Until recently, the site of Dayr al-Barsha in Middle Egypt was almost exclusively known on account of a number of monumental Middle Kingdom rock tombs there. Effectively, only the tomb of the provincial governor (or nomarch) Djehutihotep attracted the attention, as this is the only one to have survived almost intact. Its fame rests mainly on the presence there of a unique scene depicting how Djehutihotep's colossal statue was dragged to its destination from a limestone quarry.
Although the Dayr al-Barsha project investigates the monumental Middle Kingdom tombs also, it does far more than that. Chronologically, it studies remains spanning almost the entire pharaonic and early Christian history of Egypt. The varied remains range from simple pit burials to monumental tombs mostly of the Old and Middle Kingdoms, settlement remains, quarries from the Amarna Period and Late Period, an early Christian church, and monastic habitations.
Conceptually, it is characterized by a regional approach. This enables us to reconstruct the history of occupation of a wide area of about 40 square km., and also to relate different sites to one another. At present, in addition to the core site of Dayr al-Barsha, the neighbouring sites of al-Shaykh Said and Dayr Abu Hinnis are also under study. In this way cemeteries can for instance be linked to settlements. By reconstructing the environmental setting, the project pays attention to ancient land use. Economic activities are studied for instance on the basis of quarry remains. Although the region is best known for its tombs, our approach combines a study of funerary culture with analysis of the ancient economy and daily life.
Methodologically the project deploys a vast array of different approaches and techniques, including epigraphy, archaeological excavation, geomorphological research, ceramology, bioarchaeology, numismatics, remote sensing, geophysics, archaeometry, conservation, experimental archaeology and ethnoarchaeology.
Geographically, the site is located in Middle Egypt, a region that has been largely bypassed by Egyptian archaeology, with its strong focus on Luxor and the Memphite cemeteries. The Dayr al-Barsha project is one of several missions that are currently trying to place this region on the archaeological map.
The Dayr al-Barsha project would not be possible without the help of a number of funding agencies and private sponsors. We express our gratitude to the following funding agencies (in alphabetic order):
▪ Belgian Science Policy (BELSPO)
▪ Het Bijzonder Onderzoeksfond van de K.U.Leuven (BOF)/Special Research Fund
▪ European Commission. Seventh Framework Programme (Marie Curie)
▪ Fonds voor Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek-Vlaanderen (FWO)/Research Foundation Flanders