The village of Naga ed-Deir is located on the east bank of the Nile opposite Girga in Upper Egypt and some 160 km north of Luxor. Here is located an important series of cemeteries representing a long period of time principally from the Predynastic Period to the Middle Kingdom. Sheikh Farag is located on the north and Mesheikh six kilometers to the south with Naga ed-Deir itself located about one and a half kilometers south of Sheikh Farag. Mesheikh is separated from Naga ed-Deir by the site of Mesaeed. The subdivisions of the site all form part of a single, large cemetery which served as a necropolis for the ancient town of Thinis, whether at Girga or nearby. Thinis functioned as the ancient capital of Upper Egypt nome 8, while Abydos was a secondary seat of the central government and, by the Middle Kingdom, an important religious center of the god Osiris. Reisner designated all these subdivisions as the “Cemeteries of Naga ed-Deir” or simply “Naga ed-Deir.”
Reisner excavated the different subdivisions at first for the Hearst Egyptian Expedition of the University of California up to 1905, when Mrs. Phoebe Apperson Hearst, the patroness of the expedition, and mother of the newspaper publisher Willian Randolph Hearst, informed Reisner that owing to a fault in the gold bearing stratum of the Homestake Mine, a large part of her income had been cut off so that she could not continue her support beyond 1905. At that point, and after extended negotiations, the excavations resumed under Reisner’s direction but as the Harvard-University-Boston Museum of Fine Arts Egyptian Expedition.
Reisner and his assistants published several volumes on the excavation in the Naga ed-Deir cemeteries, as follows:
Reisner, G. A. 1908. Early Dynastic Cemeteries of Naga-ed-Dêr, Part I. University of California Publications, Egyptian Archaeology 2. Leipzig.
Mace, A. C. 1909. Early Dynastic Cemeteries of Naga-ed-Dêr, Part II. University of California Publications, Egyptian Archaeology 3. Leipzig.
Reisner, G. A. 1932. A Provincial Cemetery of the Pyramid Age, Naga-ed-Dêr Part III. University of California Publications, Egyptian Archaeology 6. Berkeley.
Lythgoe, A. M. 1965. The Predynastic Cemetery N 7000, Naga-ed-Dêr. Edited by D. Dunham. University of California Publications, Egyptian Archaeology 7. Berkeley.
In addition, Henry F. Lutz published the steles from the Naga ed-Deir cemeteries in Berkeley in Egyptian Tomb Steles and Offering Stones of the Museum of Anthropology and Ethnology of the University of California, University of California Publications, Egyptian Archaeology 4, Leipzig, 1927. Regrettably, Lutz did not have access to Reisner’s field notes and his publication is replete with errors. In 1937, Dows Dunham, then Associate Curator of Egyptian Art (later Curator of Egyptian and Ancient Near Eastern Art) published an important and substantial volume, Naga-ed-Dêr Stelae of the First Intermediate Period, published for the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, by the Oxford University Press, London.
A number of Ph.D. dissertations have also been dedicated to various aspects of the Naga ed-Deir cemeteries, beginning with Caroline Nestmann Peck, “Some Decorated Tombs of the First Intermediate Period from Naga Ed-Dêr,” Brown University, 1958. My own doctoral dissertation for the University of Chicago, “The Inscribed Material of the First Intermediate Period from Naga-ed-Dêr,” was published by University Microfilms in 1989. An updated version has recently appeared in print, published by the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, as Naga ed-Dêr in the First Intermediate Period.
The following dissertations, theses, and books also treat various aspects of the Naga ed-Deir cemeteries:
Podzorski, P. 1990. Their Bones Shall Not Perish: An Examination of Predynastic Human Skeletal Remains from Naga ed-Der in Egypt. PhD diss. University of California, Berkeley.
And again: 1993. “The Correlation of Skeletal Remains and Burial Goods: An Example from Naga-ed-Dêr N 7000.” In Biological Anthropology and the Study of Ancient Egypt, edited by W. V. Davies, 119–129. London.
Harrington, L. D. 1992. Naga ed-Der Cemetery 100: A Sample of Cranial Material and Its Context. MA thesis. University of California, Berkeley.
Savage, S. H. 1995. Descent, Power, and Competition in Predynastic Egypt: Mortuary Evidence from Cemetery N 7000 at Naga-ed-Der. PhD diss. Arizona State University.
Hussein, R. B. 2004. “The Texts on the Coffin of Ppy-im’: Translations and Annotations.” MA thesis. Brown University.
Delrue, P. 2001. “The Predynastic Cemetery N 7000 at Naga ed-Dêr, A Re-evaluation.” In Social Aspects of Funerary Culture I: The Egyptian Old and Middle Kingdoms: Proceedings of the International Symposium Held at Leiden University, 6–7 June 1996, edited by H. Willems, 21–66. OLA 103. Leuven.
Kroenke, K. 2010. The Provincial Cemeteries of Naga ed-Deir: A Comprehensive Study of Tomb Models Dating from the Late Old Kingdom to the Late Middle Kingdom. PhD diss. University of California, Berkeley.
In addition, I may mention two articles by the present writer published in the Lexikon der Ägyptologie, ed. W. Helck and W. Westendorf, Wiesbaden: “Naga (Nag)-ed-Dêr” and “Thinis,” LÄ IV, 1980, cols. 296–317, 475–486. The first of these articles provides a diachronic overview of the Naga ed-Deir cemeteries, while the second article concentrates on the capital of Upper Egypt nome 8, ancient Tjeni, Gk. Thinis, located at modern Girga or possibly el-Birba, further to the west.
All told, the following cemeteries at Naga-ed-Dêr have been published in the publications cited above: N 500–900, N 1500, N 3000, N 3500, N 7000. The cemeteries remaining to be published are the following: N 100–400 (sometimes referred to only as N 100), N 2000 and N 2500, N 9000 (near Sheikh Farag).
Referencing my article in LÄ IV, col. 312, it may be noted that later Egyptian, Ptolemaic, and Roman Period are little represented at Naga-ed-Deir. The largest concentration of Coptic graves was in N 2000 and 3500, but a number of disturbed burials were found distributed in N 100 and 500–900, some 221 burials all told.
Naga-ed-Deir Cemeteries 2000 and 2500 are the subject of the present volume. Vanessa Davies has assembled a catalogue of the Coptic cemeteries N 2000 and N 2500 based on the field notes of Arthur C. Mace and his unpublished manuscript. Mace was evidently planning on doing a color publication of the Coptic textiles found. Although photographs of the textiles are absent, Dr. Davies informs me that detailed drawings that Mace must have made in the field are preserved. They are quite detailed and often indicate color. Dr. Davies has also had photographs of the Coptic ceramics that are in California made and will also include drawings of the vessels made by a draftsperson in the catalogue. Quite wisely, Dr. Davies has enlisted the aid of other scholars in her catalogue of the Coptic cemeteries, as may be seen in the list of Contents.
The catalogue by Dr. Davies and her colleagues will undoubtedly advance our understanding of Coptic textiles, ceramics, and other objects greatly. It is particularly gratifying to me to see another group of burials from the Naga-ed-Deir cemeteries published, thus fulfilling Reisner’s original plans for publication. The Coptic period is relatively unknown, and the research of Dr. Davies and her team will undoubtedly be greatly appreciated by scholars of Coptic decorative arts and burial customs. Fragmentary Coptic textiles from sites such as Saqqara, Akhmim, Antinoopolis, and Hawara are largely lacking in archaeological context, so the fact that the material published by Dr. Davies and her collaborators derives from one necropolis will render the publication even more valuable.
Edward J. Brovarski