had done their work with thoroughness, and the cloth cartonnage, detached
from the protecting resin of the bodies, had been riddled by white ants.
On the 26th camp was struck and was pitched some distance to the
south at a site known locally as Manqula. The main cemetery was
Eoman and Coptic, and had been thoroughly plundered in modem times.
The garish nature of the late plaster masks, a characteristic of this region,
had proved especially attractive to the tomb-thief. It must be added
also that we were now penetrating into a district where the configuration
of the ground and its complete isolation had rendered possible a more
developed method of plundering than it had yet been my fortune to see.
The shifting sand-dunes—the offspring of the west wind—which had
hitherto been a constantly thickening feature on our left as we marched,
lying between us and cultivation and shutting off all views of the Nile
valley, were now to become all-embracing, with chain after chain stretch-
ing as far as the eye could see. Intersecting them are valleys (a curious
local feature known technically as khufug) which run for considerable
distances, often two or three miles, into the desert, providing vegetation,
with lakes and brackish pools left by the flooding of the Yusfi basins.
West of these lie the cemeteries, so that the screen given to illicit work by
the intervening dunes renders thieves' work easy. Two miles to the north
of the main Eoman and Coptic site at Manqula a Ptolemaic cartonnage
cemetery was located exactly similar to sites A and D at Taieba, containing
the same series of shallow pits on axes east and west. Pot coffins were
common, as also was. papyrus cartonnage, but owing to the level of the
ground and the absence of resin the condition was deplorable. By now
the special knowledge of local characteristics gained in the various
cemeteries dug was making the work of identification easier, and we
were able to proceed more rapidly.
On the 28th we passed on to Tukh el Khel. The cemetery there is
locally known as gahbdnet el Mitleq, " the cemetery of Mitleq," the Beduin
gentleman who has ransacked it in recent years! Some unplundered
Eoman graves were dug, and a small Ptolemaic cemetery was identified
on quite water-logged ground near one of the khufug described above and
not far from our own wells.
On March 3rd we pushed southwards through the maze of dunes to
view the next site, dug wells, and returned to pick up the camp, which
was shifted the following day. The main site of Saft el Gharbia proved
even vaster than that of Taieba, though in much worse condition. A
measure of its size may be gained if I state that to walk round the site and
its outliers was a task occupying a good two hours. Large areas of the