Wednesday,14 November, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1337, (23 - 29 March 2017)
Wednesday,14 November, 2018
Issue 1337, (23 - 29 March 2017)

Ahram Weekly

Burial chamber discovered

The intact burial chamber of the brother of 12th Dynasty Elephantine Island governor Sarenput II has been uncovered in Aswan

Sarcophagus decorated with the Udjat eye
Sarcophagus decorated with the Udjat eye

During excavation work carried out in the Qubbet Al-Hawa area of Aswan in Upper Egypt, a Spanish archaeological mission from Jaen University has stumbled upon an intact 12th Dynasty burial chamber.

Initial studies reveal that it belongs to the brother of one of the most important 12th Dynasty Elephantine Island governors, Sarenput II. “It is a very important discovery,” said Alejandro Jiménez-Serrano, director of the Spanish mission.

He explained that the chamber was part of a very rich burial and shed more light on individuals who were near the centre of power during the 12th Dynasty.

Mahmoud Afifi, head of the Ancient Egyptian Antiquities Sector at the Ministry of Culture, described the find as “unique” because it houses all the deceased’s funerary goods, consisting of a collection of pottery, two cedar outer and inner coffins, and a set of wooden models representing funerary boats and scenes from daily life.

The mummy was also found, and it is covered with polychrome cartonnage and possesses a beautiful mask.

Inscriptions on the coffins bear the name of the deceased, Shemai, followed by the names of his mother and father, Satethotep and Khema, respectively. The latter was governor of Elephantine Island during the reign of the Pharaoh Amenemhat II, Jiménez-Serrano said, adding that the mummy was now under study.

Sarenput II, the eldest brother of Shemai, was one of the most powerful governors of Egypt during the reigns of the pharaohs Senwosret II and Senwosret III. Apart from his duties as governor of Elephantine, he was a general in the army and responsible for the cults of different gods.

“With this discovery, the University of Jaen mission in Qubbet Al-Hawa has added more information to previous discoveries of 14 members of the ruling family of Elephantine during the 12th Dynasty,” Jiménez-Serrano said. He added that such a high number of individuals provided a unique opportunity to study living conditions in Egypt more than 3,800 years ago.

The Spanish mission has been working at the site since 2008, and it has succeeded in uncovering several intact tombs of Elephantine governors and nobles. Among them is the tomb of Sarenput II’s daughter, Sattjeni, who was a key figure because she was the mother, daughter and wife of important governors.

Jiménez-Serrano said that she was the daughter of Sarenput II as well as the mother of the two governors Heqaib III and Amaeny-Seneb during the reign of Amenemhat III, known as one of the most impressive periods in the history of ancient Egypt.

Amenemhat III was a great builder of pyramids. He built two, the first was the Black Pyramid at the Dahshur Necropolis, and the second was in Hawar in Fayoum. He also dug a great canal connecting the Fayoum with the Nile.

Qubbet Al-Hawa is a rock-hewn necropolis set into the high cliffs across the river from the modern city of Aswan in Upper Egypt. It is called the nobles cemetery and houses a number of elite tombs from the Old to New Kingdoms.

The earliest tombs belong to top officials from the Old Kingdom. Although the interiors are sparsely decorated, “autobiographies” carved into their façades provide fascinating details of the lives of these men, several of whom led trading and military expeditions south into Nubia.

Other tombs belong to provincial governors from the Middle and New Kingdoms. The site also contains a Coptic monastery, and some of the tombs were later reused to build a Coptic church.

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