Burying an Ancient Egyptian Solider: New Kingdom Rock Cut Tomb in Luxor is Largest Yet
Tombs and burial sites are incredibly important to the study of our past and this is particularly true for ancient Egypt. The Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquities has announced the discovery of a very important tomb in a previously unknown graveyard. They have unearthed the burial place of a soldier in a famous necropolis. This find could help us to better understand the funerary practices of the New Kingdom, its government, and its military.
The discovery of the tomb was announced by the Egyptian Minister of Antiquities. It was unearthed by a team of Egyptian archaeologists led by Amr Nouba. The find was made near the ancient city of Thebes in Upper Egypt near the banks of the Nile, in Gurna, Luxor.
Outside of the ancient Egyptian soldier’s tomb. (Ministry of Antiquities of Egypt)
An Ancient Necropolis
This exciting discovery was made at the Dra’ Abu el-Naga site. This is a necropolis that was used for the burial of pharaohs of the 17th Dynasty, who reigned in Thebes, while the north of Egypt was ruled by the foreign Hyksos rulers. Many senior officials from the New Kingdom (1550-1069 BC) are also buried here. The Dra’ Abu el-Naga site is located near the Valley of the Kings and its spectacular rock-cut tombs.
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The team found the funerary monument in a small previously unknown burial ground in the necropolis and it was buried under a mound of rubble left after French and British digs in the early 19th century. According to the Luxor Times, the find was made “north of Theban Tomb TT255 of Roy,” a royal scribe.
A Magnificent Ancient Egyptian Soldier’s Tomb
The tomb is a complete and self-contained compartment that was made of adobe or baked brick. It is believed that the discovery dates to the Ramesside period, one of the greatest in the history of the New Kingdom in Egypt. The tomb had been cut deep into the rock. The Luxor Times reports that “it is the biggest rock-cut tomb to be unearthed in the ancient city of Thebes.” It is the final resting place of a soldier named Djehuty Shed Sou.
The name of the dead soldier was inscribed on colored pillars and there are also hieroglyphs that list his military and civilian titles. One of the dead man’s titles was that of “holder of the seal of the king of Upper Egypt,” according to the Luxor Times.
The sarcophagus found in the ancient Egyptian soldier’s tomb in Thebes. (Ministry of Antiquities of Egypt)
It is the second important find of a military leader’s tomb in recent times. In 2018, archaeologists found the burial site of a war-hero “who served under two different pharaohs: Seti I and Ramesses II” south of Cairo, reports the Daily Mail.
Little else is known about Djehuty Shed Sou. However, he must have been a very powerful figure in his time based on the dimension and the location of his tomb. Djehuty Shed Sou must have been favored by the pharaoh to receive the distinction of being buried in the necropolis, which was strictly reserved for the elite.
The tomb, which has several rooms, had an amazing 18 entrances, and this is the largest number of entrances ever found in the necropolis. There is a courtyard before the burial place and there are two deep wells located in the northern and southern corners. The military man’s grave is located in a small graveyard and it is flanked by two imposing tombs that belonged to royal officials from the 18th and 19th dynasty.
Some of the artifacts found in the tomb. (Ministry of Antiquities of Egypt)
Many Archaeological Treasures Unearthed
This graveyard has already yielded a great many archaeological findings and they include Ushabti statues, funerary figurines that represented servants who would serve the dead in the afterlife. Also found was a funerary mask, an intact papyrus roll bearing hieratic script, and some stone vessels. A rare Ptolemaic-era coin was also found in the graveyard. Some seals have also been found that show that there could be up to 50 more burials at the location.
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Statues on display outside a newly discovered ancient Egyptian soldier’s tomb in Luxor, Egypt. (Ahram Online)
The discovery of the soldier’s tomb, possibly the largest non-royal tomb ever found, is changing how we view not only the necropolis but also the burial practices of the New Kingdom. Further investigations may reveal more about the clearly powerful but mysterious figure of Djehuty Shed Sou. This could lead to more insights about the military and the government of the New Kingdom. It is believed that the graveyard will provide many more treasures and finds in the near future.
Top image: The sarcophagus found in the ancient Egyptian soldier’s tomb; the largest rock cut tomb found to date in Thebes. Source: Ministry of Antiquities of Egypt
By Ed Whelan