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Sarcophagus of Egyptian High Priest Unearthed with Hieroglyphic Inscriptions and Scenes of Offerings

Sarcophagus of Egyptian High Priest Unearthed with Hieroglyphic Inscriptions and Scenes of Offerings

The sarcophagus of a high priest of the ancient Egyptian god Amun Ra has been unearthed in Egypt. The well preserved sarcophagus, discovered by a team of archaeologists within the 3,400-year-old tomb of a Vizier of Eypgt, contains hieroglyphic inscriptions and depicts offerings to deities.

The sarcophagus itself belonged to Ankh-f-n-khonsu (Ankh-ef-en-Khonsu), high priest of the deity Amun Ra, “King of the Gods”. The coffin was located in the tomb of Amenhotep-Huy, High official, or Vizier of Ancient Egypt during the reign of Amenhotep III.

Amun Ra, ancient Eygyptian god, King of the gods and god of the wind. ( CC BY 3.0 )

The sarcophagus dates between 943 and 716 BC. The tomb it was found in, however, dates to between 1391 and 1353 BC, meaning the tomb was opened and reused more than 500 years after it was constructed.

Egyptian Antiquities Minister Mamdouh al Damaty announced the discovery yesterday, reports The Cairo Post . The Spanish Archaeological Mission of the Institute of Ancient Egypt found the coffin inside a pit covered with stones.

The sarcophagus in situ. Credit: Ministry of Antiquities, Egypt.

Coffin Hidden Among the Stones

Sultan Eid, Director of Upper Egypt Antiquities said in a recent statement, “The sarcophagus is made of wood and covered with a layer of plaster. It represents the deceased wearing a wig and crown with flowers and colorful ribbons along with ceremonial beard and a necklace adorning his chest.”

According to news site ANSAmed, hieroglyphic inscriptions have been found on the sarcophagus, as well as depictions of Ankh-f-n-khonsu making offerings to Anubis and Hathor. As well, the carved figure’s crossed hands are thought to hold two papyrus stems.

  • Tomb of Huy, ruler of Nubia under Tutankhamun, to be opened to the public
  • Two 3,500-year-old tombs adorned with vivid paintings unearthed in Egypt
  • Elaborately Painted Tomb for Nobleman and Amun Temple Guardian Uncovered in Luxor

“The Stele of Revealing.” A funerary tablet of Ankh-af-na-khonsu, a 26th dynasty (apx. 725 BC) Theban priest. Ankh-ef-en-Khonsu is the figure standing on the right.

Amenhotep-Huy and the Theban Necropolis

The tomb of Amenhotep-Huy at Qurnet Marei, within the Theban Necropolis, was discovered in 1978, and is famous for its spectacular wall paintings. It holds a court and a burial chamber.

Amenhotep, called Huy, was vizier and a viceroy of Nubia . The Lower Nubian Kush was a province of Egypt from the 16th century BC to 11th century BC. During this period, it was ruled by a viceroy who reported directly to the Egyptian Pharaoh.

Aly El-Asfar, head of the central administration of Upper Egypt, told Ahram Online last year,

“The images depict figures painted in Nubian attire walking behind a chariot driven by a light brown figure, a black rider painted in traditional Nubian garb, and pulled by a cow. Walking before the chariot are more Nubian figure. Hunting scenes similar to those found in Tutankhamun’s tomb are also depicted on walls as well as scenes showing Huy being greeted by high priests and among his family.”

Amenhotep Huy stands before Tutankhamen ( Public Domain )

Other scenes in the tomb feature female dancers and musicians.

The Theban Necropolis, on the west bank of the Nile River, was used for ritual burials for many elites – nobles, high officials and Pharaohs starting from the New Kingdom Period (1580 – 1080 BC) and continuing for over a thousand years.

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  • Archaeologists uncover 4,200-year-old Tombs of ancient Egyptian priests

Aerial view of the Theban Necropolis, Egypt. ( CC BY 3.0 )

According to a press release , the announcement of the discovery of the sarcophagus was made as the Antiquities Minister was visiting Luxor to begin scanning works within Tutankhamun’s tomb in search of a hidden chamber behind its walls.

Between recent claims by an Egyptologist asserting that a mummy found a century ago is really Nefertiti, and the upcoming revelations about possible hidden chamber s within tombs and pyramids, it’s a significant time for archaeology and discovery in Egypt.

Featured Image: Credit: Ministry of Antiquities, Egypt.

By: Liz Leafloor


The Silver Pharaoh

The royal tomb of Pharaoh Psusennes I is one of the most spectacular of all the ancient Egyptian treasures - even more remarkable than that of Tutankhamun. So why hasn't the world heard about it? What mysteries does it contain? And what does it reveal about ancient Egypt?

Tanis, Egypt, circa 1939. On the brink of World War II, an excavation team led by French archaeologist Pierre Montet unearthed an intact royal burial chamber containing treasures that rival the riches found in Tutankhamun’s tomb almost two decades before. But while the Tut discovery created an international sensation, the opening of the tomb in Tanis made barely a ripple in a world focused on impending war.

Now for the first time, we can examine this remarkable and long forgotten find. One of the most spectacular discoveries inside the crypt was the exquisite silver sarcophagus of Pharaoh Psusennes I, an, up till now, a previously little-known ruler who governed Egypt more than 3000 years ago during one of its most difficult periods. As far as we know, this is the only time a pharaoh’s mummy was entombed in silver. The story of the sepulcher and of this virtually unknown pharaoh helps fill in some of the gaps in ancient Egypt’s history.

After Montet made his discovery, he raced to get his family back to Europe before the outbreak of war and the treasures he found were transported to Cairo for safe-keeping. There, they remained vaulted and unstudied, until now. In the season premiere of THIRTEEN’s Secrets of the Dead, a team of Egyptologists decodes hieroglyphic clues and pieces together forensic evidence left behind by Psusennes I, whose lost legacy could rewrite Egyptian history. Narrated by actor Liev Schreiber (Salt and X-Men Origins: Wolverine), The Silver Pharaoh traces the recorded history of the relics and offers forensic analysis of the noble necropolis to reveal political intrigue, a lost city and a great leader who united a country in turmoil and come to be entombed as the Silver Pharaoh.

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“The Silver Pharaoh fills a missing link in Egyptian history,” says William R. Grant, THIRTEEN’s Director of Science, Natural History & Features Programs and series Executive Producer. “Equally compelling is the backstory of his discovery: that real-life drama unfolds like a thriller worthy of Hollywood plots. We’re excited to kick off new episodes of Secrets of the Dead with this archaeological adventure.”

The tomb of Psusennes I is being heralded by Egyptologists as one of the major artifacts of ancient Egypt. Montet discovered it almost by chance after his team excavated a raided tomb merely 10 yards away. The casket’s craftsmanship and riches inside the tomb suggested Psusennes was among the mightiest of kings. Yet, scholars knew little about his life and times. Now, recent research paints a portrait of a political mastermind.

Beyond the tomb’s precious possessions, it contains a wealth of archaeological evidence about Egypt’s enigmatic era known as the Third Intermediate Period. At that time, Egypt was a fractured kingdom divided between rival rulers of north and south. High priests seized power to command the southern region from Thebes while deposed pharaohs were exiled north to Tanis. Psusennes ruled from this province for an astounding 46 years. This was an impressive feat compared to Tutankhamun, whose reign lasted a decade. In fact, study of Psusennes’ skeleton showed a hardworking man who suffered a debilitating rheumatic disease but lived well into his eighties. His physical resilience contributed to his success as a great leader who eventually united Egypt.

Archaeologists were able to determine how Psusennes amassed his fortune and authority by decoding his cartouche, a royal seal stamped on the objects. The first clue was found on an ordinary silver dish. Marked on it was Psusennes’ signature along with a series of hieroglyphic inscriptions citing his titles. Surprisingly, he was not only a pharaoh but also a high priest. Additional investigation showed that he had his daughter marry his brother, a high priest in the south. In doing so, he cemented his family power and united the country. Furthermore, archeologists found another cartouche on his sarcophagus belonging to Merenptah, son of Rameses the Great. Merenptah died 150 years before Psusennes came into power. Research showed Psussenes was given Merenptah’s sarcophagus as a gift and had his signature added on it. This strategic act solidified his family’s association with historical greats for eternity.

Among the most extraordinary findings about Psusennes was his relocation of the metropolis of Pi-Ramesse to Tanis. Pi-Ramesse was the fabled riverside capital built by Rameses II. Its location had puzzled archaeologists for years until Montet discovered its ruins in Tanis. However, archaeologists began questioning Montet’s assumption since the river Nile often changed course. Using radar scans along a previously discounted delta settlement 12 miles from Tanis, they discovered the foundation of Rameses’ lost city. Historians knew that Pi-Ramesse became unlivable when the Nile became too silted at this location and around that same time, Psusennes took the throne ordering the city be moved stone by stone to Tanis. Only a king with matchless power and wealth could command such a colossal task.

The archaeological treasure trove found in Psusennes tomb provided a virtual window into an unstudied era in ancient Egypt’s past. The story of Psusennes offered a different version of his times. Instead of constant political upheaval, evidence showed a glorious era of supreme ruling. 3,000 years after the Silver Pharaoh’s death, we can finally fill in the gaps in Egyptian history and restore Psusennes legacy as one of the most powerful pharaohs.


Untouched and Unlooted 4,400-yr-old Tomb of Egyptian High Priest Discovered

Archaeologists in Egypt have made a new tomb discovery — the final resting place of a high priest, untouched for 4,400 years, decorated with hieroglyphics. The secretary-general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, Mostafa Waziri, described the find as “one of a kind in the last decades.”

The tomb was found buried in a ridge at the ancient necropolis of Saqqara. It was untouched and unlooted.

Officials say they expect more discoveries when archaeologists further excavate the site in the months to come.

The well-preserved tomb is decorated with scenes showing the royal priest alongside his mother, wife and other members of his family, the ministry said in a statement. Photo by Khaled DESOUKI / AFP/Getty Images

The high priest was devoted to his mother, evidence shows. “He mentions the name of his mother almost everywhere here,” said Waziri in an interview, pointing to the dozens of hieroglyphics, statues, and drawings.

“The color is almost intact even though the tomb is almost 4,400 years old,” he added.

The high priest “Wahtye” served during the Fifth Dynasty reign of King Neferirkare (between 2500-2300 BC), at the Saqqara necropolis in Egypt. In addition to the name of the deceased, hieroglyphs carved into the stone above the tomb’s door reveal his multiple titles.

Saqqara pyramid of Djoser in Egypt. Photo by Charles J Sharp CC BY-SA 3.0

The grave’s rectangular gallery is said to be covered in painted reliefs, sculptures, and inscriptions, all in excellent shape considering how much time has passed.

The reliefs depict Wahtye himself, his wife Weret Ptah, and his mother Merit Meen, as well as everyday activities that include hunting and sailing and manufacturing goods such as pottery, according to National Geographic.

The team of Egyptian archaeologists found five shafts in the tombs. They had removed a last layer of debris from the tomb on December 13, 2018, and found five shafts inside, Waziri said.

Pyramid of Djoser (Stepped pyramid), an archeological remain in the Saqqara necropolis, Egypt. UNESCO World Heritage

One of the shafts was unsealed with nothing inside, but the other four were sealed. They are expecting to make discoveries when they excavate those shafts. He was hopeful about one shaft in particular.

“I can imagine that all of the objects can be found in this area,” he said in an interview, pointing at one of the sealed shafts. “This shaft should lead to a coffin or a sarcophagus of the owner of the tomb.”

The tomb is 33 feet long, 9 feet wide, and just under 10 feet high, Waziri said.

This picture taken on December 15, 2018 shows a general view of a newly-discovered tomb belonging to the high priest ‘Wahtye’ who served during the 5th dynasty reign of King Neferirkare (between 2500-2300 BC), at the Saqqara necropolis, 30 kilometres south of the Egyptian capital Cairo. Photo by Khaled DESOUKI / AFP/Getty Images

Various drawings depict “the manufacturing of pottery and wine, making religious offering, musical performances, boats sailing, the manufacturing of the funerary furniture, and hunting,” according to the site Egypt Today. Also NPR is reporting that the Saqqara site is part of a larger complex where archaeologists have discovered art and architecture that yield insight into daily life in ancient Egypt.

The Fifth Dynasty ruled Egypt from about 2500 BC to 2350 BC, not long after the great pyramid of Giza was constructed.

Giza pyramids. Photo by Ricardo Liberato CC BY-SA 2.0

Saqqara served as the necropolis for Memphis, the capital of ancient Egypt for over 2 millennia.

Ancient Egyptians mummified humans to preserve their bodies for the afterlife, and animal mummies were used as religious offerings.

The rate of discoveries seems to be increasing. In November 2018, archaeologists unearthed eight new limestone sarcophagi containing mummies at a site that is 25 miles south of Cairo.

Egypt’s Antiquities Ministry said the mummies were dated to the Late Period (664-332 BC) and have an outer layer of cartonnage — papyrus or linen which is covered in plaster — decorated with a painted human form. Three of the mummies are well-preserved.

Images show the sarcophagus painted with the colors deep ochre and blue.

Moreover, days before the eight mummies were found, the perfectly-preserved mummy of a woman was found inside a coffin in Egypt dating back more than 3,000 years.

That sarcophagus was opened on November 24th, which was one of two coffins discovered in El-Assasif, Luxor, on the bank of the Nile.


Contents

Imhotep's historicity is confirmed by two contemporary inscriptions made during his lifetime on the base or pedestal of one of Djoser's statues (Cairo JE 49889) and also by a graffito on the enclosure wall surrounding Sekhemkhet's unfinished step pyramid. [14] [15] The latter inscription suggests that Imhotep outlived Djoser by a few years and went on to serve in the construction of Pharaoh Sekhemkhet's pyramid, which was abandoned due to this ruler's brief reign. [14]

Architecture and engineering Edit

Imhotep was one of the chief officials of the Pharaoh Djoser. Concurring with much later legends, egyptologists credit him with the design and construction of the Pyramid of Djoser, a step pyramid at Saqqara built during the 3rd Dynasty. [16] He may also have been responsible for the first known use of stone columns to support a building. [17] Despite these later attestations, the pharaonic Egyptians themselves never credited Imhotep as the designer of the stepped pyramid, nor with the invention of stone architecture. [18]

God of medicine Edit

Two thousand years after his death, Imhotep's status had risen to that of a god of medicine and healing. Eventually, Imhotep was equated with Thoth, the god of architecture, mathematics, and medicine, and patron of scribes: Imhotep's cult was merged with that of his own former tutelary god.

He was revered in the region of Thebes as the "brother" of Amenhotep, son of Hapu – another deified architect – in the temples dedicated to Thoth. [19] [20] ( v3, p104 ) Because of his association with health, the Greeks equated Imhotep with Asklepios, their own god of health who also was a deified mortal. [21]

According to myth, Imhotep's mother was a mortal named Kheredu-ankh, she too being eventually revered as a demi-goddess as the daughter of Banebdjedet. [22] Alternatively, since Imhotep was known as the "Son of Ptah", [20] ( v?, p106 ) [ volume & issue needed ] his mother was sometimes claimed to be Sekhmet, the patron of Upper Egypt whose consort was Ptah.

Post-Alexander period Edit

The Upper Egyptian Famine Stela, which dates from the Ptolemaic period (305–30 BCE), bears an inscription containing a legend about a famine lasting seven years during the reign of Djoser. Imhotep is credited with having been instrumental in ending it. One of his priests explained the connection between the god Khnum and the rise of the Nile to the Pharaoh, who then had a dream in which the Nile god spoke to him, promising to end the drought. [23]

A demotic papyrus from the temple of Tebtunis, dating to the 2nd century CE, preserves a long story about Imhotep. [24] The Pharaoh Djoser plays a prominent role in the story, which also mentions Imhotep's family his father the god Ptah, his mother Khereduankh, and his younger sister Renpetneferet. At one point Djoser desires Renpetneferet, and Imhotep disguises himself and tries to rescue her. The text also refers to the royal tomb of Djoser. Part of the legend includes an anachronistic battle between the Old Kingdom and the Assyrian armies where Imhotep fights an Assyrian sorceress in a duel of magic. [25]

As an instigator of Egyptian culture, Imhotep's idealized image lasted well into the Roman period. In the Ptolemaic period, the Egyptian priest and historian Manetho credited him with inventing the method of a stone-dressed building during Djoser's reign, though he was not the first to actually build with stone. Stone walling, flooring, lintels, and jambs had appeared sporadically during the Archaic Period, though it is true that a building of the size of the step pyramid made entirely out of stone had never before been constructed. Before Djoser, Pharaohs were buried in mastaba tombs.

Medicine Edit

Egyptologist James Peter Allen states that "The Greeks equated him with their own god of medicine, Asklepios. [26] [27] [28]

Imhotep is the antagonistic title character of Universal's 1932 film The Mummy [29] and its 1999 remake, along with a sequel to the remake. [30]


Tomb Robbing in Ancient Egypt

The tombs of the great kings and nobles of Egypt were built to safeguard the corpse and possessions of the deceased for eternity and yet, while many have endured for thousands of years, their contents often disappeared relatively quickly. Tomb robbing in ancient Egypt was recognized as a serious problem as early as the Early Dynastic Period (c. 3150 - c. 2613 BCE) in the construction of the pyramid complex of Djoser (c. 2670 BCE). The burial chamber was purposefully located, and the chambers and hallways of the tomb filled with debris, to prevent theft, but even so, the tomb was broken into and looted even the king's mummy was taken.

This same paradigm can be seen in the construction of the pyramids at Giza during the Old Kingdom of Egypt (c. 2613 – 2181 BCE) and with the same results. Although the Great Pyramid and the others still stand, none of the treasures buried with the kings of the 4th Dynasty – Khufu, Khafre, and Menkaure – have been found in the structures and neither were any of the bodies. Execration texts (curses) on the doors and lintels of tombs were supposed to prevent such thefts, and the Egyptian belief in a life after death – from which the dead could interact with the living – should have encouraged greater respect and fear of a haunting in would-be thieves but, evidently, neither were strong enough incentives to curb the temptation of easy riches with little risk. Egyptologist David P. Silverman writes:

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It was no secret that, as the burial process grew more elaborate, so did the value of the grave goods interred with both royal and non-royal mummies. Gilded coffins, amulets of precious stones, exotic imported artifacts all proved too tempting for thieves. When embalmers began to include protective amulets, precious stones, gold, or silver within the mummy wrappings, even the deceased's corpse came under threat. Robbers probably attacked royal tombs soon after the king's funeral, and there is evidence of corruption among the necropolis employees charged with protecting the tombs. (196)

By the time of the New Kingdom of Egypt (c. 1570 - c. 1069 BCE) the problem had grown so severe that Amenhotep I (c. 1541-1520 BCE) commissioned a special village to be constructed near Thebes with easy access to a new royal necropolis, which would be more secure. This new burial place is known today as the Valley of the Kings and the nearby Valley of the Queens and the village is Deir el-Medina. They were located outside of Thebes in the desert – far from easy access – and the village was intentionally isolated from the Theban community at large, but even these measures would not be enough to protect the tombs.

The Wealth of the Kings

The most famous tomb from ancient Egypt is that of the New Kingdom pharaoh Tutankhamun (1336-1327 BCE) which was discovered by Howard Carter in 1922 CE. The wealth of Tutankhamun's tomb is estimated at around three-quarters of a billion dollars. His golden coffin alone is appraised at $13 million. Tutankhamun died before the age of 20 and had not yet amassed the kinds of riches great kings like Khufu or Thutmose III or Seti I or Ramesses II would have had. The riches buried with a king like Khufu would have been far greater and more opulent than anything in Tutankhamun's tomb.

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The only reason Tutankhamun's tomb remained relatively intact (it was actually broken into twice in antiquity and robbed) was that it was accidentally buried by the ancient workers who built the tomb of Ramesses VI (1145-1137 BCE) nearby. Exactly how this would have happened is unknown but somehow the workers on that tomb buried the earlier one without a trace and so preserved it until the 20th century CE when Carter found it. Most tombs, however, were not so lucky and almost all were looted to one degree or another.

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Egypt was a cashless society until the coming of the Persians in 525 BCE, and so the wealth looted from the tombs would not have been exchanged for money nor could it have been used in trade. One could not simply walk into the marketplace with a golden scepter, for example, and trade it for some sacks of grain because stolen goods were supposed to be reported immediately to the authorities. If someone were to accept a stolen item in trade then that person would be burdened with the task of somehow disposing of it and hope to make a profit. Most likely, the stolen items were fenced to a higher (corrupt) official, who would have paid for it in material goods and then had the gold melted down to some other form and traded it for goods or services to an artisan.

The difficulty in controlling tomb robberies was simply that the wealth entombed with the deceased was so vast and the officials tasked with keeping them safe could so easily be bought. Even if a tomb were designed to disorient a thief and the burial chamber were located deep within the earth and blocked by rubble, there was always some way around these obstacles for the resourceful thief. The location of the tombs was also quite well advertised as they either had enormous pyramids rising above them or more modest, but still elaborate, mastabas. If one were looking for quick gain then one need look no further than looting a tomb in the middle of the night.

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The Place of Truth

It was largely for this reason that Amenhotep I commissioned the village known today as Deir el-Medina. Originally referenced in official documents as Set-Ma'at (The Place of Truth), Deir el-Medina and the nearby necropolises were supposed to solve the problem of tomb theft once and for all. The workers of the village would create the tombs and protect their creation and, since they relied on the state for their wages and homes, they would be loyal and discreet regarding the location of the tombs and the amount of treasure to be found within.

Although this paradigm may have worked in the early days of the community, it did not endure. Deir el-Medina was not a self-sufficient village – it had neither agricultural development nor a water supply – and relied on monthly deliveries of supplies in payment from Thebes and daily import of water from the Nile. These supplies were largely standardized, not luxurious, and did not always arrive on time. The citizens of the village made their own crafts and bartered with each other, but the temptation to take treasure from a tomb, walk the hour or so to Thebes, and exchange it for some luxury proved too great for some of the workers. Those who were supposed to protect the tombs used the same tools they had built them with to break in and rob them.

The living/working relationship at Deir el-Medina worsened c. 1156 BCE during the reign of Ramesses III when the monthly shipments were first late and then stopped arriving completely. These were not luxuries or bonuses but the wages of the workers – paid in food, supplies, and beer – which they needed to live. The failure of the supply system led to the first labor strike in history when the workers put down their tools, walked off the job, and marched on Thebes to demand their pay.

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Although the strike was effective and the villagers received their wages, the underlying problem of making sure supplies reached the village was never addressed. Payments to Deir el-Medina would be late again and again throughout the rest of the period of the New Kingdom of Egypt as the central government steadily lost power and the bureaucracy which maintained it fell apart.

Tomb Robber's Confession

In this climate, many more people turned to tomb robbing as a living. In spite of the accepted belief in an afterlife and the power of execration texts which guaranteed a bad end for anyone who robbed a tomb, the activity went on with greater frequency than before. Silverman writes:

Criminals convicted in the late Ramesside Period (c. 1120 BCE) testified to the theft of objects from tombs, the looting of precious metals from coffins and mummies, and the destruction of royal corpses. Other texts record carousing on royal burial equipment and blasphemous activity by individuals. Such behavior suggests that at least part of the population had little fear of repercussions in this world or from the gods in the next. (111)

Confessions from criminals convicted of tomb robbing multiply toward the end of the New Kingdom. The courts seem to have dealt with these cases on an almost daily basis. The Mayer Papyri (c. 1108 BCE) records a number of cases detailing how those caught desecrating and robbing tombs were "tortured at the examination on their feet and their hands to make them tell the way they had done exactly" (Lewis, 257). Testimonies are recorded by police officers and chiefs regarding the suspects and how they were caught. Punishments are most often recorded as beatings with a rod (bastinade) on the soles of the feet and flogging but could be as severe as amputation of the hands and nose or even death by impalement or burning.

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These punishments were still no deterrent. The confession of one man named Amenpanufer, a mason at Deir el-Medina, describes how the tombs were robbed and also how easy it was to escape punishment if arrested and return to one's comrades to rob again. His confession is dated c. 1110 BCE:

We went to rob the tombs as is our usual habit and we found the pyramid tomb of King Sobekemsaf, this tomb being unlike the pyramids and tombs of the nobles which we usually rob. We took our copper tools and forced a way into the pyramid of this king through its innermost part. We located the underground chambers and, taking lighted candles in our hands, went down.

We found the god lying at the back of his burial place. And we found the burial place of Queen Nubkhaas, his consort, beside him, it being protected and guarded by plaster and covered with rubble.

We opened their sarcophagi and their coffins, and found the noble mummy of the king equipped with a sword. There were a large number of amulets and jewels of gold on his neck and he wore a headpiece of gold. The noble mummy of the king was completely covered in gold and his coffins were decorated with gold and with silver inside and out and inlaid with precious stones. We collected the gold that we found on the mummy of the god including the amulets and jewels which were on his neck. We set fire to their coffins.

After some days, the district officers of Thebes heard that we had been robbing in the west and they arrested me and imprisoned me in the office of the mayor of Thebes. I took the twenty deben of gold that represented my share and I gave them to Khaemope, the district scribe of the landing quay of Thebes. He released me and I rejoined my colleagues and they compensated me with a share again. And so I got into the habit of robbing the tombs. (Lewis, 256-257)

The tone of Amenpanufer's confession is quite comfortable as though he has nothing to fear. His claim that he paid the district scribe may be interpreted as a fine but most scholars recognize it as a bribe since this practice was quite common. The fate of Amenpanufer after his confession is unknown. The deben he mentions was the monetary unit of worth in ancient Egypt prior to the introduction of a cash economy c. 525 BCE by the Persians and the god mentioned in the tomb of Sobekemsaf would have been the king's personal deity who watched over him in the same way the golden statues of Isis, Nephthys, Neith, and Serket were placed in Tutankhamun's tomb.

The complete lack of regard Amenpanufer shows in recounting the tomb's looting, including the burning of the elaborate coffins, shows how little these tomb robbers cared about repercussions from the afterlife and the ease with which he found his freedom exemplifies why tomb robbing became such a popular way to make a living: if one had enough gold from the heist, one could buy one's self out of jail, be reimbursed by one's comrades, and go back to business as usual.

Conclusion

In spite of their best efforts, the authorities of ancient Egypt never were able to resolve the problem of tomb robbing. Their best effort, Deir el-Medina, started to fail even before the decline of the New Kingdom and their earlier efforts were clearly unsuccessful otherwise, there would have been no reason to construct the village and new necropolises.

Although some scholars have pointed to a decline in religious belief during the Middle Kingdom of Egypt (2040-1782 BCE) as a reason for the increase in tomb robbing, this claim is untenable. The evidence for a lack of religious belief in the Middle Kingdom comes from literary works, not inscriptions or official records, and can be interpreted in a number of different ways. Further, as noted, the problem of tomb robbers existed long before the Middle Kingdom.

Ancient Egyptians robbed the tombs of the wealthy for many of the same reasons people rob others in the present day: excitement, money, and a kind of empowerment in taking what one does not own. The argument that these people should have behaved better considering their belief system also does not hold up since it seems quite clear that many people, throughout history, may profess a belief they cannot live. All of the threats and all of the promises of punishment in the afterlife and terrible hauntings in this one could not deter anyone when, given the chance, they could break into a tomb and walk back out with a king's treasure.


Egypt’s Crowning Glory

Like some 24-carat Band-Aid, the finely worked gold plaque, inscribed with animal-headed gods and a giant eye, once covered an incision in the abdomen of Psusennes I of Egypt’s 21st Dynasty. Through the cut 3,000 years ago, embalmers removed the pharaoh’s internal organs for safekeeping the king would need them again in the afterlife. The plaque’s mysterious eye certified that no evil spirits had entered the pharaoh’s body.

When found in 1939, the mummy of the dead king, who reigned from 1039-991 B.C., was fairly heaped with such amulets—bangles, armbands, rings, and a fabulous pectoral of gleaming gold, turquoise and lapis lazuli. Even his toes were protected by thimbles of gold. For good measure, the mummy lay in a silver coffin, inscribed with hieroglyphic texts of protective spells, inside a basalt coffin that, in turn, was sealed in an immense red-granite sarcophagus.

Egyptian art was always both beautiful and, in a magical sense, useful. These dual characteristics are the hallmarks of a gorgeous five-year traveling exhibition now on view through September 14 at the KimbellArt Museum in Fort Worth, Texas. Psusennes’ plaque, pectoral and “toe stalls,” as the gold thimbles are called, are among 115 objects on loan from the government of Egypt for “The Quest for Immortality: Treasures of Ancient Egypt,” which opened last summer at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. and travels from Fort Worth to the New Orleans Museum of Art, where it will be from October 19 through February 25, 2004. Nearly all the objects in the show come from the EgyptianMuseum in Cairo, which recently celebrated its centennial. The new exhibition is twice the size of the 1976 blockbuster of Egyptian art, “Treasures of Tutankhamun,” also loaned from the Cairo museum.

“The Quest for Immortality” focuses largely on the New Kingdom (1550-1069 B.C.), Egypt’s grand imperial age. Beginning with the 18th Dynasty, this 500-year span was the era of ancient Egypt’s greatest wealth and power, when the empire’s army dominated a territory stretching from Syria to Sudan. The heart of the kingdom was Thebes, now Luxor, 400 miles up the Nile from the old capital of Memphis, now Cairo. Tribute from neighbors who chose not to fight, and spoils of war from those who did (and invariably lost), flowed into Egypt and its cosmopolitan new capital. The booty enriched the pharaohs, their courtiers, and the temples and priests of Amun, who became the nation’s central deity.

The New Kingdom’s affluent and fashion-conscious elite were probably history’s first leisure class. A highlight of the show is a late 18th-Dynasty limestone statue (c. 1336-1323 B.C.) of the wife—her name is lost to history—of the renowned General Nakhtmin. With the eyes and cheekbones of a fashion model, the young woman wears a formfitting dress of pleated linen and an enormous wig with cascades of individually crimped braids ending in tassels (p. 57). Like most of the objects in the show, the sculpture was found in a tomb—in this case, the couple’s—where placing images of the deceased was a pious act.

“People started preparing for the next world as soon as they could afford to,” says the show’s curator, Betsy Bryan, who chairs the Near Eastern Studies department at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. “They bought coffins, statues, you name it, from the time they were young marrieds, and stored them in their homes. When they invited people over, everybody knew exactly what they had and how good the quality was.” The New Kingdom elite could have it both ways: behaving devoutly while consuming conspicuously.

Because so much of the finery we know from ancient Egypt came from tombs, it’s hard to say what was worn in life and what was designed only for the crypt. Either way, jewelry and cosmetics were imbued with magical powers. The exhibition includes a gold bracelet (c. 1550-1525 B.C.), inlaid with precious stones and shaped like a vulture, that was found on the mummy of Queen Ahhotep, mother of New Kingdom founder King Ahmose. Inside her gilded wooden coffin, and probably in life as well, Ahhotep wore the bracelet, Bryan says, to identify herself with the great sky goddesses, such as Nekhbet and Nut, who took the form of vultures spreading their wings across the sky to provide a path for the sun to follow on its daily travels. Like the jackal-headed god Anubis, Nekhbet was a protector of the dead. Thus animals that normally preyed on corpses became, in the Egyptian pantheon, their guardians.

Some adornments were clearly designed strictly for the tomb. Aheavy plaque of hammered gold from around 1000 B.C. depicting the winged goddess Maat was probably once affixed to a royal mummy.Areassuring symbol of harmony and natural order, Maat accompanied the sun on its daily cycle, hence the sun above her head. Egyptians believed the goddess would make their passage through the afterworld as smooth and predictable as the daily sunrise. Amore ostentatious example of funerary gold is the mummy mask of Wenudjebauendjed, a courtier in the reign of Psusennes I (p. 50). To ancient Egyptians, gold, luminous as the sun, was the “flesh of the gods.”

Something more than masks and amulets, however, was needed to protect the flesh of the deceased from decay. Egyptian embalmers worked for 70 carefully scripted days to prepare a mummy. “First, by means of a bent iron instrument inserted through the nostrils they extract the brains,” a fascinated eyewitness, the Greek historian Herodotus, wrote in the fifth century B.C. The body was cleaned out, dried in a bed of natron salts, and carefully groomed. By the 19th Dynasty, the lungs, stomach, liver and intestines of royalty were mummified separately, then sealed in jars the heart, believed to be the seat of thought and action, stayed put. Embalmers charged different rates for different levels of service. Adeluxe mummification could involve artificial eyes and hair extensions. For the poor, the body was simply allowed to dry out, then swaddled in linen bandages.

Egyptians pictured the deceased’s destination as a NileValley with taller crops, easier work and unlimited beer. “Being dead was just one of the modes of existence, but a finer one,” says Lawrence Berman, curator of ancient Egyptian, Nubian and Near Eastern art at Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts. “You were more perfect when you were dead. After you were mummified, you had a stronger, better body.”

Being literal-minded about the afterlife, both royalty and commoners arranged to cram their tombs with as many household objects as possible: food, drink, linen, cosmetics, mirrors, even toys and board games. Tomb food could be a fresh-killed duck, a picture or hieroglyph of a duck, a container shaped like a duck, or a mummified duck. Servants, as essential in the afterlife as before it, were represented in royal tombs by small funerary statues known as ushebtis.

Underground tombs were sealed after a funeral, but ground-level offering chapels remained open to mourners, pilgrims and even early tourists, who came to admire the surroundings and say prayers. Families of the dead could contract with priests to deliver meals to the chapel to sustain the departed. “The food would be offered up symbolically to the image of the deceased, who would sort of inhale it magically,” says Berman. “Then the priests would consume it themselves.” In a land without coinage, offerings were a priest’s wages.

To curry favor with the gods, many Egyptians commissioned statues attesting to their piety to be placed in prominent temples. One such object features a pair of well fed crocodiles and an official in a prayerful pose. It was found in the temple of Sobek, the crocodile deity. Priests there may even have bred live crocodiles for ritual use. By the Ptolemaic period, which began in the fourth century B.C., visitors eager to please feline deities, such as Bastet and Sakhmet, paid to have mummified cats (some in small bronze coffins) placed in temples honoring the cat gods. The temples’ priests were savvy fund-raisers. To meet demand, they bred, slaughtered and embalmed kittens by the thousands.

Egypt’s dizzyingly complex religious rites were based on a cycle of death and rebirth. Re, the sun god, it was believed, died each night only to be reborn each morning. When mortals died, whether noble or common, they joined Re on his nocturnal journey through the underworld at dawn, if all went well, they emerged immortal. Pharaohs, unlike commoners and most nobles, made the trip every night as a fully divine member of the sun-boat’s crew. The cycle was like so much of life in Egypt, from the annual flooding of the Nile to the ripening of fruits and grains each winter. Rebirth was not reincarnation, however. The god of the underworld, Osiris (supposedly the first Egyptian king to be mummified), was always portrayed in Egyptian art as a mummiform deity. Although he would be reborn each day at dawn, in portrayals he remained wrapped as tightly as a man in a full body cast.

Egyptians imagined their own mummification as a temporary phase before immortality, but the various books of the dead didn’t spell out precisely how long the bandages stayed on. According to one text, the magical journey through the night could take as long as several earthly lifetimes. But although a mummy’s body was tightly confined, its soul, at least, was mobile. Astone carving from the tomb of a royal scribe during the New Kingdom shows a human-headed bird perched on a mummy’s bier, gazing beseechingly at its master, like a forlorn pet. The bird represents the ba, a facet of the mummy’s soul. Each day, it was thought, the ba would fly up the burial shaft and out into the sunlit world. At sunset, it would return to spend the night perched by the mummy. In this way, the ba-bird kept its master in touch with the world.

Areigning pharaoh was the closest thing to a divinity on earth Egyptians referred to living pharaoh as a “young god”—an intermediary between them and their all-powerful deities. For their part, rulers lavished the Theban temples with offerings—of gold, silver, slaves and more—to thank the gods for their own good fortune.

The ambitious Queen Hatshepsut, who was particularly extravagant in her offerings, had good reason to be thankful. She was both Thutmose II’s principal wife and, as a daughter of Thutmose I, his half sister. (Incest was common in Egyptian royal families it simplified lines of succession.) After her husband’s death in 1479 B.C., Hatshepsut elbowed aside her young stepson-nephew, Thutmose III, to become pharaoh in her own right, although during her nearly 15-year reign, she was officially his co-regent. She justified the power play in inscriptions carved in her enormous, multi-terraced mortuary temple near Thebes. The god Amun had not only chosen her to be the next pharaoh, she declared, but had also impregnated her mother, Queen Ahmose, years before to effect her divine birth.

Hatshepsut erected obelisks at the temple of Karnak to honor Amun and covered them with precious electrum, a mixture of gold and silver. “I measured it by the gallon like sacks of grain,” she asserted in an inscription on the base. “Not shall he who hears it say, ‘It is a boast,’ what I have said. Rather say, ‘How like her it is. She is devoted to her father!’ ” —meaning the god Amun, not King Thutmose I.

By the time his imperious stepmother died, circa 1458 B.C., Thutmose III was in his 20s. He ordered her self-serving inscriptions covered up or hacked away, along with any appearance of her name or image, and he set about building a new series of obelisks detailing his own divine birth. (Among them are the misnamed Cleopatra’s Needle, now in London, and monuments in New York City’s Central Park and Istanbul’s Hippodrome.) Apainted relief (above, right) in the exhibition shows Thutmose and his otherworldly father, Amun, nose to nose like twins. This time, however, it’s the god who’s been all but obliterated—a victim of King Akhenaten, whose short-lived campaign a century later for a new central deity, Aten, led to widespread defacement of Amun’s image.

Thutmose III, who stood just 5 feet 2 inches tall to judge from his mummy, mounted at least 14 foreign military campaigns, some of which he led personally, all of which he won. His military exploits were recorded by contemporaries, including a lengthy account carved into rock walls at Karnak. There are tales of his soldiers hiding in baskets delivered to an enemy city, of his ordering a fleet of boats hauled 250 miles overland by oxen for a surprise raid across the Euphrates on the Mittani Empire, and of a victorious elephant hunt afterward. A painted fragment portraying Thutmose’s royal bark shows a hull decorated with two scenes of the king: one as a warrior smiting an Asiatic, the other as a sphinx trampling a Nubian. Pharaohs returning from battle sometimes heaved into port with the bodies of vanquished princes dangling from the bows. By all accounts, Thutmose was more compassionate. He neither enslaved enemy chiefs nor massacred their subjects, preferring to bring foreign princes into line by taking their sons hostage and raising them as loyal Egyptians.

His heroic achievements notwithstanding, Thutmose wanted to make sure his passage to the next world went smoothly. To that end, he had the walls of his burial chamber painted with a minutely illustrated, hour-by-hour guide—the Amduat—for his posthumous nightly journey through the underworld with the sun god Re. Every obstacle on the route is meticulously labeled. In ancient Egypt, to name a thing was to master it.

Despite his painstaking preparations, however, Thutmose III’s afterlife was not happy. His tomb, once probably far richer than Tutankhamun’s, was plundered in antiquity. When archaeologists discovered it in the Valley of the Kings in 1898, about all that was left was a wooden statue of the king, a beautifully modeled leopard on the prowl, and the royal sarcophagus, empty. Thutmose’s tattered mummy had turned up a few years earlier, in 1881 it had been hidden by priests some time after the New Kingdom in an underground cache not far away, stacked with dozens of other royal mummies. Thutmose’s had a large hole hacked in its chest (most likely by an impatient jewelry thief).

Fortunately, the enchanting Amduat on the walls of his tomb fared better and has been exactingly reproduced, blemishes and all, in a life-size replica of the king’s 50-by-29-by-10-foot burial chamber for the current exhibition. “Other than the fact that the tomb in the show is air-conditioned and the one in the Valley of the Kings is about 120 degrees, you can’t tell them apart,” says Mark Leithauser, the National Gallery’s design director.

With its almost cartoonish combination of stick figures and red and black text, Thutmose III’s Amduat is unlike the careful hieroglyphics we’re used to seeing carved in stone. Later in the New Kingdom, as funerary texts became more common in tombs of any citizen of means, pharaohs insisted upon elaborate, full-color Amduats.

In Thutmose’s Amduat, the deceased king travels as one with Re on a perilous boat trip through the 12 symbolic hours of night. In hour four, the river of the underworld dries up, and the boat becomes a snake, the better to slither over sand. In hour seven, helpful deities decapitate Re’s enemies and, four hours later, toss their body parts into flaming pits. At dawn, acclaimed by a crowd of deities (the Amduat includes more than 700), a scarab, symbol of regeneration, nudges the sun out of the underworld toward the arms of Shu, god of the air. Anew day begins a dead pharaoh is reborn.

Indeed, to judge from today’s enduring fascination with ancient Egypt and the superb art it created to put the next world in reach, Thutmose III and the other mighty New Kingdom pharaohs are enjoying something very much like eternal life after all.


Untouched and Unlooted 4,400-yr-old Tomb of Egyptian High Priest Discovered

Archaeologists in Egypt have made a new tomb discovery — the final resting place of a high priest, untouched for 4,400 years, decorated with hieroglyphics. The secretary-general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, Mostafa Waziri, described the find as “one of a kind in the last decades.”

The tomb was found buried in a ridge at the ancient necropolis of Saqqara. It was untouched and unlooted.

The well-preserved tomb is decorated with scenes showing the royal priest alongside his mother, wife and other members of his family, the ministry said in a statement. Photo by Khaled DESOUKI / AFP/Getty Images

The high priest was devoted to his mother, evidence shows. “He mentions the name of his mother almost everywhere here,” said Waziri in an interview, pointing to the dozens of hieroglyphics, statues, and drawings.

“The color is almost intact even though the tomb is almost 4,400 years old,” he added.

The high priest “Wahtye” served during the Fifth Dynasty reign of King Neferirkare (between 2500-2300 BC), at the Saqqara necropolis in Egypt. In addition to the name of the deceased, hieroglyphs carved into the stone above the tomb’s door reveal his multiple titles.

Saqqara pyramid of Djoser in Egypt. Photo by Charles J Sharp CC BY-SA 3.0

The grave’s rectangular gallery is said to be covered in painted reliefs, sculptures, and inscriptions, all in excellent shape considering how much time has passed.

The reliefs depict Wahtye himself, his wife Weret Ptah, and his mother Merit Meen, as well as everyday activities that include hunting and sailing and manufacturing goods such as pottery, according to National Geographic.

The team of Egyptian archaeologists found five shafts in the tombs. They had removed a last layer of debris from the tomb on December 13, 2018, and found five shafts inside, Waziri said.

Pyramid of Djoser (Stepped pyramid), an archeological remain in the Saqqara necropolis, Egypt. UNESCO World Heritage

One of the shafts was unsealed with nothing inside, but the other four were sealed. They are expecting to make discoveries when they excavate those shafts. He was hopeful about one shaft in particular.

“I can imagine that all of the objects can be found in this area,” he said in an interview, pointing at one of the sealed shafts. “This shaft should lead to a coffin or a sarcophagus of the owner of the tomb.”

The tomb is 33 feet long, 9 feet wide, and just under 10 feet high, Waziri said.

This picture taken on December 15, 2018 shows a general view of a newly-discovered tomb belonging to the high priest ‘Wahtye’ who served during the 5th dynasty reign of King Neferirkare (between 2500-2300 BC), at the Saqqara necropolis, 30 kilometres south of the Egyptian capital Cairo. Photo by Khaled DESOUKI / AFP/Getty Images

Various drawings depict “the manufacturing of pottery and wine, making religious offering, musical performances, boats sailing, the manufacturing of the funerary furniture, and hunting,” according to the site Egypt Today. Also NPR is reporting that the Saqqara site is part of a larger complex where archaeologists have discovered art and architecture that yield insight into daily life in ancient Egypt.

The Fifth Dynasty ruled Egypt from about 2500 BC to 2350 BC, not long after the great pyramid of Giza was constructed.

Giza pyramids. Photo by Ricardo Liberato CC BY-SA 2.0

Saqqara served as the necropolis for Memphis, the capital of ancient Egypt for over 2 millennia.

Ancient Egyptians mummified humans to preserve their bodies for the afterlife, and animal mummies were used as religious offerings.

The rate of discoveries seems to be increasing. In November 2018, archaeologists unearthed eight new limestone sarcophagi containing mummies at a site that is 25 miles south of Cairo.

Egypt’s Antiquities Ministry said the mummies were dated to the Late Period (664-332 BC) and have an outer layer of cartonnage — papyrus or linen which is covered in plaster — decorated with a painted human form. Three of the mummies are well-preserved.

Egypt discovers untouched tomb in the ancient necropolis of Saqqara

The tomb dates back to the Fifth Dynasty of the Old Kingdom…. READ MORE : http://www.euronews.com/2018/12/15/egypt-discovers-untouched-tomb-in-the-ancient-necropolis-of-saqqara What are the top stories today? Click to watch: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLSyY1udCyYqBeDOz400FlseNGNqReKkFd euronews: the most watched news channel in Europe Subscribe!

Images show the sarcophagus painted with the colors deep ochre and blue.

Moreover, days before the eight mummies were found, the perfectly-preserved mummy of a woman was found inside a coffin in Egypt dating back more than 3,000 years.

That sarcophagus was opened on November 24th, which was one of two coffins discovered in El-Assasif, Luxor, on the bank of the Nile.


The Great Pyramid as tomb

10 Friday Feb 2012

Probably no monument of ancient Egypt has been so intensively poked, prodded, explored, researched, and published as the Great Pyramid. Similarly, among fringe circles, no monument of ancient Egypt has suffered so many bizarre speculations as the Great Pyramid: from the landing site of alien spacecraft championed by Zecharia Sitchin (1980) to a giant psi-org energy plant posited by Moustafa Gadalla (2003). Other decidedly odd fringe arguments for the Great Pyramid include a colossal water pump and nuclear reactor. Fringe themes range far and wide, but in the end none of them stands up to scrutiny.

Among many in the fringe camp, the Great Pyramid is stated emphatically not to have been a tomb. Fringe adherents will put forth numerous examples for why this is so, but such arguments also fall in the face of scrutiny. One of the chief problems with the fringe position is the tendency to pull the Great Pyramid out of context, as though it somehow stands alone, unrelated, in the span and breadth of pharaonic Egypt. This dooms the fringe stance from the start.

I would like to relate some points in the orthodox position that makes it clear the Great Pyramid was a tomb. This article is not about how the pyramid was built, which is another debate altogether. I will discuss evidence relating only to the pyramid’s purpose as a royal burial.

Provenance & Attestation

To begin, we need to establish a couple of things: when the Great Pyramid was built and for whom it was built. Both points are often called into question by fringe adherents. A common fringe theme is that the Great Pyramid was built by a lost civilization on the order of 10,000 or more years ago. However, on two separate occasions, in 1984 and 1995, numerous monuments dating to the Old Kingdom and Middle Kingdom were subjected to extensive carbon dating more than 450 organic samples were extracted for analysis (Bonani et al 2001: 1297). More than forty samples were extracted from the Great Pyramid alone–principally from mortar in many different spots all over the monument. The orthodox date for the Great Pyramid is generally 2500 BCE, and the carbon dating has established that the Great Pyramid might have been erected a little earlier (c. 2604 BCE) but no more than around 150 years earlier than conventionally thought (ibid: 1315).

Naturally, when presented with this science, fringe adherents typically resort to such statements as: “Well, the dating is wrong because C14 is not reliable.” This statement itself is wrong. By this point in time C14 dating has become a highly accurate and reliable method for dating most anything organic up to about 50,000 years old. Indeed, all such a statement shows is the fringe’s inability to learn about the science or to deal with it in realistic terms.

As mentioned, also questioned by the fringe is the fact that the Great Pyramid was erected for King Khufu, in Dynasty 4 (conventionally spanning 2597-2471 BCE). Khufu is believed to have reigned between 2547 to 2524 BCE. The carbon dating might be telling us he lived somewhat earlier, but the fringe camp argues that the Great Pyramid bears no inscriptions proving the pyramid was built for Khufu. This is incorrect. There is ample graffiti in the sets of relieving chambers above the King’s Chamber that prove the Great Pyramid was built for Khufu.

I’d like to return to the workmen’s graffiti a little later, but provenance and attestation are established: the Great Pyramid was built in the Early Bronze Age, during Dynasty 4 of pharaonic Egypt, and it was built for Khufu.

The Pyramid in Cultural Development

Many fringe arguments are very misleading, either on deliberate grounds or simply due to a lack of familiarity with the known facts of pharaonic Egypt. For instance, you will often see a fringe argument stating in wonder how the Great Pyramid seemed to have popped up out of nowhere, with no observable cultural or architectural antecedents indeed, this is often stated of the dynastic civilization in general. It is patently false. Egypt became a kingdom around 3100 BCE, some 600 years before the Great Pyramid was erected, and there is ample evidence in the archaeological and material record for the dynasties preceding Khufu’s time.

The earliest kings of Egypt came from the south or upper valley in the current literature this is sometimes referred to as Dynasty 0, more often as Dynasty 1 of the Early Dynastic Period, and also often by the designation Naqada IIIc again, this was around 3100 BCE. These kings were buried in tombs at an ancient cemetery at the site of Abydos (ancient Abdju). Specifically, they were buried in Cemetery B, known by the modern Arabic name Umm el Qaab. Nearby is an even older site known as Cemetery U, where powerful regional rulers had been interred in the times soon before state formation in Cemetery U was found the tomb designated Uj, from which was excavated the oldest-yet known hieroglyphs, dating to around 3200 or 3300 BCE. About a mile to the north of the tombs at Umm el Qaab, these kings erected large enclosures of mud brick. The largest that survives is that of Khasekhemwy, last king of Dynasty 2. It goes by the name Shunet el Zebib today. The precise purpose for the enclosures is uncertain, but there is consensus among scholars that some sort of cult for the deceased king took place in them (O’Connor 2009: 159-163). This pattern will be seen in pyramid complexes, which I’ll discuss below.

Several royal tombs dating to Dynasty 2 were built in Saqqara, revealing that the siting of the royal necropolis was moved from ancient Abydos to the area of the new administrative capital of Memphis (ancient Mennefer), in the north. These tombs are poorly understood because the pyramid complex of King Djoser, to be discussed presently, was built over a couple of them and the superstructures were obliterated (Verner 2001: 122). The same is true for a couple of other Dynasty 2 royal tombs just to the south, which were obliterated by the pyramid complex of King Unis in Dynasty 5. In fact, while the subterranean spaces of these Abydos and Saqqara royal tombs are fairly well preserved, their superstructures are not. It’s not clear what form the above-ground portions took. It’s evident at Abydos that the royal tombs were topped by a large, landscaped mound, at least over the areas of the burial chambers, and this was likely the genesis of the mastaba tomb, which would be a common means of burial for elite individuals throughout the Old Kingdom.

A powerful king named Netjerikhet came to the throne around 2663 BCE, at the start of Dynasty 3. Netjerikhet was most likely the son of Khasekhemwy, mentioned above. Netjerikhet is more commonly known today by the name Djoser, which may have been an alternate name for him but this much is unclear. The name Djoser appears in graffiti dating much later, but this is the name I’ll use because it’s more familiar to the general reader. Djoser’s principal claim to fame is his magnificent Step Pyramid complex in Saqqara. Rightly so. This complex represents not only many innovations in stone architecture by ancient Egyptian craftsmen, but features as its focal point the first pyramid built by mankind. It is actually a series of stepped mastabas, one atop the other, and careful analysis of the monument has revealed that it underwent a number of architectural revisions before it was completed. This was the first royal tomb also to bring the various elements into one place: the tomb in which the king was buried, and the cultic buildings wherein his soul was venerated and sustained (recall the Abydos tombs and their temple-like enclosures a mile to the north). Djoser’s complex includes structures for the eternal celebration of his Sed-festival, a ceremony of renewal forever guaranteeing the existence of the deified king (ibid: 129).

So we can see through these examinations how the royal tomb developed from Dynasty 1 to Dynasty 3 into a pyramid. Several unfinished pyramids date to after the reign of Djoser, and the next great king to come to the throne was Sneferu at the start of Dynasty 4, who reigned 2597-2547 BCE. Sneferu was the greatest builder of the entire Old Kingdom and erected three different pyramids during his reign: his first pyramid at Meidum and then the Bent Pyramid and Red Pyramid, both at Dashur. The Medium pyramid, also known as the Tower Pyramid from the exposed core due to the outer casing stones collapsing in ancient times, is sometimes argued to have been built by Huni, last king of Dynasty 3. Most scholars today, however, agree that it was Sneferu’s first pyramid. The significance with Sneferu is that he was the first to perfect the true pyramid. This was actually the Bent Pyramid, despite its odd shape. The Meidum pyramid began as a stepped structure and analysis has shown that it was converted to a true pyramid later in Sneferu’s reign. And in these three pyramids of Sneferu we see design and architectural elements that were perfected in the Great Pyramid (ibid: 176-177), such as the corbelled ceiling.

Sneferu’s son and successor was none other than Khufu, builder of the Great Pyramid. Thus far, then, we can trace the history of royal-tomb building all the way back to Dynasty 1, if not even farther. We can see how the pyramid evolved in royal mortuary architecture, and how it developed from stepped to true form. This brings us to the Great Pyramid.

Akhet Khufu

The Egyptians called the Great Pyramid Akhet Khufu, the “Horizon of Khufu.” This king took the throne around 2547 BCE (I continue to use conventional dates, although reminding the reader that the carbon-dating analyses might be pushing us a little farther back in time). The sites discussed so far–specifically Abydos, Saqqara, Meidum, and Dashur–were royal necropoli. Cemeteries for kings, in other words. At these sites were interred family members of these kings as well as noblemen and other officials who served in the courts of these kings. The same is true for Giza, which Khufu established as a new royal necropolis when he ascended to the throne. These were not farm fields or sites of industry but cemeteries, exclusively. They were cities for the dead.

The carbon dating establishes that the orthodox timeline is essentially correct for the Great Pyramid, and the above-mentioned workmen’s graffiti establishes that the Great Pyramid was built for King Khufu. I’d like to spend a moment discussing this graffiti now. It’s important to understand that this graffiti was written within relieving chambers designed to lessen the stress on the King’s Chamber, given the enormous mass of masonry existing above the King’s Chamber. These relieving chambers were sealed and entirely unknown to us until an explorer named Colonel Richard Howard Vyse blasted his way into them in March 1837. The lowest chamber actually had been found by Nathaniel Davison in 1765 but contained no graffiti Vyse speculated there may have been more chambers above this one. His method of getting into the upper chambers was certainly reckless, but he was correct. It was in these chambers that the graffiti was found.

Fringe adherents have tried to argue that the graffiti was a hoax on the part of Vyse. This was strenuously argued by Stichin in The Stairway to Heaven (1980), but his argument and all subsequent arguments built along these lines have been absurd. There is no question the graffiti is authentic. Some of it disappears between massive blocks of masonry, and can be seen but not accessed in loose joins. In other words, some of this graffiti had to have been painted onto the stones before they were put into position inside the relieving chambers. The graffiti is without question contemporary to the time of the building of this pyramid. It’s also quite interesting.

Deciphering the linear glyphs was arguably not fully possible in the time of Colonel Vyse, but it is fairly well understood today. The earliest such graffiti is actually found on the Meidum pyramid of Sneferu and records the names of phyles (work crews) that had labored there (Roth 1991: 125) the graffiti in the relieving chambers of the Great Pyramid contain even more information. The names of three different phyles are extant, all based on permutations of Khufu’s name (ibid):

  • Seven blocks of masonry with the king’s Horus name, Medjedu (Hr-mDdw)
  • Ten blocks of masonry with the king’s full name, Khnum-Khuf (Xnmw-xwf)
  • Two blocks of masonry with the king’s abbreviated name, Khufu (xwfw)

In fact, the spatial arrangement of the graffiti allows us to determine which crews were responsible for specific parts of the relieving chambers as they were being built (ibid: 127). These phyles left us no doubt the great monument they were building was for their king, Khufu.

Although the Great Pyramid has several architectural features and arrangements that make it stand out a bit from other pyramids before and after, it is not so different that we have license to pull it out of context and separate it from pharaonic Egypt altogether. It belongs in the development of royal tomb architecture and it is but the largest pyramid built for the interment of a king. Also clarifying the purpose of burial is the granite sarcophagus in the King’s Chamber. This is one of the earliest sacrophagi of granite the Egyptians ever attempted, but to the point, sarcophagi in pharaonic Egypt served one purpose and one purpose only: the interment of a body. It is strictly a form of burial equipment. In my own experience, I have never seen a fringe adherent adequately provide an alternative explanation for this sarcophagus.

Ancillary Constructions

No Egyptian pyramid stands alone. In every case where one was built, it was part of a wider complex. This is so with Khufu’s, and it is another reflection of the development of royal burial cults. The pyramid was the structure in which the king’s body was interred and from which his soul would ascend to the heavens, but adjoining the pyramid was a temple connected to another temple via a stone-built causeway. The temple adjoining the pyramid, usually on the east face as is the case with Khufu’s, is typically referred to as the mortuary temple. At the other end of the causeway was the structure typically called the valley temple. In Khufu’s case only a small portion of the valley temple has been found because nearly all of it lies under the modern suburban sprawl of Cairo. The causeway itself is in ruined condition. All that one sees of the mortuary temple today, against the east face of the pyramid, are the basalt paving stones. However, careful archaeology of the site over the years has enabled us to get a working idea of what it might have originally looked like.

Archaeology has also recovered fragments of inscribed masonry once adorning the walls of the mortuary temple, causeway, and theoretically the valley temple. These fragments have been excavated from the Giza site itself (example here), and others have been recovered from the Dynasty 12 pyramid of a Middle Kingdom king named Amenemhat I (1994-1964 BCE) his pyramid is at Lisht. It was common for kings throughout pharaonic history to incorporate bits and pieces of monuments from the reigns of earlier kings, particularly kings who were remembered as great in their time. These inscribed fragments from Giza and Lisht show typical mortuary scenes such as personified estates, male and female, bringing offerings to sustain the soul and the cult of the deceased king (Hawass 2006: 69). Numerous instances of Khufu’s titulary are also extent in the fragments. Other fragments bear scenes of the Sed-festival (ibid: 72), stressing the renewal of Khufu just as Djoser had done for himself in his complex at Saqqara. Khufu’s fragments further preserve an unusual scene depicting the canid god Wepwawet (ibid). The name of this god means “Opener of the Ways” and he is seen in numerous examples of iconography dating all the way back to Dynasty 1 (Wilkinson 2000: 297-298). Although Wepwawet served functions to the king’s cult in life, he was a primary underworld deity who guided the king into his afterlife.

Other fragments preserve scenes of the king with foreigners, in some instances receiving them and in others subduing them in typical pharaonic combat posture. These fragments are believed to have come from the valley temple or along the early portions of the causeway, based on extant examples in other pyramid complexes. Altogether, these fragments reveal the traditional purpose for the temples and pyramid: the site where the king’s soul would ascend to the heavens, and where he would forever be venerated and sustained. Moreover, the cemetery that grew around the Great Pyramid, much of which was probably being planned and laid out at the same time as the pyramid itself, contains the burials of family members to the east and high court officials to the west. Included among the former is Khufu’s mother, Hetepheres a prince named Kawab another prince named Djedefhor who would end up succeeding Khufu under the name Djedefre (he would build a pyramid at Abu Rawash) and yet another prince named Khafkhufu who would succeed Djedefre under the name Khafre (he would return to Giza, where he built the second pyramid) (Hawass 2006:95-96). And of course there were the three small queens’ pyramids outside the east face of the Great Pyramid.

All of these structures–Great Pyramid, mortuary temple, causeway, valley temple, neighboring tombs–were built at about the same time. There is no doubt the entire complex was funerary in nature.

Tomb Robbing

A frequent argument put forth by fringe adherents is that no body was found in the Great Pyramid, so it cannot have been a tomb. This is one of the weakest arguments of all. There were more than three thousand years of kings in pharaonic Egypt, and with but a scant handful of exceptions–the tomb of Tutankhamun and a couple of royal tombs from a later period, at the site of Tanis–no royal tomb has yet been found unviolated. Indeed, it’s safe to say that of all of the tombs in general which archaeologists have excavated, the vast majority had experienced tomb robbing at some point in ancient times. It is extremely rare for archaeologists to find an intact or mostly intact tomb. Pharaonic Egypt experienced numerous periods of decline and destabilization–especially during the three intermediate periods–and in each of these periods, the breakdown of state authority was matched by the influx of tomb raiding.

Giza was no different. The first instance of the breakdown of state authority began around 2200 BCE, at the end of Dynasty 6. This marks the close of the Old Kingdom and the beginning of the First Intermediate Period. This period lasted at most about 200 years but was particularly marked by destabilization and civil war. The Giza necropolis bears ample evidence of plundering during the First Intermediate Period (Kákosy 1989: 145). It’s not so easy to say that the Great Pyramid was violated at this time, however. In fact, it’s unlikely that it was, although its attendant temples and neighboring tombs probably were. Exactly when the Great Pyramid was raided has long been debated, although Strabo records a movable stone in the face of the monument that led to a sloping passage Arab accounts in the early Islamic period mention numerous mummies found within the pyramid (ibid: 159, 161), suggesting intrusive burials from later pharaonic periods. Based on available evidence, the lower corridors and chambers were raided first and the upper ones at a later time. In all probability Khufu’s monument could’ve been raided in the later Persian Period, prior to the conquest of Alexander the Great, although raiding could’ve occurred as late as the time of Caliph Al-Ma’mun, in the ninth century CE. (ibid: 162).

The point is, at some point in time the Great Pyramid was raided. All Egyptian pyramids were. Almost nothing contemporary to the time of a pyramid has been found in that pyramid by archaeologists. In only a couple of cases have human remains of a king been found in the burial chamber. Tomb robbers were thorough, and tomb robbing occurred in the same tombs down through time until literally nothing worth taking was left.

An argument based on the absence of a body is, quite honestly, pointless.

Pyramid Texts

This is the last evidentiary point I wish to make. I usually shy away from arguments employing the Pyramid Texts in relation to the Great Pyramid because no know example of the Texts exists from the time of Khufu. The earliest Pyramid Texts we have are those inscribed inside the pyramid of King Unis (2385-2355 BCE), who reigned at the end of Dynasty 5. This was roughly 150 years after the time of Khufu.

Still, it can be useful to turn for a moment to the Pyramid Texts, which is the oldest religious corpus in the world. These were funerary spells devised to aid the soul of the deceased king in its journey up into the heavens. That they existed prior to the time of Unis is generally agreed by scholars earlier examples were probably written and kept on papyrus and did not survive. The language of the Texts is written in a form antiquated even by the time of Unis the language evidences phonological and grammatical differences from other inscriptions of the Old Kingdom, and it’s clear the orthography was still in the process of development (Hornung 1999: 5). Changes in pronoun usage suggest the Texts were undergoing different applications of a funerary nature through time (ibid: 4).

The spells that comprise the Texts make it abundantly clear that they were used for the dead. They are replete with references to the pyramid as a tomb. Many of them were probably read aloud during the funeral, and their permanent inscription onto the stone masonry made them available to the soul of the king forever. The spells were inscribed in such a way that an order is observable. They start in the burial chamber and continue in a logical sequence past the antechamber and down the corridors to the exit of the pyramid: in other words, the direction in which the soul of the king was meant to travel. The burial chamber corresponds to the underworld, from which the soul of the king would arise to rejoin his mummy the antechamber represents Akhet, the horizon, where the soul of the king became an akh, or “effective spirit” the corridor leading from there to the exit represents the passage by which the king’s soul would arise into the heavens. All of the spells inscribed into the walls make this clear.

Khufu’s pyramid may not have Pyramid Texts, but bear in mind Unis’ pyramid was built only around 150 years later. The Pyramid Texts in his burial and in all of the pyramids down to the end of Dynasty 6 reveal that the pyramid was regarded as a tomb. It would be highly illogical to suspect that the purpose of a pyramid fundamentally changed between the time of Khufu and Unis.

The pyramid was a tomb. In the above article I have attempted to explain some of the highlights whereby orthodox research has made this clear to us. And as long as this article is, trust me, I have provided but a summary of evidence. I could fill a book, as many professional historians have–and much abler than I have. The Great Pyramid cannot be viewed out of context. It does not exist in a vacuum. When viewed in its proper context, there can be no other conclusion than that it was built for King Khufu and was specifically for the burial of this great monarch of Dynasty 4.

Allen, James P. The Ancient Egyptian Pyramid Texts. 2005

Bonani, Georges et al. “Radiocarbon Dating of Old and Middle Kingdom Monuments in Egypt.” 2001

Hawass, Zahi. Mountains of the Pharaohs. 2006

Hornung, Erik. The Ancient Egyptian Books of the Afterlife. 1999

Kákosy, László. “The Plundering of the Great Pyramid.” 1989

O’Connor, David. Abydos: Egypt’s First Pharaohs and the Cult of Osiris. 2009


IMHOTEP AND LITERATURE, POETRY AND PHILOSOPHY

The writings of one Middle Kingdom scribe pay full tribute to Imhotep (and to another philosopher named Hardeduf):

The written and spoken word can show wisdom and intellect more readily than any other skill, and it seems that it was as a poet and philosopher that Imhotep first became revered. These are talents which even a mere commoner could express and which might have brought him into contact with Djoser.

Sadly, Imhotep&aposs own writings have all been lost, but many who came after, testified to his significance as a scribe and philosopher. Historian Manetho, writing in the Ptolomeic era of ancient Egypt, provided some of the very best records. He attributed reforms in the writing system to Imhotep, and he states that he wrote a &aposbook of instructions&apos, believed to be a text of advice and opinion on a variety of subjects. Imhotep also wrote poetry - possibly some of the very first in history - and proverbs relating his philosophy were recited for centuries and noted for their &aposgrace and diction&apos. Throughout dynastic history, Imhotep was recognized as the Master of the written word [2]. He was also honoured as &aposPatron of Scribes&apos [3] and even as &aposA God of Literature&apos [11]. One reference (which I haven&apost been able to verify) also suggests he even improved the papyrus used for writing text [10].


Wendy Warlick: Ancient egyptian coffins and mummies

Эта галерея пользователя создана независимыми авторами и не всегда отражает позицию организаций, в чьи коллекции входят представленные работы, и платформы Google Искусство и культура.

The ancient Egyptians believed in afterlife. According to Ancient Encyclopedia “the afterlife for the ancient Egyptians was The Field of Reeds which was a perfect reflection of the life one had lived on earth.” Egyptians had a lot of traditions they did to help prepare themselves for afterlife. The Ancient Encyclopedia says that their belief in afterlife is why the bodies were mummified after death. The Egyptians believed that the body needed to be preserved here on Earth in order for the soul to have an afterlife. As part of their preparations for afterlife some Egyptians purchased a sarcophagus, a coffin and possibly an inner coffin. Coffins were generally made of wood, metal, stone or pottery. Gold and silver was used on some coffins, but this was generally reserved for kings or royalty. Some Egyptians were also buried with funerary objects. Not all could afford these though. Those that could not afford the objects generally had images of them painted on their coffins or tomb walls. A lot of the coffins were beautifully decorated with a lot of hieroglyphics and images. The hieroglyphics on the coffin included their name and title. There were also generally hieroglyphics on the back of the sarcophagus. “The line of hieroglyphics which run vertically down the back of a sarcophagus represent the backbone of the deceased and was thought to provide strength to the mummy in rising to eat and drink.” (Ancient Encyclopedia) According to an article by Monet even the people who didn’t have elaborate decorations generally at least had “eyes painted on their coffins so the deceased could see.” There were also decorations on the inside of the coffins including “a false door and lists of offerings”, according to Monet. The false door was there so the dead could step out to make their offerings. Some coffins are covered with spells from the Book of the Dead, these are spells they believed would help them in afterlife. Some coffins also had an image of the goddess of rebirth, Nut. The goddess Isis was also on a lot of coffins as a guard. This goddess was generally painted at the head and foot of the coffin. Another common image was an image of a scarab. The scarab was an image associated with rebirth. A lot of Egyptians also had images of the person wearing jewelry painted on their coffins. The wealthy were shown wearing many strands of beaded necklaces. Inside the coffin there was a mummy board placed on top of the mummy. This board consisted of 2 pieces. The first piece was for the top of the mummy including the face and crossed arms. The second piece was for the lower half of the body. In addition to the mummy board some of them also had a mask. According to crystalinks “This mask was believed to strengthen the spirit of the mummy and guard the soul from evil spirits on its way to the afterworld.” As you can see a lot of thought went into these beautifully decorated sarcophagi and coffin boxes. Monet, Jefferson. "Tour Egypt :: The Coffins of Ancient Egypt." The Coffins of Ancient Egypt. Web. 18 Apr. 2016.

"Mummification Explore." Mummification Explore. The British Museum. Web. 18 Apr. 2016. "Egyptian Mummification." Artifacts: Mummy Cases, Coffins, and Sarcophagi, Mummification, Online Exhibits, Exhibits, Spurlock Museum, U of I. Spurlock Museum, 2016. Web. 18 Apr. 2016. Mark, Joshua J. "Ancient Egyptian Burial." Ancient History Encyclopedia. 19 Jan. 2013. Web. 05 May 2016.

"Egyptian Afterlife Ceremonies, Sarcophagi, Burial Masks - Crystalinks." Egyptian Afterlife Ceremonies, Sarcophagi, Burial Masks - Crystalinks. Web. 05 May 2016.