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Left: The inscription on the column lists the titles of Djedkare’s wife, queen Setibhor. (Hana Vymazalová) Right: North and east walls of the decorated antechamber of the ancient Egyptian nobleman’s tomb.

Experts Find Lost Queen’s Name and a Favorite Nobleman’s Tomb in Saqqara

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Experts working in a famous pyramid complex in Egypt have announced the discovery of the tomb of a nobleman. It was made in perhaps the most important archaeological site for the study of the early history of Ancient Egypt. The discovery is providing unexpected insights into the status of the nobility in the Old Kingdom (2575 BC to 2150 BC).

An Egyptian team under the leadership of Dr. Mohamed Megahed made the discovery in Saqqara. This is a vast burial ground not far from the site of the Old Kingdom capital of Memphis, which is today located to the south of Cairo. Saqqara has some of the most important early pyramids, such as the step-pyramid of Djoser .

The burial apartments of king Djedkare’s pyramid before their consolidation. (Sandro Vannini)

The burial apartments of king Djedkare’s pyramid before their consolidation. ( Sandro Vannini )

A Nobleman Called Khuy

The find was made in the pyramid complex of Pharaoh Djedkare Isesi of the 5th Dynasty. He was an important military leader and religious reformer who ended the practice of constructing sun temples dedicated to Ra. He is buried in the pyramid known as Nefer Djedkare.

At present, there is work being conducted on the restoration of the Pyramid of Djedkare Isesi by an international team. As an Egyptian team was surveying the complex, “they discovered a unique tomb belong to a nobleman called “Khuy,”” according to the Luxor Times .

Much of the tomb has been dismantled and its limestone blocks used in other buildings and tombs. However, the team found the main entrance to the lower part of the tomb. What struck them was that the tomb’s design was very similar to those found in 5th Dynasty Royal burials.  This Dynasty  “ruled the Nile Valley from 2388-2356 B.C.,” according to MSN News.

Detail of the decoration of the east wall of the antechamber. (Hana Vymazalová)

Detail of the decoration of the east wall of the antechamber. ( Hana Vymazalová )

Reliefs in the Ancient Egyptian Nobleman’s Tomb

The archaeologists found a hall that led to an antechamber that was adorned with colorful reliefs which are in remarkable condition. This area was later determined to be an offering chapel that was built in an L-shape. The person buried in the tomb, “Khuy” is depicted making a religious offering while seated before a table. According to the Czech Institute of Egyptology , there is also “a scene for the palace façade and the offering list” on the west wall. Sadly, only a small section of the offering chapel’s reliefs remain because so many stones were taken from the structure in later centuries.

There is also an unadorned and bare second chamber and this was the burial room where the fragments of what was once a remarkable limestone sarcophagus were found. It seemed that at some time it was destroyed, probably by ancient grave robbers who stole anything of value. However, miraculously the team found the mummified remains of  Khuy. Some “oils and resin which was used for the mummification process of the deceased” were also uncovered, reports the Czech Institute for Egyptology.

The north wall of the decorated antechamber showing Khuwy seated at an offering table. (Mohamed Megahed)

The north wall of the decorated antechamber showing Khuwy seated at an offering table. ( Mohamed Megahed )

The fact that Khuy was mummified and buried in such a lavish burial indicates that he was a nobleman who served the pharaoh. Favored high officials were often buried near their royal masters. It is hoped that inscriptions will be found to shed light on this nobleman who was probably very powerful in his day.

A third room was also found in the burial complex. This is a small chamber that leads off from the ante-chamber and it is not painted or adorned. It was most likely used as a storeroom but anything valuable has long since been stolen and nothing of archaeological significance was found.

Remains of a chapel found by ancient Egyptian nobleman Khuwy's tomb had been heavily robbed by ancient stone robbers. (Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities)

Remains of a chapel found by ancient Egyptian nobleman Khuwy's tomb had been heavily robbed by ancient stone robbers. ( Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities )

New Insights into the Old Kingdom

This find of the ancient Egyptian nobleman’s tomb is adding to our knowledge of the necropolis of Saqqara and the Old Kingdom. In recent times, researchers who were also working on a temple established that it was dedicated to the Queen of Djedkare Isesi. The name “Setibhor,” who was apparently the king’s principal consort, was found inscribed on a pillar in the temple complex. This solved a long-standing mystery as to who built the temple and what its connection was to the 5th dynasty ruler.

The inscription on the column lists the titles of Djedkare’s wife, Queen Setibhor. (Hana Vymazalová)

The inscription on the column lists the titles of Djedkare’s wife, Queen Setibhor. ( Hana Vymazalová )

The discovery of the tomb of the nobleman is helping Egyptologists to better understand the 5th dynasty, one of the most influential in the history of ancient Egypt. The fact that a nobleman’s tomb was similar to a royal tomb and near a pharaoh’s pyramid possibly indicates the high status of the aristocracy at this time. The find may demonstrate that members of the aristocracy had a higher standing and more privileges in the Old Kingdom than previously assumed. Traditionally it has been held that the Pharaoh was all-powerful in this period and that the nobility was very politically weak.

Top image: Left: The inscription on the column lists the titles of Djedkare’s wife, queen Setibhor. ( Hana Vymazalová ) Right: North and east walls of the decorated antechamber of the ancient Egyptian nobleman’s tomb. ( Mohamed Megahed )

By Ed Whelan

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