Mary Shepperson, archaeologist
Excavation in the second of these small rooms revealed a cluster of large white sandstone blocks, lying under mudbrick rubble from a vaulted ceiling. They lay in a jumble in front of the doorway into the central room.
The largest stone slab lay on top of the smaller blocks and was cracked across its width near the centre. The profile of this slab showed that the underside was smooth with a raised edge down one long side; this was clearly a carefully worked stone face, suitable for carrying decoration or an inscription.
After the position of the stone blocks was carefully recorded, preparations were made to lift the top slab. Fortunately, the central crack made this operation much easier and safer, as the block could be moved in two lighter parts. Even so, six stout workmen were needed to lift each half above the height of the walls.
The first part was turned over, accompanied by the appropriate ‘ooohs’ and ‘aahs’ from the assembled masses, to reveal crisp, clear bands of inscription. The second section was lifted, turned and joined to show the overall design: horizontal and vertical bands of hieroglyphs running across the middle of the slab and crossing at the centre.
The decorated surface appeared to have been coated in a fine white plaster and then painted. The bands of inscription were bordered with red pigment, and the bodies of the hieroglyphs retained traces of black and white.
The block was carried to the boat by teams of local workmen, and ferried safely to the storeroom on Ernetta island, where it is being much admired.
The remaining stone blocks, when reassembled, were found to be two tall door jambs. These would have held the large inscribed block over the doorway as a lintel. When the door jambs broke, they fell into the room, with the inscribed lintel falling on top of them and cracking in two.
The lintel will be studied in due course, with copies and translations made of the inscriptions.