So, what does it all mean?
As always, it depends on the contexts, and we have two. I comment elsewhere that there was a dramatic difference between the amount of material from inside the tomb and from the courtyard, so let's take them separately.
Shafts inside the tomb
The objects found inside the tomb are almost totally later in date than the tomb, apart from some ceramics and the large statue.
A number of objects bear the name of king Shabaka of the 25th dynasty, one of which bears a date of year 10, giving a possible date for one burial (Wedjahor) of about 705 BC. Wedjahor's son Horenpe was also buried here, in year 12 of another king, probably Taharqa (c. 680 BC).
Can we tie the other material in with this date? The answer is broadly yes; one indicator that things might run later is a sealing bearing the name of a priest Psamtek. That name, the Egyptian original of the Greek Psammetichos, is unlikely to be found in Thebes until some time after the Saite king Psammetichos I took control of Egypt in 664 BC (26th dynasty), and in fact more likely after he began to intervene directly in Theban affairs by installing his daughter Nitocris as Divine Adoratrice of Amun in 656 BC. However, most of the objects found would not be out of place in either the later 25th or early 26th dynasty; more work is still needed, but these dates seem to encompass broadly all the material.
There is of course later material still, and it all appears to date from periods when the tomb has ceased to be used as a place of burial but was in fact lived in. This can be said to be the late Roman or Coptic period, through mediaeval Islamic times, and right up to 1907 (see below).
The courtyard was an integral part of the original tomb design, for the celebration of festivals and various ritual purposes. Other than the actual construction and the surrounding walls, there is little which would be expected to belong to this period, other than the shafts (below).
What is clear is the evidence of habitation in Coptic and Islamic times--modern objects, Coptic ostraka, and so on. This fits in well with the evidence of the various buildings encountered and recorded as the courtyard was excavated. Tying this in with the material from inside the tomb, and the architectural and decorative effect of human habitation, it is clear that the later material comes from the use of the tomb as a dwelling place. The huge amounts of ceramic material make us wonder whether the tomb was in fact used as a dumping ground at some date.
Shafts in the courtyard
If the shafts inside the tomb do not belong to the original 18th dynasty builder, Senneferi, then his place of burial must logically be outside. Three shafts have been identified. the smallest of which is probably one which was started and never finished, perhaps because of a fault in the rock. The second shaft's material has yet to be properly examined, but it could be New Kingdom or later from the pottery. The third very deep shaft has been proven from its contents to have been the burial place of Senneferi, and can thus be dated to somewhere just after 1450 BC.
© Nigel Strudwick 1997-2013