Friday, January 29, 2016


Donald P. Ryan .
Dr. Donald P. Ryan, Project Director is originally from Covina, California and moved to the Pacific Northwest to attend college  and to pursue mountain climbing.  In graduate school he studied archaeology with an emphasis on the history of archaeology and Egyptian archaeology. In 1989, he initiated the PLU Valley of the Kings Project to examine the neglected undecorated tombs in the royal cemetery.  Apart from research in Egypt, Don worked for several years with his boyhood hero, the Norwegian explorer Thor Heyerdahl, a job that included excavations on the island of Tenerife in the Canary Islands.  He's the author of many scientific and popular articles mostly on the subject of archaeology and exploration, and has written several books, including "Beneath the Sands of Egypt" which describes some of his work in the Valley of the Kings.  Don bears the title, Faculty Fellow in the Humanities at Pacific Lutheran University and is an elected Fellow of both The Explorers Club and the Royal Geographical Society.  He must be quite a fellow!

Paul Buck 

Dr. Paul Buck joins us from the University of Nevada and the Desert Research Institute with decades of experience as a field archaeologist, including extensive work at sites in Egypt.
(In fact, Paul and Don both visited Egypt for the first in 1981 when they worked together as members of their professor's archaeological project.)  Paul's many skills include his expertise as an excavator with a specialty knowledge in the application of geology to archaeology,  Apart from Egypt, Paul has investigated a variety of archaeological sites in western North America,  His enthusiasm and positive perspective add much to our project.

Erik Johannesson

Dr. Erik Johannesson is originally from Sweden and is an expert on burial practices with over fifteen years of experience working on funerary materials and stone monuments across the ancient world.  Upon visiting Egypt in his childhood, he developed a keen interest in archaeology and ancient tombs and went on to earn graduate degrees in Classical Archaeology and in Anthropology. Johannesson has conducted archaeological research in Mongolia, Russia, Greece, and throughout North America, and brings insightful knowledge in addition to his sharp Swedish humor. 

Salima Ikram x-raying mummified food.

Dr. Salima Ikram is a well-known name in modern Egyptology.  Her areas of expertise include the study of mummies (especially animal mummies) and funerary archaeology.  She is a professor of Egyptology and the author of many scientific articles and books on the subject.  Salima has participated in dozens of archaeological projects and you may have seen her on numerous television programs with her great enthusiasm for all things ancient Egypt.  

Denis Whitfill

Denis Whitfill is from Southern California and met dig director, Don Ryan, sometime "back in the '70's" through a mutual interest in climbing and other outdoor pursuits.  Denis possesses many skills useful to archaeology, including photography and a creative approach to solving equipment issues, There is nothing he can't fix with duct tape and some wire.  Denis is a valuable asset and has participated in archaeological projects in Hawaii, the Canary Islands and Egypt.  This will be his sixth expedition in the Valley of the Kings.


Brian "Gordy" Holmes

Brian "Gordy" Holmes is a retired professional archaeologist and college instructor now living in Canada.  We highly value his friendship, archaeological insights, and sage advice.

Rose Campbell

Rose Campbell is a Ph.D, student at UCLA specializing in the study of human remains.  Her Master's thesis was on the topic of undecorated tombs in the Valley of the Kings and she worked on our project in 2011 and 2015.  Rose has also been involved in archaeological projects elsewhere in Egypt and in such places as Peru, Ethiopia, and Montana.

Mojca Jereb

Mojca Jereb is a professional archaeologist from Slovenia.  She worked with us in 2008 and 2015.  Her versatile skills include extensive experience in excavation and artifact studies.  She is a delightful colleague.


Welcome to the BLOG of the 2016 Field Season of the Pacific Lutheran University Valley of the Kings Project.  The Project is addressing several tombs in Egypt's New Kingdom (c.1500 - 1000 B.C.) royal cemetery.  Apart from the typically large and colorfully decorated tombs of the pharaohs, there are a few dozen smaller tombs without decoration which have received very little attention since their discoveries in the 19th or early 20th centuries.  In some cases, their locations have been lost.  These tombs were virtually ignored until our project began in 1989 and we have since found them full of unanticipated surprises.  Here's a sample:
(Note: "KV" means "Kings' Valley" and is part of the identification system for tombs in the Valley.)
The entrance to KV 60.

KV 60 is a crudely-carved tomb originally discovered in 1903, proclaimed to be of little interest, and subsequently lost.  We quickly discovered KV 60 on the first day of our first field season.  The tomb was heavily plundered but what remained inside was very well-preserved.  Along with bits and pieces of ancient funerary goods (including coffin fragments and mummified food provisions), we encountered the mummy of what appeared to be a royal woman.  An Egyptian research project has since identified this mummy as being that of the famous female pharaoh, Hatshepsut.

Katie Hunt and Jerry Cybulski sort through human remains
in the burial chamber of KV 21.

KV 21 was found in 1817 by the amazing Italian circus performer and proto-archaeologist, Giovanni Belzoni.  Inside this anciently-robbed tomb, he found two female mummies with long hair and a chamber containing large pots. In the many decades afterward, it became deeply buried by flood debris.  We were able to identify the tombs location and after weeks of digging, were able to explore its interior.  It is a fairly large tomb with two sets of stairs and two sloping corridors leading to a chamber with a single pillar and a side room.  The tomb had been entered by flood water since Belzoni's time and we found that the two mummies had been severely damaged and torn to pieces. The large jars in the side room were all broken and contained mummification leftovers.  DNA studies conducted on the mummies are controversial.  Egyptologist Zahi Hawass has suggested that they could be the remains of Queen Nefertiti along with the queen of Tutankhamun: Ankhesenamun.

KV 27 consists of a shaft leading to four rooms which we found filled with up to two meters of flood debris. It was very difficult to excavate this tomb but we eventually found several of the tomb's occupants on the floor of two of the chambers, along with lots of broken pottery.

Rose Campbell and Mojca Jereb take notes in KV 44.

KV 28, 44 & 45 each consist of shaft leading to a single chamber.  All date to the 18th dynasty (early New Kingdom) but were reused in later times for other burials.  From these three tombs we have retrieved 21 sets of human remains, most of which have been reduced to a skeletal state by having been exposed to flood water.
Pottery experts Mohammed Farouk and
Abd el-Hadi hold reconstructed  jars from KV 48.

KV 48 belonged to a vizier (closest adviser to the pharoah) named Amenemope who served the ruler, Amenhotep II.  The tomb, which consists of a shaft and a single chamber, was first encountered in 1906 and contained a plundered burial and the Amenemope's mummy.  Its location was lost under debris until the top of the tomb's shaft was discovered in 1986 during "remote sensing" experiments conducted by the Theban Mapping Project.  Two decades later, our project excavated the shaft and entered the tomb to find the mummy missing, but lots of other funerary materials remaining inside.

Apart from excavation and documentation of these tombs and their contents, we have also conducted conservation work to contribute to their long-term survival.

2016 Field Season:

The mummy of a baboon and a dog as found in KV 50 during 1906.

During the 2016 field season, we hope to locate and examine three small tombs - KV 50, 51, 52 - discovered near KV 48 in 1906, and since buried.  Each contained the mummified remains of animals, including a dog and baboons, and it has been suggested that perhaps they could be the pets of one or another of pharaohs whose large tombs are situated nearby (KV 35 - Amenhotep II or KV 57 - Horemheb).  In every tomb we have excavated in the Valley, we have found lots of things apparently uninteresting to our archaeological predecessors of a century or so ago, so we are hoping that we will encounter evidence that will shed more light on these fascinating tombs and their occupants.

The team leaves for Egypt on January 31 and plans to work through February.