Photographic archive of ‘Tombs of the Third Egyptian Dynasty at Reqaqnah and Bet Khallaf, 1901-1902

Scope and Content

Photograph albums and corresponding negatives relating to John Garstang’s publication Tombs of the Third Egyptian Dynasty at Reqaqnah and Bet Khallaf (1904), mostly comprising images taken during the 1901-1902 excavation season in Egypt, covering the excavation of the 3rd and 4th Dynasty tombs at Reqaqnah (Ar Raqāqinah); 19th Dynasty and 6th-11th Dynasty necropolis at Sararwah (Sarāwirah), also known as Bet Khallaf site B; and the remains of Roman houses and a Greco-Roman burial place at Bet Dawd (Bayt Dāwūd). Also includes some images of 3rd Dynasty Royal Tombs at Bet Khallaf (Bayt Khallāf) excavated the previous season.

Originally, the majority of the images on site were captured on cellulose nitrate film negatives and images of objects captured off site were generally captured on silver gelatine dry plate glass negatives. Unfortunately most of the original negatives have been lost, though the collection does have prints of the majority of the images. Both the negatives and the prints have been digitized.

Administrative / Biographical History

In the 1900-1901 excavation season, John Garstang excavated sites between Abydos and Bet Khallaf on behalf of the Egyptian Research Account. One of his major discoveries was the 3rd Dynasty Royal tombs near Bet Khallaf, including the tomb of King Neterkhet.

The next season, Garstang returned to Egypt to examine sites north of Bet Khallaf with private funding from a committee featuring notable Liverpool industrialist and representative of Museums. This was the first time Garstang’s archaeological work was funded by an Excavation Committee, a funding method he used for the rest of his career. The Committee included William MacGregor (1848-1937), Henry Martyn Kennard (1833-1911), Ralph Brocklebank, Frederick Hilton Price (1842-1909), and Arthur Evans, keeper of the Ashmolean Museum. Garstang examine various sites including Bêt Dawd (designated site D); Sararwah to the north of Bet Khallaf (designated site B); Reqaqnah (designated site R).

The majority of the season was spent excavating a necropolis discovered 0.5 km from the village of Reqaqnah (Ar Raqāqinah). The site comprised two large mounds naturally split by an ancient watercourse. In the southern mound they discovered three large 3rd Dynasty stairway tombs (R1, R2, and R40), similar to the tombs discovered at Bet Khallaf in the previous season. They also discovered several smaller stairway tombs, including R14 which was incomplete. In the Northern mound they discovered a systematically constructed necropolis, thought by Garstang to date from the early 3rd Dynasty to the 5th Dynasty. Garstang discovered three large mastaba tombs (R50, R70, and R75), as well as burials within mud brick enclosures; burials under mud brick vaults (in enclosures and without enclosures); shaft burials; and burials under upturned pots. Garstang also discovered some plundered tombs and graves which he believed dated from an earlier period. The team also locally bought pottery which was thought to date from the predynastic period.

Garstang also excavated smaller sites in the region and found burials of a much later date. At Bet Dawd they excavated the remains of Roman houses and a Greco-Roman cemetery where they discovered the stela of Se-Ra the sculptor dating from the 12th dynasty. At Sararwah they excavated tombs from the 19th Dynasty and a necropolis which Garstang thought was used from the 6th-11th Dynasties.


As the album prints are largely the only copies remaining of the images captured at Reqaqnah, it was decided to rearrange the images in the order they appear in the albums and attached any remaining negatives to the appropriate place in the album. The majority of the images were formerly in the ‘R’ collection, but there are also images which were part of the ‘O’ collection. The old references have been recorded in the other number field as well as those which were mislabelled as ‘F’.

There are 10 images originally listed in the ‘R’ collection which are now missing (all published in Garstang’s ‘Tombs of the Third Egyptian Dynasty’): R.41 Group of model vases from site R40 (pl 7.7); R.42, Vases and tables of alabaster from site R40 (pl.7.8); R.51-52 inscribed clay balls from site R50 (pl.30); R.83 Close door of burial at site R64 (pl.25.6); R.84 Close up of wooden door jambs at R64 (pl.28.4); and R.109 Second inner passage from S at Site R70 (pl 18.5).

Archivist's Note

This collection was catalogued and digitized by Katie Waring and John Smyth as part of the Pilgrim Trust Funded ‘Focus on Egypt: The photographic Archives of John Garstang’ project in Oct-Nov 2015.

Conditions Governing Use

It is believed that the images in the collection were created by John Garstang and will be in copyright under 70 years after his death (2026-09-12). The Museum can published the images as John Garstang gave the right to the Institute of Archaeology. The digital images are copyright of the University of Liverpool.

Custodial History

The original order is unclear, but if appears that the images may have been arranged in the order they appear in the photograph album. Most of the original negatives of the images published in Garstang book on the Third Dynasty have been lost. It appears that the majority of these were cellulose nitrate film negative and it is possible they may have been destroyed when the Institute suffered bomb damage during the War.

Possibly in the 1960s, the negatives and prints from the 1900-1901 and 1901-1902 seasons were rearranged by site into 3 collections: Reqaqnah (R), Bet Khallaf and Sararwah (O) and El Mahasna and Alawniyeh (P). Within these collections the negative and album prints were intellectually arranged numerically by site reference followed by images/prints without site reference. There was no indication on the list if the images were original negatives or album prints.

After this date around 22 negatives were removed from the 3 collections and listed as ‘El Mahasna and Bet Khallaf’ (F), thought they still have references in the previous collections. These have not been integrated back into the correct collections.