Archaeologists Unearth An Unknown Pharaoh's Tomb In Egypt
January 17, 2014

Archaeologists Unearth An Unknown Pharaoh’s Tomb In Egypt

Gerard LeBlond for - Your Universe Online

Researchers from the University of Pennsylvania's Penn Museum have made a discovery of epic proportions at the Egyptian dig site of Abydos. Archaeologists have unearthed the remains of the previously unknown Pharaoh, Woseribre Senebkay. Along with this amazing discovery, comes proof that the Abydos Dynasty from 1650-1600 BC existed.

The team from the museum, working closely with Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities, revealed King Senebkay’s tomb close to the larger vault belonging to King Sobekhotep of the Thirteenth Dynasty of 1780 BC.

Dr. Josef Wegner, Egyptian Section Associate Curator of the Penn Museum, led the team in the discovery. A 60-ton royal sarcophagus was found at the dig site in South Abydos during the summer of 2013. The sarcophagus chamber was made of red quartzite that was quarried from nearby Gebel Ahmar and transported to Abydos. When the summer had ended, the owner of the tomb remained a mystery.

Just in the last few weeks, more details pertaining to the Abydos Dynasty have materialized with new findings in the excavations. It is now known that the larger tomb belongs probably to King Sobekhotep I.

Fragments of King Sobekhotep’s funeral monument were found in front of the tomb. The original tomb had been robbed about 150 years later from a group of pharaohs reusing the components to build their own tombs. One of these tomb’s owners has yet to be identified, but another king’s tomb was established to be from pharaoh Woseribre-Senebkay.

The tomb dates back to 1650 BC and contains four chambers with a decorated limestone burial chamber. There are painted images of the goddesses Nut, Nephthys, Selket and Isis nearby with texts naming the sons of Horus and identifying himself as the “king of Upper and Lower Egypt, Woseribre, the son of Re, Senebkay.”

When the archaeologists discovered the tomb, they also found that it had been raided by ancient tomb robbers, tearing apart the king’s mummy as well as taking the artifacts inside. What the team was able to collect was fragments of the king’s coffin, funerary mask and canopic chest.

The chest was made from cedar wood reused from the nearby tomb of Sobekhotep I, which still had the king’s name inscribed on it. This suggests the Abydos Kingdom had limited resources and was forgotten until this discovery.

“It's exciting to find not just the tomb of one previously unknown pharaoh, but the necropolis of an entire forgotten dynasty. Continued work in the royal tombs of the Abydos Dynasty promises to shed new light on the political history and society of an important but poorly understood era of Ancient Egypt,” Dr. Wegner noted.

After examining the skeletal remains, Penn graduate students Paul Verhelst and Matthew Olson revealed that Senebkay was about 5’10” and died in his mid to late 40s.

The significance of this discovery is that it proves the existence of an independent Abydos Dynasty that was first hypothesized by Egyptologist K. Ryholt in 1997. It also shows that the kings of the Abydos Dynasty placed their tombs adjacent to tombs of earlier Middle Kingdom pharaohs. Senebkay may also be one of the first kings of this dynasty and his name may have appeared in a broken section of the Turin King List (a document from around 1200 BC). On this list were two kings with the name “Woser…re” in front of a dozen other kings whose names are lost.

The Abydos site has been excavated by Penn Museum scholars since 1967 as a combined effort from Pennsylvania-Yale-Institute of Fine Arts/NYU Expedition to Abydos. The dig site is located on the western side of the Nile in Upper Egypt and was a religious center associated with the funerary god Osiris.

Wegner has been on the site since 1994 and the Penn Museum is dedicated to human history and diversity. More than 300 archaeological and anthropological expeditions have been sent from the museum to all parts of the world.