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Bersha Watercolours

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Howard Carter's watercolours from the Griffith Institute Archive
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The Middle Kingdom Tombs at Deir el-Bersha

Reconstruction of tomb wall-scenes using watercolours from the Griffith Institute Archive

In 1891-2, Percy E. Newberry led the first Egypt Exploration Fund (now Society) expedition to Deir el-Bersha in Middle Egypt. The mission for that season was to record wall paintings in the tomb of Djehutihotep, one of the Nomarchs of the Hare-nome during the Twelfth Dynasty (c. 1900 BCE).

The expedition team, which included a young Howard Carter on his first visit to Egypt, surveyed the tomb and produced a series of documentary watercolours which are now in the archive of the Griffith Institute. The intention of these watercolours, which capture select details from Djehutihotep's tomb, was for the embellishment of the Fund's 1894 publication for this monument, the paintings introducing welcome flashes of brilliant colour amongst the otherwise black and white images in the book.

This artwork collection is an important heritage resource prompting us to attempt partial reconstructions for the tomb paintings from the tombs of Djehutihotep and Djehutinakht, the latter recorded in subsequent seasons. Digital images of the watercolours have been mapped onto the line drawings reproduced in the Fund's publication, which has resulted in an evocative glimpse of late 19th Century archaeological practices from the perspective of the expedition's artists who were given the responsibility of conveying the skill of their ancient counterparts.

Tomb of Djehutihotep

Tomb of Djehutinakht

We are indebted to our Griffith Institute Research Volunteers, Lee Young and John Wyatt, who compiled the catalogue for these watercolours, and also to Dr Jaromir Malek, former Keeper of the Griffith Institute Archive, who initiated the cataloguing and digitization of this collection. Helen Murray, the first Keeper of the Archive, accessioned, numbered and arranged the watercolours.

The digitization of the watercolours was carried out by Jenni Navratil, the Institute's Digital Imaging Officer, assisted by Hana Navratilova. Francisco Bosch-Puche, Alison Hobby and Cat Warsi have all made significant contributions to all stages of this project. Elizabeth Fleming edited the final catalogue and designed the web page content.

A special thank you is extended to our colleagues at the Egypt Exploration Society in London for permission to use the line drawings published in El Bersheh i [1894] and ii [1895].