July 9, 2010

Archaeologists Unearth Double Tomb In Egypt

Egyptian archaeologists unveiled a newly-unearthed double tomb on Thursday, which contained vivid wall paintings in the ancient necropolis of Saqqara. They are hoping the find will be the start of uncovering a huge cemetery in the area.

The double tomb includes two false doors with colorful paintings showing the two people entombed there, a father and a son who served as heads of the royal scribes, said Abdel-Hakim Karar, a top archaeologist at Saqqara.

Karar told The Associated Press (AP) that the "colors of the false door are fresh as if it was painted yesterday." He said that humidity destroyed the sarcophagus of the father, Shendwas, while the tomb of his son, Khonsu, was robbed by ancient thieves.

Also inscribed on the father's false door was the name of Pepi II, whose 90-year reign is believed to be the longest of the pharaohs. The inscription puts the date of the double tomb at around the 6th dynasty, during the age of the pyramids, the beginning of the decline of the Old Kingdom.

The new discovery is "the most distinguished tombs ever found from the Old Kingdom," Egypt's chief of antiquities, Zahi Hawass told AP. He added that if the area is excavated it could reveal the largest cemetery of ancient Egypt.

A single shaft from the surface led down to the father's tomb, from which a side passage led to the tomb of his son.

Hawass noted the tombs also contained a handful of duck-shaped artifacts and a small obelisk made of limestone. Such obelisks were often buried with the dead in the 5th and 6th dynasties to show their veneration for the sun god, Ra.

"These artifacts were found at the end of the burial shaft," at 60 feet depth, "but we covered it up," Hawass told reporters.

So far six tombs have been unearthed dating back to the end of the Old Kingdom since digging in the area began three years ago, said Karar. Work began on the double tomb five weeks ago.

The tombs lie just west of the Step Pyramid of King Djoser, which is surrounded by a large burial ground. The burial site contains tombs from Egypt's earliest times up through Roman times.


Image 1: False door of the tomb of Shendwa (Photo: Sandro Vannini)

Image 2: Offering vessels and obelisk found in the tomb of Shendwa (Photo: Jennifer Willoughby)


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