Ancient Egypt at our door

15-12-2011 10:12 AM

Mervat Ayad


The Spanish archaeological mission operating in Luxor has unearthed five gold earrings and rings dating back to the Eighteenth Dynasty (1569 – 1315BC). The jewellery was found inside the burial chamber of a tomb in Dra Abul Naga on Luxor’s West Bank. A three-metre-deep well was also unearthed, together with an entrance to another burial chamber magnificently ornamented with colourful inscriptions and dedicated to the goddess of heaven, Nut, who stretches her arms out to protect and embrace the deceased.
The discovery was made during excavations at the tomb of Djehuti, which was unearthed in 2003. Djehuti was a high official of Queen Hatshepsut, the powerful female pharaoh who ruled for 21 years from 1479 to 1458 BC. Zahi Hawass, Secretary-General of the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA), said that according to paintings found in the tomb, Djehuti played an important role during her reign, such as supervising the transfer of her obelisks from Aswan to Luxor.
The tomb was robbed in ancient times, and Dr Hawass believes that some of its contents, such as the coffin, the mummy and some canopic vessels, were burnt during the Third Intermediate Period (1081 – 725 B.C). The names of Djehuti and his parents on the upper part of the burial chamber were scratched but still can be read. The tomb was further robbed by treasure hunters in 1898 and 1899.
“Djehuti’s tomb is one of only four tombs of high state officials who wrote texts of the Book of the Dead on the walls of their burial chambers, as writing these texts was exclusive to kings and queens,” Mansour Briek, Supervisor of Luxor’s antiquities, said.


Spanish work
Last week the Egyptian and the Spanish Culture Ministers Farouk Hosni and César Antonio Molina opened an exhibition at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo that displays a collection of 136 pieces of antiquity unearthed by Spanish expeditions during the last 120 years.
Molina honoured Hawass by awarding him the Spanish Order for Arts and Letters in appreciation for his efforts in field of antiquities. The event was followed by a Spanish concert in the gardens of the Egyptian Museum.


Opening the Bent Pyramid
Dr Hawass, head of the SCA, has announced that travellers to Egypt will soon be able to explore the inner chambers of the 4,500-year-old Bent Pyramid, so-called for its oddly-shaped profile, and nearby ancient tombs.
The increased access to the Dahshur pyramids 50 miles south of Cairo is part of a new sustainable development campaign that Egypt hopes will attract more visitors but will also prevent some of the problems of urban sprawl that have plagued the famed pyramids of Giza.
Dr Hawass, said the chambers of the 330-foot-pyramid outside the village of Dahshur will be opened for the first time to tourists within the next month or two.
The Bent Pyramid is famous for its irregular shape. The massive sides rise at a steep angle but then abruptly taper off at a more shallow approach to the pyramid’s apex. Archaeologists believe the pyramid-builders changed their minds while constructing it out of fear that the whole structure might collapse because the sides were too steep.
The pyramid is entered through a cramped, 80-metre-long tunnel that opens into an immense vaulted chamber. From there, passageways lead to other rooms including one with beams of cedar wood believed to have been imported from ancient Lebanon.
Dr Hawass said archaeologists believe the burial chamber of Sneferu (2649 – 2609 BC), founder of the Fourth Dynasty and father of King Cheops, lies undiscovered inside the pyramid.
The inner chambers of the nearby Red Pyramid, also built by Sneferu, are already accessible to visitors. Dr Hawass said several other nearby pyramids, including one built by Amenhemhat II (who ruled Egypt during the Twelfth Dynasty from 1859 to1813 BC) which has an underground labyrinth, would also be open to the public within the next year.


Embalming bed
Egyptian archaeologists have recently discovered an ancient embalming bed in a tomb near Luxor. The bed was used to prepare bodies for mummification more than 3,000 years ago.
The wooden bed was painstakingly restored after being found in pieces, much of it inside a large clay jar, inside the KV-63 tomb in southern Egypt’s famous Valley of the Kings, next to Tutankhamun’s tomb, the Supreme Council of Antiquities said in a statement.
The bed, featuring carved heads of a lion and a lioness at its foot, slopes downwards five centimetres (two inches) from head to toe to help drain fluids from corpses being prepared for burial.
The organs were removed from the deceased as soon as possible after death, including the brain, which was thrown away as it was thought to serve no purpose in the afterlife. Other organs were cleansed, perfumed and preserved in canopic jars to be buried beside the mummy. Only the heart was left inside the body. The corpse then lay for 40 days on the bed for the draining of fluids, and another 15 days for bandaging.
Dr Hawass said in a statement that the 170-cm (68 inch)-long bed had been reconstructed from pieces of wood found scattered around tomb KV-63. The tomb was discovered by Egyptian and American archaeologists in 2006, and was the first to be found in the area in more than 80 years. It is believed to date from the Eighteenth Dynasty (1570 – 1304 BC), although there was no mummy found inside to enable the tomb to be dated more precisely.

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