modern and ancient robbery, summarises what an undisturbed Theban burial might have looked like, and gives actual examples of the modern condition of a tomb using the case of TT99. It then looks at the evidence for modern robbery, mainly using information passed down by travellers of the past 500 years, and identifies two main phases of activity. The first is the well-known systematic looting to sell antiquities to foreigners which reached its peak in the thirty years following the Napoleonic Expedition; the second and earlier, and also less well-known, is the use of the necropolis as a source for mumiya, an important part of the late mediaeval and early modern European apothecary. The aims of the robbers of both phases are compared, and the article further uses the travellers’ accounts to suggest the sources of the mummies which were the target of the earlier robbers.



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