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New Kingdom Goldsmith’s Tomb Discovered in Egypt

The tomb of Amenemhat and his wife Amenhotep includes a statue of the couple, mummies, statues and funerary masks

(Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities)
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Officials from Egypt’s Ministry of Antiquities have announced the discovery of a new tomb in an area called Draa Abul-Naga, a burial site for noblemen on the left bank of the Nile, near the Valley of the Kings, the famous necropolis that houses the tombs of pharaohs including King Tut and other New Kingdom rulers.

Edmund Bower at The Guardian reports that the tomb contains mummies believed to be a goldsmith called Amenemhat, who lived sometime between 1550 B.C. to 1292 B.C., the famous 18th dynasty that included Akhenaten, his wife Nefertiti and his son Tutankhamun.

According to a statement from the Ministry of Antiquities, the entrance to the tomb was discovered in the courtyard of a Middle Kingdom tomb. The shaft leads to a square chamber with a niche at one end that holds a statue of Amenemhat who sits on a chair next to his wife, Amenhotep, who is wearing a long dress and wig. Sarah El-Sirgany and Laura Smith-Spark at CNN report that while Amenhotep​ was typically a male's name, inscriptions in the tomb indicate that was the matriarch’s name. Also unusual, a smaller statue of one of their son sits between their legs, a place typically reserved for an image of a daughter or daughter-in-law.

According to the ministry, the chamber has two burial shafts. In one, archaeologists found deteriorated sarcophagi and remains dating from the later 21st and 22nd Dynasties. Those included the remains of a woman and her two grown children. She showed signs of bacterial bone disease and cavities.

The other shaft contains funerary masks and statues depicting the goldsmith’s family along with three deteriorated mummies with their skulls exposed. “We are not sure if these mummies belong to Amenemhat and his family,” Mostafa Waziri, leader of the dig, tells Nour Youssef at The New York Times. “Others have clearly reused this tomb and poked around in ancient times. That’s probably why their heads are uncovered.”

There are indications that there are more finds to come in the immediate area. According to Bower, inside the burial chambers. archaeologists found 50 funerary cones, a type of stamped clay used to mark the entrance to a tomb. Forty of those cones bear the names of four officials whose tombs or sarcophagi have not been located yet. “This is a good sign,” Waziri tells Bower. “It means if we keep digging in this area we’re going to find four more tombs.”

As it turns out, the goldsmith’s tomb was discovered by following similar clues. In April, CNN reports, Egyptologists discovered the tomb of a judge named Userhat which led them to the new finds.

Youssef points out that this isn’t a particular earth-shattering discovery. But it is one of many new discoveries in Egypt in the last year. In March, researchers uncovered a gigantic statue of pharaoh Psamtek I in the city of Cairo. In April, the remains of an undiscovered pyramid were found in the Dahshur Necropolis and in May a cache of 17 non-royal mummies were found in Minya Province.

“Modern Egypt is built on top of ancient Egypt,” Zahi Hawass, former Minister of Antiquities, tells Bower. “Sometimes you excavate in your courtyard like in Aswan or Heliopolis and find monuments. Until now we’ve only found 30 percent of the Egyptian monuments; 70 percent is still buried.”

Youssef reports that Egyptian officials hope that publicity about these new discoveries begins to attract tourists back to the nation along the Nile. Political turmoil in the country which began in 2011 and a string of bombings and terrorist attacks have decimated Egypt's tourist economy. This year, however, the country has seen an uptick in visitors, a trend they hope to capitalize on.

About Jason Daley

Jason Daley is a Madison, Wisconsin-based writer specializing in natural history, science, travel, and the environment. His work has appeared in Discover, Popular Science, Outside, Men’s Journal, and other magazines.

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