Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Short Story: Princess Tomb

The recent discovery of the tomb of an ancient Egyptian princess from the Fifth Dynasty has opened a new chapter in the saga of the Abusir necropolis, says Nevine El-Aref.

An archaeological mission from the Czech Institute of Egyptology at the Charles University in Prague, who is carrying out routine excavations on the north side of the Abusir necropolis, 30km south of the Giza Plateau, has been taken by surprise with the discovery of an important rock-hewn tomb.

The tomb belonged to a Fifth-Dynasty princess named Sheretnebty, and alongside it were four tombs belonging to high–ranking officials. An era enclosed within a courtyard. The tombs had been robbed in antiquity and no mummies were found inside them.

According to the Czech mission’s archaeological report, a copy of which has been given to Al-Ahram Weekly, traces of the courtyard were first detected in 2010 while archaeologists were investigating a neighbouring mastaba (bench tomb). However, active exploration of the royal tomb was not undertaken until this year, when it was discovered that the ancient Egyptian builders used a natural depression in the bedrock to dig a four-metre-deep tomb almost hidden amidst the mastaba tombs constructed around it on higher ground. Four rock-hewn tombs were also unearthed within the courtyard surrounding the royal tomb.

The north and west walls of the princess’s tomb were cased with limestone blocks, while its south wall was cut in the bedrock. The east wall was also carved in limestone, along with the staircase and slabs descending from north to south. The courtyard of the tomb has four limestone pillars which originally supported architraves and roofing blocks. On the tomb’s south side are four pillars engraved with hieroglyphic inscriptions stating: “The king’s daughter of his body, his beloved, revered in front of the great god, Sheretnebty.”

Miroslav Barta, head of the Czech mission, says early investigations have revealed that the owner of the tomb was previously unknown, but that it most probably belonged to the family of a Fifth-Dynasty king. The preliminary date of the structure, based on the stratigraphy of the site and analysis of the name, Barta says, falls in the second half of the Fifth Dynasty. It is surprising that the tomb should not be located in Abusir south, among the tombs of non-royal officials, considering that most members of the Fifth-Dynasty royal family are buried 2km north of Abusir pyramid.

While digging inside Sheretnebty’s tomb, the Czech archaeologists found a corridor that contains the entrances to four rock-hewn tombs of top officials of the Fifth Dynasty. Barta says two tombs have been completely explored so far. The first belonged to the chief of justice of the great house, Shepespuptah, and the second to Duaptah, the inspector of the palace attendants. Both tombs probably date from the reign of King Djedkare Isesi.... READ MORE.

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