Tomb of Ramses II’s Treasurer Unearthed at Saqqara Necropolis

Carved scenes in the grave depict the life of Ptah-M-Wia, an important figure in the 19th-Dynasty pharaoh’s government

The tomb was decorated with colorful painted scenes. Egyptian Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities

Archaeologists have unearthed the tomb of Ptah-M-Wia, who served as head of the treasury under Egyptian pharaoh Ramses II. A team from Cairo University discovered the grave while excavating the Saqqara necropolis, which served as a burial ground for the ancient Egyptian capital of Memphis, reports Angy Essam for Egypt Today.

Ramses was the third pharaoh of Egypt’s 19th Dynasty, ruling from 1279 to 1213 B.C.E. Ptah-M-Wia led his treasury, served as royal scribe and supervisor of cattle, and presided over sacrifices at the Ramses II temple in Thebes. The area of the necropolis where his grave was found also houses the tombs of other major New Kingdom officials, reports Jack Guy for CNN.

Some pillars have fallen, but others remain in place. Egyptian Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities

“The site of discovery includes the tombs of senior modern statesmen from the era of the 19th Dynasty and complements the site of the tombs of the 18th Dynasty, the most important of which is the site of the military leader Horemheb,” says Mostafa Waziri, secretary-general of Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities, in a statement quoted by the Egypt Independent.

Per the Jerusalem Post, Ola El Aguizy, a scholar of ancient Egyptian language who is leading the archaeological mission for the university, says the tomb follows a distinctive style found in other burials at the site. Carved scenes at its entrance depict events from Ptah-M-Wia’s life. Inside, the plaster walls of a hall are painted with colorful images. One scene in the tomb shows a procession carrying offerings and a calf being slaughtered. 

The team also found Osirian columns, some of which were buried in the sand. Sculpted in the shape of Osiris, god of death and resurrection, these columns were common during Ramses’ rule. Stone blocks were scattered around the tomb.

“All these pieces will be studied to be put back in their original places inside the tomb,” says El Aguizy, as quoted by Ahram Online’s Nevine El-Aref.

Outside of Ptah-M-Wia’s tomb, the mission also found the burials of Ptah-Mas, mayor of Memphis; royal foreign ambassador Basir; and Eurkhi, supreme commander of the army. 

tomb close-up
Archaeologists found a number of tombs of prominent officials in the area where Ptah-M-Wia was buried. Egyptian Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities

Ancient Egyptians used Saqqara, located about 20 miles south of Cairo, as a burial ground for more than 3,000 years, wrote Jo Marchant in the July issue of Smithsonian magazine. Archaeologists have studied the site since 1850, but it historically received less attention than Luxor in southern Egypt. In September 2020, however, archaeologists found “megatombs,” including a cavern filled with more than 100 burials, at Saqqara—the largest concentration of coffins ever found in Egypt. The site is also home to the Step Pyramid of Djoser, the oldest pyramid in Egypt, which was built about 4,700 years ago by a Third-Dynasty king. 

Around 1,500 years after Djoser’s reign, Ramses presided over major building projects, as well as significant military expeditions. Per Encyclopedia Britannica, the extensive temples completed during his 66-year reign led 19th-century scholars to dub him “Ramses the Great.” He oversaw work on buildings at the Karnak and Luxor temple sites in Thebes and built six temples in Nubia. At Saqqara, Ramses led construction of rock-cut tombs in two sections of the necropolis.

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