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Monday, May 2, 2022

A remarkable discovery by Polish archaeologists in Egypt
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A remarkable discovery by Polish archaeologists in Egypt

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A remarkable discovery by Polish archaeologists in Egypt

Polish archaeologists in Saqqara, next to the oldest pyramid in the world, discovered the tomb of an official responsible for secret documents in the royal chancellery during the reign of one of the first pharaohs of the VI dynasty. It comes from before 4.3 thousand. years.

Photo illustrative

So far, researchers have reached the chapel, that is, the above-ground part of the tomb with reliefs. Egyptologists managed to read from the hieroglyphs carved on its facade that the tomb belongs to a man named Mehcheczi.

For now, only the facade of the chapel has been unveiled, the interior is waiting for the next excavation campaign. Probably thanks to a good job, Mehczeczi could hire an efficient team of craftsmen, because his chapel is decorated with reliefs of exceptional beauty – emphasized in an interview with PAP, the head of research of the Polish-Egyptian archaeological mission in Saqqara, Prof. Kamil O. Kuraszkiewicz from the Faculty of Oriental Studies at the University of Warsaw. The work was carried out as part of the mission of the Center of Mediterranean Archeology of the University of Warsaw.

The tomb is located on the eastern shore of the so-called Dry Moat. It was a gigantic ditch made on a rectangular plan (approx. 750 by 600 m). It surrounded the complex of the oldest pyramid in Egypt (the Step Pyramid), built 4.7 thousand meters. years ago for Djoser – including the great wall and adjoining chapels.

Today, the "Dry Moat" is almost entirely covered with rubble and sand blown in from the desert. Today it is completely invisible from the earth's surface, but its outline can be seen in some aerial and satellite photographs.

Successive seasons of excavations bring researchers more and more new information about this place. It turned out that the "Dry Moat" was also used several hundred years after the reign of Djoser. One of the evidence for this is the latest discovery from October last year. in the form of an entrance to Mehczecziego's tomb. The inscriptions on the façade of the newly discovered chapel show that, inter alia, was admitted to the secrets of the Pharaoh's archive. How should this title be interpreted? It can be assumed that this title is not so much about the category of documents as about access to the stage of their creation. Perhaps he had a right to know what documents were produced at the royal chancellery before they were published. But this is only a guess, because we have little information for the times we are talking about – emphasized prof. Kuraszkiewicz.

Mehczeczi was also the inspector of the royal estate and the priest of the tomb of king Teti. This means that he lived most likely during the reign of his heir, Pharaoh Userkare.

Although the study of the interior of the chapel and the tomb, which is probably carved under it, has not yet begun, archaeologists have obtained a lot of information from reading the facade of the tomb. There are inscriptions and reliefs depicting the owner of the tomb.

As added by prof. Kuraszkiewicz, unfortunately the colors have not survived. But the relief itself reveals an exceptionally skilled hand – elegant lines, subtle modeling – of an artist at least as good as the best of the authors of the reliefs in Merefnebef's tomb – added.

Everything indicates that Mehcheczi lived in the time of Merefnebef, who was a vizier at the court of Pharaoh Userkare. He was the supreme Egyptian dignitary, whose function is comparable to that of today's prime minister. Merefnebef's tomb is nearby. It was discovered in 1997 by a team led by prof. Karol Myśliwiec. The tomb of Merefnebef is one of the few in Saqqara with such an exquisitely preserved polychrome.

Prof. Kuraszkiewicz described that the decoration was not finished in the entrance to the newly discovered Mehczecziego chapel. Only sketches in black ink on lime plaster are visible. It was on their basis that subsequent craftsmen were to later make a bas-relief. They show images of sacrificial animals: cows, oryxes and ibexes.

The scientist noted that the rock in which the decorations were made is very brittle and heavily eroded, so the entire substrate, including the painted plaster, required immediate intervention by conservators. This task was led by Zbigniew Godziejewski, head of the conservation team, who died this year from the National Museum in Warsaw.

For now, we have located the chapel. There is almost certainly a burial shaft in which the owner was buried, but we will find out after exploring the chapel, as well as whether it was robbed – emphasized prof. Kuraszkiewicz.

Near this tomb there are rooms from the 3rd dynasty (i.e. the times of Djoser) and other tombs from the 6th dynasty, therefore contemporary to the one belonging to Mehczeci.

The new find is therefore not a complete surprise for us. The quality of the reliefs and the name of the owner were certainly a surprise, the scientist noted.

Prof. Kuraszkiewicz has been conducting research in the area of ​​"Sucha Moat" for many years. Scholars suggested that it constituted the boundary between the sphere of the sacred, that is, the royal tomb, and the profane, that is, everything outside of it. According to others, it was a quarry, where the material for the construction of the pyramid was mined, and otherwise it did not perform any important function. A few years ago, Kuraszkiewicz introduced a new concept. According to him, it could act as a three-dimensional model of the road to the underworld of the deceased pharaoh.

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