NC2, or The Lost Underworld That Never Got Lost

Plan of the rock-cut tomb NC2 dating to 1939Andrew Collins’ book ‘Beneath the Pyramids’ in which he claims to have (re)discovered the Lost Underworld of the Pharaohs starts with the assumption that the cave complex was last explorered in 1817 by Henry Salt and sadly forgotton or ignored after this; only an obscure reference in Salt’s memories references to the ‘catacombs’, which might even be the mythical Hall of Records. Dr. Zahi Hawass – Secretary General of the SCA – did already issue a statement saying the tomb’s location is well known to the SCA (thus the opposite of ‘lost’) and that there is no underground cave complex at this site. Now more proof – dug up from the archives – that the undecorated rock-cut tomb was never lost is presented by Peter Manuelian, Director of the Giza Archives for Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts.

Manuelian confirms that George Reisner used the tomb as a storage room during his excavations at Giza in the early 20th century: “Members of the Harvard University-Boston Museum of Fine Arts Expedition, directed by George Reisner, were indeed aware of the tomb in question during the first half of the 20th century. It lies about 160 meters north of Harvard Camp, as the Expeditions dig house was then called.” He adds: “In fact, Reisner designated NC2 (North Cliff 2) as the air raid shelter for his Egyptian workmen during World War II.”

As good scholars do, the expedition lead by George Reisner produced plans of the tomb – the central one of three rock-cut structures in the cliff – which are now kept in the archives of the Boston Museum of Fine Arts and will eventually become available on the Giza Archives Project website.

Because of the recent discussions concerning the Lost Underworld NC2 the museum has made an archaeological drawing by Expedition draftsman Alexander Floroff available online. It shows the faade on NC2, the pillared chamber behind, and the long corridor extending further to the south available. Again: see, not lost!

Peter Manuelian also offers us a new clue as to the possible original date of this rock-cut tomb. A pencil note by Egyptologist William Stevenson Smith added to the inked version of the above plan reads: “Rock cut tombs due north of Harvard Camp. Used as air raid shelters during War. In 1930 I saw traces of painting on columns in central one. Had the idea that this was an 18th Dyn. tomb or N.K. WSS 1946”.

More images of NC2 and the handwritten note by William Stevenson Smith you can find at the Giza Archives Blog. I can only agree with Peter Manuelian when he stresses that old plans and notes such as these indicate how valuable archaeological archives can be in reconstructing the history of the Giza Plateau.