Ancient Tribology artifacts looted ??

Today’s article is neither about advances in Tribology nor about its application, its about the beginning of Tribology. Everyone who has studied tribology via formal or informal education must be familiar with the image of a wall painting (Image 1) inside the tomb of Djehutihotep in Deir el-Bersha showing a person standing on the front of the pulled sledge and pouring a fluid (water/lubricant) over the sand, to reduce friction and hence allowing smooth sliding. Deir el-Bersha is situated on the east bank of the Nile. Dating to the 12th Dynasty, the tomb was made for Djehutyhotep who served as the governor. Deir el Bersha’s is a significant funerary monument.

Image 1: Old Egyptian lubrication technique

The image can be regarded as one of the first proofs of knowledge of science of lubrication or about an understanding of Tribology. This piece of history should be of prime importance to all the Tribology societies and tribologists around the word but it looks like we are so eager to meet the future that we have unfriended our past. According to some reports (if they are true), smugglers raided the tomb and took some sections of the famous painting (Image 1).

On 12th May, 2015 Monica Hanna, an Egyptian archaeologist actually reported via twitter that the Tomb of Djehutyhotep in Deir el-Bersha, Egypt has fallen victim to looters and large scenes from paintings and sculptures have been hacked out for smuggling.

Egypt’s heritage Task Force also reported a similar news on the same day with the title “Djehutyhotep tomb has fallen victim to looters”. In the news article, it’s been reported “Djehutyhotep tomb particularly renowned for the scene (now destroyed) of four teams of men dragging a huge statue of him”. The article also points out that several times restorations work has been done on the site but repetitive looting has caused lot of damage to this ancient site.

I tried to further dig up in order to verify the story and found that similar images of the ruined painting was available on the net but they dated 2014. An article written by Wudjau on Medew Netcher has the same painting but no where you can find the word “loot” or “smuggle” and the article was published on 8th May 2014. Also website Dayr Al-Barshā Project shows the same image but it was submitted by the site admin on 5th August 2014 and again nothing about smuggling or looting could be found. I am not sure if the reported news is true or false and its up to the concerned authorities to decide if the tomb was really looted or not.

The big point here is that the condition of the painting (Image 1) is not good and efforts have to be made to preserve and protect this Tribology heritage. Monuments are a glimpse of our past, preservation and restoration plays an important role when it comes to heritage conversation. Monuments like the tomb of Djehutyhotep bring to the forefront, the elegance and splendor of the bygone era and there are many things that modern science can learn from them. The Four minarets and Main marble dome of Taj Mahal are of as much importance as tombs of Mumtaz Mahal and Shah Jahan in Taj Mahal, hence the whole tomb should be of as much importance as the panting (Imag1). Tribologists, companies and universities associated with Tribology should come forward and contribute towards preserving Tribology’s past.


  1. Djehutyhotep tomb has fallen victim to looters,
  2. Monica hanna Twitter handle,
  3. Tomb of Djehutyhotep Looted?
  4. Colossal Statue of Djehuti Hotep                                                                                              
  5.  Djehutihotep
  6. Images used are taken from Google Images under “free to reuse with modification” category


Harshvardhan Singh is an Automotive Engineer and has good experience in lubrication science and experimental tribology. He loves to write about tribology and related fields such as coating technology, surface engineering and others.


  1. See also the Feb. 2016 story of antiquities guards Ghafir Ashrawy and Mustafa Ali from the Tomb of Djehutihotep site, shot during an exchange of gunfire with armed looters. The Dayr Al-Barsha Project ( reports that the damage suffered was far less than originally feared, perhaps due to the efforts of the fallen antiquities guards.

    • Thanks for the new information Rick. Perhaps the problem are with the dates: The date on which the incident took place and the date on which the news was reported.

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