March 29, 2010

Ancient Afterlife Door Unearthed In Egypt

The Egyptian antiquities authority said Monday that archaeologists have unearthed a 3,500-year-old door to the afterlife from the tomb of a high-ranking Egyptian official near Karnak temple in Luxor.

The recessed niches that are found in most ancient Egyptian tombs were meant to take the spirits of the dead to and from the afterworld.  The pink granite slab was covered with religious texts and stands at nearly six-foot-tall.

The door was discovered in the tomb of User, the chief minister of Queen Hatsphesut, which was a long ruling 15th century B.C. queen from the New Kingdom with a famous mortuary temple near Luxor in southern Egypt.

According to the inscriptions, User held the position of vizier for 20 years, also acquiring titles of prince and mayor of the city.  His position may have been inherited from his father.

Viziers in ancient Egypt were powerful officials with the task of running the kingdom's day-to-day complex bureaucracy. 

User had his own tomb on the west bank of the Nile in Luxor, where the royal kings and queens were also buried.  There was also a chapel dedicated to him that has been discovered further south in the hills near Aswan.

The stone was found a long way away from his tomb, and had apparently been removed from the grave and then incorporated into the wall of a Roman-era building over a thousand years later.

False doors were then placed in the west walls of tombs and they faced offering tables of food and drink for the spirit of the deceased.


Image Caption: The stela of User, found recently in excavations near Karnak Temple. (Photo: SCA)


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