Progress of Egyptology.
•impossible to leave the tombs thus revealed, so every facility being readily
granted by the Director, work settled down once more in earnest, and was
continued for three months longer.
" The excavation of the larger tomb itself was a matter of some danger.
Every other method of reaching the chambers having failed, it was decided
to follow a central shaft down to the bottom. First the whole centre of the
superstructure was dug away in a series of steps, thus lightening the
pressure upon the edges of the pit, which below was sunk in the desert
gravel merely. At intervals it passed through hard strata, but the sand
ran out from the intervening spaces in a perplexing manner. The season
being already well advanced, it was inadvisable to suspend operations
pending the arrival of suitable appliances; indeed/ the whole shaft would
have required timbering in a substantial fashion to have rendered it safe.
It went down 54 feet sheer, and the clearing of it took several weeks.
The men were forbidden to strike, and every piece of filling, and each
basket of sand, was passed up by a living chain of fourteen links. The
men stood above one another on planks fixed to the harder strata; a single
false step on the part of those who descended to the bottom, or any careless-
ness in passing up the rubbish might have started the sand running and
resulted in an accident. Once the bottom was gained a further descent of
four feet gave entrance to the chambers, which were eighteen in number,
at a total depth of 58 feet below the desert and 91 feet from the top of the
"Plunderers had already thrown the offerings about, alabaster vessels lay
in heaps by hundreds, and the sight was remarkable. The clearing of the
chambers, with ten men at work, took ten days. All the old filling was
sifted by three pairs of hands, then passed through a coarse and a fine
sieve in succession, after which two men turned over the residue afresh.
On the last day, the wall of a gallery, that had been stored with grain,
suddenly gave way while work was proceeding close to it, partly covering-
some of the men ; but they resumed and completed the work. Meanwhile
the excavation of the adjoining tomb had revealed another royal name,
Hen-Nekht, with an associated deposit strongly resembling that of the
other. Its distinguishing features were less massive style and slightly
better finish of work.
" The mastabas were next cleared, and proved to be the tombs of officials
of Neter-Khet: half way to the town another was found and cleared
also, making a total of six tombs exceptional in character and size.
" The site was left at this stage on May 1st, by which time the midday
shade temperature was frequently 112° F. It was almost impossible for