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Friday, December 15, 2017

Finds from New Kingdom tombs - Al Ahram Weekly

Finds from New Kingdom tombs

Two ancient Egyptian New Kingdom tombs with rich funerary collections have been uncovered on the west bank of the Nile at Luxor, reports Nevine El-Aref 

The serenity of the Draa Abul-Naga Necropolis on the west bank of the Nile at Luxor was disturbed earlier this week when Minister of Antiquities Khaled El-Enany along with hundreds of Egyptian, Arab and foreign journalists, together with film crews and photographers, flocked to the site to view the newly excavated 3,500-year-old tombs of two unidentified ancient Egyptian officials.

"This is a very important discovery because the tombs contain very rich funerary collections, and one of them features a distinguished painted statue of a lady in the shape of Osiris," El-Enany said, adding that 2017 had been a "year of discoveries" in Egypt with this being the third in 60 days in Draa Abul-Naga alone. 

"It seems that our ancient Egyptian ancestors are bestowing their blessings on Egypt's economy as these discoveries are good for the country and its tourism industry," El-Enany told Al-Ahram Weekly.

The New Kingdom tombs had been known about since the last century, but this was the first time they had been entered as a result of an Egyptian archaeological mission's excavations, El-Enany explained.

The tombs had come to light in September when the same Egyptian excavation mission had uncovered the tomb of Amenemhat, a goldsmith of the god Amun-Re, he said. While removing debris from the tomb, the excavators had stumbled upon a hole at one end that had led them to another tomb.

"More excavations then revealed the painted walls of tomb Kampp 161," El-Enany said, adding that the discovery added to a spate of recent finds at sites across Egypt. "These finds are not a matter of luck, but are the result of the hard work of archaeologists and workers across the country who are working in often very difficult conditions," he concluded.

"Antiquities are the soft power that distinguishes Egypt," El-Enany told the Weekly, adding that news of the discovery of antiquities catches the international headlines and the attention of the world as a whole.

The tombs were given numbers by the German archaeologist Frederica Kampp in the early 1990s, but they had never been explored, according to Mustafa Waziri, secretary-general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities and head of the Egyptian excavation mission. Time has taken its toll on the tombs, whose entrances were covered with sand.

The first tomb, named Kampp 161, had not been excavated, while excavation work on the second tomb, Kampp 150, was undertaken by Kampp who stopped short of entering the tomb itself. The tombs had thus been left untouched until excavation started during the recent archaeological season by the Egyptian mission.

Although the names of the tombs' owners are yet to be identified, wall paintings and inscriptions suggest they could be dated to the period between the reigns of the Pharaohs Amenhotep II and Thutmose IV, Waziri told the Weekly.


INSIDE THE TOMBS: The first tomb is a small tomb that had been reused in antiquity. It has a sandstone façade that leads to a rectangular hall with a niche, as well as a court lined with stone and mud-brick walls and a six-metre burial shaft that leads to four side chambers. 

All the inscriptions are found on the western wall located at the tomb's northern end. This shows two feast scenes, the first depicting a person, probably the deceased's brother, presenting offerings and flowers to the deceased and his wife. 

The second scene is found below the first and shows guests standing in four rows, among them one consisting of three men and three women. The first man in the row is the keeper of the storeroom.

Most of the items discovered in Kampp 161 are fragments of wooden coffins, but there is also a large wooden mask that originally was part of a coffin. A small painted wooden mask, a fragment of a gilded wooden mask in poor condition, four legs of wooden chairs that were among the deceased's funerary equipment, and the lower part of a wooden Osirian-shaped coffin decorated with a scene of the goddess Isis lifting up her hands, were also found.

The second tomb, Kampp 150, is located a few metres to the north of the first, and since a cartouche of Thutmosis I is engraved on the ceiling of one of the tomb's chambers it can be dated to the end of the 1th Dynasty or the beginning of the 18th Dynasty. 

"The owner is not yet known, but there are two possible candidates," Waziri told the Weekly. "The first possibility is that the tomb belongs to a person named Djehuty Mes, because his name is engraved on one of the walls. The second possibility is that the owner could be the scribe Maati, because his name and the name of his wife Mehi are inscribed on 50 funerary cones unearthed in the tomb's rectangular chamber," Waziri said.

"Most probably, the tomb belongs to the scribe Maati," he added.

The tomb is of average size and has five entrances that open onto a rectangular hall that is partly damaged and has two burial shafts of 10 and seven metres deep. 

"The burial of a woman named Isis Nefret was found inside the tomb, and she could be the mother of the tomb's owner," Waziri said. He added that inside one of the burial shafts a wooden painted coffin featuring various ancient Egyptian scenes had been found along with 36 Ushabti figurines. The latter are funerary figurines placed in tombs in ancient Egypt and intended to act as servants of the deceased.

The tomb has only one inscription on one of its northern pillars. It shows a scene with a seated man offering food to four oxen, with the first kneeling in front of the man, who is giving it herbs. The scene also depicts five people making funerary furniture.

The entrance of the tomb's long hall is inscribed with a hieroglyphic text with the name Djehuty Mes. The ceiling of the chamber is inscribed with hieroglyphic inscriptions and the cartouche of Thutmose I.

The artefacts uncovered inside the tomb include 100 funerary cones, painted wooden masks, a collection of 450 statues carved in different materials such as clay, wood and faience, and a small box in the shape of a wooden coffin with a lid.

"The box was probably used for storing an Ushabti figurine 17cm tall and 6cm wide," Waziri said.

Also found was a collection of clay vessels of different shapes and sizes, as well as a mummy wrapped in linen with its hands on its chest in the Osirian form. Studies suggest that the mummy, found inside the long chamber, could be of a top official or similar powerful figure from ancient Egypt.

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