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Saturday, October 14, 2017

Coastweek - The most from the coast
Revisiting discovery of largest tomb in Egypt's valley of the kings

LONDON (Xinhua) -- The quirky history of an enormous stone sarcophagus is the centerpiece of an exhibition celebrating the 200th anniversary of the discovery of the largest tomb in the Egyptian Valley of the Kings.

The tomb of the pharaoh Seti I, who reigned for 13 years from BC 1291-1278, was discovered by Italian archaeologist Giovanni Batista Belzoni in October 1817.

The sarcophagus was the most prized object in the tomb, the largest and most elaborate tomb ever discovered in the valley of the kings, the burial ground of the ancient rulers of Egypt.

The sarcophagus is now in the cellar of the Sir John Soane's Museum in London, where it has remained unmoved since its arrival in 1824, and the star feature in an exhibition which opened on Wednesday.

"The tomb had 10 chambers, it's the largest tomb in the valley of the kings, like a kind of burial palace," said Jo Tindworth, curator at the Sir John Soane Museum, told Xinhua on Wednesday.

"The sarcophagus was in a very highly decorated burial chamber at the very rear of the tomb, and this calcite sarcophagus was the first to be cut from stone and is in the shape of a mummy," said Tindworth.

Belzone's discovery marked a significant moment in the archaeology of ancient Egypt.

According to Belzoni at the time the sarcophagus "merits the most particular attention, not having its equal in the world, and being such as we had no idea could exist."

The sarcophagus was also a record of a remarkable pharaoh.

Tindwortht said: "Seti I was part of a military dynasty. His father was a great military leader and rose from being a general to being a pharaoh."

Seti gave himself the title of Repeater of Birth, a sort of Renaissance man, said Tindworth.

"He was also a great builder and was interested in the arts which flourished under him. He was the apex of cultural sophistication of his era," she said.

Belzoni brought the sarcophagus and other treasures back to London and tried to sell them to the British Museum in 1821.

Bruce Boucher, director of Sir John Soane's Museum, said: "The exhibition will feature wonderful loans from Mougins Museum of Classical Art, the Daniel Katz Gallery, the Bristol Museum and Art Gallery, and the British Museum, as well as objects from our own collection." 

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