Naga ed-Deir, in the governorate of Sohag is a necropolis situated on the east bank of the Nile to the south of Akhmim. The tombs here date from the Predynastic Period through to the Middle Kingdom and have been well-excavated, primarily by the American Egyptologist George Reisner between 1901 and 1924. Reisner spent many seasons working in the Predynastic cemeteries, carefully recording and publishing details of each tomb before moving on to the Old Kingdom cemeteries in the 1920s.
The site spans several kilometres along cliffs at the edge of the narrow cultivation and has provided a great deal of information about the development of cemeteries from this period and burial customs in general. Work conducted by Reisner and later Albert Lythgoe at the Predynastic cemetery N7000 included the recording of many skeletal remains which were examined by Grafton Elliott Smith and have supplied modern biological anthropologists with a good database for further research into the subject.
It is considered likely that the Naga ed-Deir cemetery probably served the ancient town of Thinis, the principal settlement in the Abydos region during the Predynastic and Early Dynastic Periods. Although Thinis has never been located with any certainty, it is thought to have been close to the modern town of Girga or el-Birba, a little to the west. If this is so then Naga ed-Deir may have been its main necropolis before being abandoned in the late Predynastic Period. It was renewed as a major cemetery site during the Early Dynastic Period and the Old Kingdom.
One of the major finds, recovered from a Predynastic pit-grave at Naga ed-Deir was a body, curled up and wrapped in reeds and naturally preserved by the hot dry sand in which it was buried. Burial goods heaped around the body included clay jars containing food and drink for the afterlife and a slate cosmetic palette.
Reisner’s excavations from the Old Kingdom cemetery area produced a ‘letter to the dead’ recovered from the Dynasty VI tomb of Meru. This type of letter, usually written on bowls or papyri, was a message to the deceased from his family. Many interesting artefacts were also found in the later cemeteries of the First Intermediate Period and the Middle Kingdom, including sarcophagi and stelae of officials and priests of this area. One of the stela found at Naga ed-Deir belonged to a lady named Senet-Inhert, whose name suggests that she was a priestess, of the god Inhert (Onuris). The stela was commissioned by the lady’s husband who seems to have been a governor and lector priest during the First Intermediate Period.