In Luxor, Two Tombs Dating Back 3,500 Years Unveil Their Secrets

They include hundreds of statues and one of the best-preserved wall paintings found in the area

Egyptian excavation workers work on a mummy in a newly discovered tomb in Luxor, Egypt Gehad Hamdy/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images

Over the weekend, the Egyptian Ministry of State Antiquities revealed that archaeologists had opened two 3,500-year-old tombs near Luxor, Egypt, revealing the untouched burial chambers of two nobles from the 18th dynasty. As the Associated Press reports, aside from finding extremely well-preserved wall paintings and inscriptions, the archaeologists also recovered artifacts including 450 statues, burials masks and one mummy, wrapped in linen.

Nariman El-Mofty at National Geographic reports that the tombs are located in the Dra' Abu el-Naga' necropolis, a cemetery for nobles and leading officilas on the west bank of the Nile. They were originally discovered and catalogued as Kampp 161 and Kampp 150 in the 1990s, but were not opened. Egyptian archaeologists recently rediscovered the chambers and excavated them.

Mofty reports that according to its architecture and style Kampp 161 is probably 3,400 years old and dating to the reigns of pharaoh Amenhotep II and Thutmose IV. Kampp 150 is probably a century older, dating to the time of Thutmose I. The BBC reports that the tomb’s occupant is not directly named, but there are two possibilities. It could be a person named Djehuty Mes, whose name is inscribed on one of the walls. Or the key to the identity may be contained in the funerary seals found in the courtyard of the tomb, which are inscribed with the name Maati, along with his spouse Mohi. A separate burial shaft in the tomb also contained the grave of a woman identified as Isis Nefret, perhaps the mother of one of the tomb’s occupants; her burial shaft contains funerary objects including a painted statue of her, depicted as the Egyptian god Osiris.

One of the most significant finds in the tombs is a large painted wall, which maintains much of its original color. “It’s really beautiful, and typical 18th dynasty.” Egyptologist Zahi Hawass, former head of Egyptian antiquities, tells Edmund Bower in an interview for the Independent. “It looks like it was painted yesterday. In my opinion, this could be the best painted wall discovered in Draa Abou Naga in the last 100 years.”

Mostafa Waziry, the excavation leader, tells Bower that he believes the unidentified person buried in Kampp 150 is related to the tomb of goldsmith Amenemhat and his wife Amenhotep, which is located about 300 feet away. In that tomb, which was opened earlier this year, there was an indication that someone named “Marty” was buried in the area, but Marty's body wasn't fond at the time. “I believe this is Marty,” Waziry tells Bower.

While the discoveries are impressive, a recent uptick in archaeological work in Egypt is part of a concerted effort to jumpstart the country’s tourism industry, which has suffered since political instability began in 2011. In 2014 alone, Bower reports, revenues from tourist attractions has dropped by 95 percent. A terror attack in Cairo that killed 305 people at a mosque this November is likely to drive numbers even lower.

Besides these discoveries and that of the goldsmith, this year archaeologists found 12 cemeteries near the city of Aswan in January, the grave of a judge called Userhat also in Draa Abou Naga in April, as well as three new tombs near Samalut in August. Waziry says that he expects that they will uncover another tomb in the area in the next few weeks.

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