Qila el Dabba in Dakhla Oasis is an Old Kingdom necropolis near Balat village. The necropolis contained the burials of the Oasis governors.
Qila al Dabba is a large burial area that was in use for an extended period of time, and was probably the necropolis of the town. There is evidence to suggest that it began in the Sixth Dynasty of the Old Kingdom.
Within the necropolis are no less than five large mastabas; the large mastabas rise from the ground in layers like the Step pyramid at Saqqara. Three of the mastabas have been identified as the final resting place of Old Kingdom governors of the Oasis.
The necropolis were constructed in steps from mudbricks and dressed with slabs of limestone. When found, the tombs were in various stages of ruin, but basically followed the plan of a large brick enclosure surrounding a courtyard in which the mastaba stood. The tombs had niched façades like others of the Old Kingdom and a funerary stela at the entrance identified the occupant. Stela and jambs from the tomb of governor Ima-Pepi can be seen in the Kharga Heritage Museum.
Mastaba I: [a] mastaba of Desheru (before the reign of PepiI) [b] mastaba of Ima-Pepi/Ima-Meryre (reign of Pepi I)
Mastaba II: mastaba of Ima-Pepi II (reign of Pepi II)
Mastaba III: mastaba of Khentika (reign of Pepi II)
Mastaba IV: mastaba of Khentikaupepi (6th Dynasty)
Mastaba V: mastaba of Medunefer (reign of Pepi I)
The tombs show important differences in their construction.The first type had a substructure containing several burial chambers for family members and superstructures built over vast excavations in the open air.Examples of this type are the mastabas of Ima-Pepi I (reign of Pepi I) and Khentika (reign of Pepi II). The second construction type contained only one burial chamber, an antechamber and store rooms built from stone and mudbrick. This was the type favoured Ima-Pepi II (reign of Pepi II) and Medunefer (reignof Pepi II) and they are generally smaller structures.
Inside the tombs there are sometimes a number of rooms,antechambers and burial chambers with barrel-vaulted roofs. The first to be identified was the tomb of the governor Medunefer who served during the reign of Pepi II and which contained funerary goods including gold jewellery. In the mastaba of Khentikau-Pepi, over 100 pottery vessels were found in fragments beneath the fallen masonry in the underground chambers.
Other governors who built mastabas at Qila el-Dab’a include Khentika, also from the reign of Pepi II whose painted subterranean chambers have been restored, and Ima-Pepi, whose later tomb shows an improvement in construction techniques.
The most recent reconstruction is the burial chamber of an individual called Bitsu, which contains vivid painted scenes depicting the official and his family, as well as part of a star-painted ceiling which is suspended above.
The mastabas of the wealthy governors were found to contain rich burial equipment with wooden or ceramic coffins, but further cemeteries containing more modest burials have been found to the south and east of the mastabas. These poorer members of the community were often buried in simple pits and wrapped only in layers of matting. Many skeletons have been found in the necropolis and have been studied by the IFAO, while some of the pottery and other artefacts from the site are on display in the Kharga Heritage Museum and in Cairo.