|Al-Ahram Weekly Online
5 - 11 July 2001
|Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875||Current issue | Previous issue | Site map|
'Thrilling discovery' of lostThough it was once believed that pyramids were the exclusive domain of Old and Middle Kingdom royalty, an unexpected find has changed the archaeological landscape on Luxor's west bank. Nevine El-Aref puts an old theory to rest
Famed for its splendidly decorated royal tombs, its impressive mortuary temples and elaborate noblemen's tombs, the western bank of the Nile near Luxor has a new tomb on the block. The find, unearthed by a joint German-Egyptian mission, dates back to the wars against the Hyksos occupation. The discovery is important both for the tomb itself and for the remains of a small pyramid found along with it.
Sandstone head of Nub-Kheper-Re
The 17th-dynasty Pharaoh King Nub- Kheper-Re, or Inutef, is believed to have started the war of liberation against the Hyksos invaders some 3,500 years ago. That his tomb was found among the mostly 19th- and 20th-dynasty noblemen's tombs is indeed unusual. Inutef is also the great-grandfather of the famous kings Kamose, and his brother, Ahmose, who eventually expelled the Hyksos in 1550 bc.
According to Gaballa Ali Gaballa, secretary-general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA), a 20th-dynasty document known as the Abbot papyrus -- currently in the British Museum -- detailed royal tombs that were plundered in a period of anarchy, including 17th-dynasty tombs which were never found. "Historically speaking, it is a very important discovery, which authenticates the information on the [Abbot] papyrus," Gaballa told Al-Ahram Weekly.
The tomb is located at Dra'a Abul-Naga, to the north of the Theban necropolis, and archaeologists are confident that other royal tombs of the period -- which stretches from 1650 to 1550 bc -- lie in the same area. They are also sure that further study of the famous papyrus will enable them to compile a list of more royal and noble tombs of the period located there.
"It is really a thrilling discovery," said Minister of Culture Farouk Hosni. "It throws new light on hitherto unknown burials of the Egyptian kings who laid the foundations of Egypt's Golden Age."
Daniel Polz, deputy director of the German Archaeological Institute, said that when excavation started early last October, the lower part of a small mud-brick pyramid was revealed, surrounded by an enclosure wall. In front of the wall, a shaft was revealed and the rather damaged life-size sandstone head of the tomb's owner was found inside.
Zahi Hawass, director-general for the Giza plateau and Bahariya oasis, notes that the discovery of the pyramid dispels the myth that pyramid building ended with the Middle Kingdom. "Now we know that they continued to be built," Hawass said.
Adjacent to the pyramid, a small well- preserved funerary chapel belonging to Teti, a treasurer or chancellor of the king, was also unearthed. The walls are decorated with the owner's picture, name and titles, as well as a large cartouche bearing the name of Inutef. The walls are currently being consolidated and steps are being taken to conserve the very fragile paintings.
The Abbot papyrus, Polz explained, tells that the tomb of Inutef was on the point of being robbed when a tunnel was built extending from the nearest private tomb of Shuroy. For unknown reasons, however, the robbers failed in their mission. Nineteenth- century tomb robbers proved more efficient than their ancestors. In 1827, local villagers in Qurna successfully entered the pyramid's burial chamber and stole some of the king's funerary tools, as well as his gilded wooden coffin and mummy. The coffin was sold to dealers and it is now in the British Museum.
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