Archaeologists have unearthed what they say is “compelling evidence” of what could turn out to be recovered pharaonic tombs in Egypt, according to Egypt’s Ministry of Antiquities. Researchers have uncovered an 4,200-year-old encroachment wall that is believed to be a supporting structure for the known tombs of the first upper terrace, but they still have yet to discover to whom those tombs belonged.
Phys.org reported last week that researchers from the University of Birmingham uncovered a two-meter (6.6 feet) encroachment wall in the northern part of the West Aswan cemetery at Qubbet el-Hawa that they believe might lead to important discoveries regarding ancient Egyptian tombs, including the possible burial sites of some pharaohs. The wall was situated below a visitors’ pathway and aided in securing the hillside, not to mention lower lying tombs in the cemetery that were accessible by a different pathway leading to a second terrace.
The new discovery follows work done, according to Ahram Online, by the archaeological mission of the University of Birmingham and the Egypt Exploration Society (EES) Qubbet el-Hawa Research Project Group (QHRP), which was directed by Dr. Martin Bommas of the University of Birmingham. Ph.D. student Carl Graves, who worked with Dr. Bommas on the project, explained the discovery.
“The findings are dramatically altering our understanding of the funerary landscape in this area during the Old Kingdom and First Intermediate Period in 2278-2184BC. I don’t think anyone yet knows who the tombs might have belonged to.”
Nasr Salama, the General Director of Aswan and Nubia Antiquities, noted that the discovery was “stunning.” He told the Egypt Independent that it is just a matter of time until new tombs would be uncovered within the ancient cemetery.
Eman Khalifa, the QHRP pottery project director, told the paper that the dating of the stone wall was performed by analyzing pottery shreds embedded within the wall’s mortar. She said that the stonework had included crushed pieces of carinated bowls, objects that were executed in the style associated with King Pepi II of the Sixth Dynasty (circa 2278-2184 BCE).
The Mirror reported that researchers see the tomb findings as “promising, adding that it is possible the tomb could hold a pharaoh.” The encroachment wall could be the architectural architectural support to another tomb that contains the remains of pharaohs who once governed the Elephantine Island during Egypt’s Old Kingdom — Harkhuf and Heqaib.
Adding to the mystery of the new find is the discovery of a well-preserved mummy at the site earlier this year. Wrapped in linen and enclosed in two wooden coffins, the mummy has been found to be 3,800-years-old. Archaeologists think that the ancient mummy could be an important figure in Egypt’s history and that the tomb itself might have belonged to a key figure of the Middle Kingdom, a woman by the name of Lady Sattjeni.
“The discovery is of a historic importance because Sattjeni is one of the most important figures in the Middle Kingdom, being the mother of Heqaib III and Amaeny-Senb — two of the highest authorities of Elephantine under the reign of Amenemhat III, around 1800-1775 BC,” Dr. Mahmoud Afify, head of the Ancient Egyptian Archaeology Sector at the Ministry of Antiquities, said at the time of the tomb’s excavation.
Mission director Martin Bommas said that the retaining wall was part of the project’s successful first field season, a season that included uncovering the long sought causeway of Sarenput I, who was governor of the area at the beginning of the Middle Kingdom.
A follow-up team from the University of Birmingham will begin a supplementary excavation project associated with the ancient Egyptian site and its tombs in April, 2017.
[Featured Image by Emanuele Mazzoni Photo/Shutterstock]