by Kent R. Weeks
THE GREAT WESTERN CEMETERY (GWC) at Giza lies west of the Pyramid of Cheops and north of the Pyramid of Chephren on a low rock terrace partially covered by windblown sand. Begun early in the reign of Cheops as a burial place for lesser nobility and members of his court, it grew in fairly regular fashion with mastabas lying in orderly arrangement along “streets” running from north to south and “avenues” from east to west. The cemetery continued to be used until the end of the Old Kingdom some four hundred years later and, as space became less readily available, this regular plan was ignored and later tombs and mastabas were constructed wherever openings could be found. The result of this development
was a complex arrangement of mortuary structures consisting of an early group of eighty-nine regularly spaced mastabas forming four “nucleus cemeteries”, and a later mixture of several hundred structures ranging from the smallest and most unimpressive shaft graves to stone buildings of considerable size. The number, size, and quality of these mastabas, their importance to a study of the Fourth and Fifth Dynasties, and the likelihood that they contained attractive objects and well-decorated wall surfaces, made them, in the eyes of Egyptologists at the beginning of this century, highly desirable subjects for
In November 1902, representatives of the Turin Museum, the Sieglin Expedition of the University of Leipzig,and the Hearst Egyptian Expedition of the University of California, each of which had been granted permits by the Egyptian government to excavate at Giza, met at Mena House to determine what areas of the necropolis should be assigned to each group. With most of the Giza Plateau there was little problem, and a division of the site amongst the missions was made easily. But, in Reisner’s words,
“the chief area in which all were interested was the Great Western Cemetery,” and M. Maspero, Director-General of the Antiquities Department, had instructed the three groups to find some way to divide the GWC “amicably.”
Randomly drawing lots (Mrs. Reisner drew slips of paper from a hat), the Italian group, under Professor
Schiaparelli, was given rights to the southern third of the cemetery; the German group under Professor Steindorff was given the middle third; and the Americans, under Professor Reisner, received the northern. Three years later, in 1905, the Italians were obliged for financial and administrative reasons to relinquish their concession, and, with the agreement of the department, this area, too, was assigned to the Americans. Prior to his acquisition of the Italian concession, Reisner had begun excavations in the northern third of the cemetery in 1903–04, clearing west of mastaba G 2000, an area he used as a test to determine the course of future work at the site. (Shortly after this work had begun, the sponsorship of Reisner’s project was transferred from the University of California and the Hearst family to the
Boston Museum of Fine Arts and Harvard University).(4)
(4). In 1911, the German concession was transferred to the Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften and the Pelizaeus Museum of Hildesheim, and was directed by Hermann Junker.
After a delay of several years, owing to pressures of work in other areas, Reisner returned to the northern section in 1911 and continued there for two further seasons.
In 1913, he shifted his attention to the southern third of the GWC (the former Italian concession), and spent there three seasons clearing first its western, then its eastern end. He returned there in 1925 (working from November 18 to December 28) and cleared an area even farther to the west,
beyond the original Italian concession, in an unassigned section of the GWC, which he designated Cemetery G6000, and which is the subject of this report (p1Cem6000). This was the last full season of work Reisner conducted in the GWC. The next fifteen years saw his staff transferred to
other parts of the Necropolis, and only occasional sondages were made in the GWC after that, to clarify points for the architect or to facilitate the work of the expedition photographer. After eight seasons of work in the GWC and, in all, nearly twenty seasons at Giza, the outbreak of the Second World War brought the Harvard-Boston Expedition to an end in 1939. Three years later, in 1942, Reisner died.