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Kushite ceremonial cup

Cheers! Archaeologists Discover Ceremonial Cup from the Dynasty of the Black Pharaohs


A team of scientists, composed of members of the Tenerife University of La Laguna and in charge of carrying out an archaeological mission in Luxor, have recently discovered a ceremonial cup from the 25th dynasty, also known as Dynasty of the Black Pharaohs.

Led by Miguel Angel Molinero, Professor of Prehistory, Archaeology, and Ancient History at the university, researchers never suspected that on this fourth campaign on Egyptian soil, they were to rediscover the cup which confirms that the tomb TT209 in Luxor belongs to the 25th (Kushite) dynasty, of Nubian origin.

Luxor is a town built on the ruins of ancient Thebes, capital of the New Kingdom of ancient Egypt. Situated on the east bank of the Nile River is the city of the great temples of ancient Egypt and the famous necropolis of the West Bank, where pharaohs and nobles were buried, now called the Valley of the Kings and the Valley of the Queens.

Night shot from outside the Temple of Luxor

Night shot from outside the Temple of Luxor. (Wikimedia Commons)

The Tomb of Nisemro

The excavations in the tomb, which may have belonged to a former senior Egyptian official named  Nisemro, were completed from June 12 until July 24. The newspaper El Mundo reported that the entrance to the tomb of Nisemro was blocked by rubble from the demolition in 2007 by several illegal construction activities, thus some of the context was also lost. In addition, over the centuries the floods have left large amounts of sediment in the tomb’s interior, with the consequent moisture and the problem that this poses to the conservation of archaeological remains. Nonetheless, the tomb was eventually located by archaeologists in 2012 thanks to the reports written by researchers of the early twentieth century and plans from the 1960s.

"The door was open for the new campaign. The reliefs of Nisemro, seem proud of having acted as protectors of the enclosure from the doorposts," said archaeologists to the newspaper 20 Minutes. They also told the newspaper that the tomb was completely covered with sediment.

In that sediment they even found the tracks and traces left on the grave from the Egyptologists who preceded them as well as looters who visited the tomb over the centuries. The archaeologists told 20 Minutes: "First, we would like to identify the stratigraphic evidence left in the passage. However, we do not hope to see much of anything because we recognize its consequences: the gap left by the theft of a relief, for example." They have also reported that among the materials found inside there were several Ptolemaic floral containers which were used to identify the reuse of the tomb for ceremonial use.

Entrance to the Nisemro tomb in Luxor

Entrance to the Nisemro tomb in Luxor. (Photo:

The ceramic pieces found by the Spanish archaeologists show motifs and stylized lotus leaves of aquatic Nile plants, corresponding to a particular model that developed from the mid-third century to late second century BC. These discoveries led the team to state: "We are confident that the tomb is from the Kushite Dynasty. The owner's title has only one parallel - in a Nubian official from the beginning of the 25th dynasty. We also just found remains of material culture that are attributable to that dynasty."

In late June archeologists also found physical evidence of a funeral ritual with numerous ceramic containers. They do not believe that they were used in everyday life, but instead correspond to ceremonial activities.

One of the most important artifacts they have found was a cup, since it is the first full object found in the tomb that may be attributed to the 25th dynasty. For the Spanish archaeologists at the site it was “as valuable as the grail.”

Ruins of the Temple of Amun of Jebel Barkal, the main religious center of the 25th dynasty or Kushite Dynasty

Ruins of the Temple of Amun of Jebel Barkal, the main religious center of the 25th dynasty or Kushite Dynasty. (Wikimedia Commons)

The time the ceremony took place does not seem to correspond to the time of the burial as the chronology of the ceramics suggests that there is at least 400 years between the construction of the tomb TT 209 and the ceramics from the ceremony. "Each room gives us unexpected images of life and death in the past. Surely we can expect some surprises when we return to work," said the Egyptologists at the end of the current season of excavations.

 A lot of sediment remains in the tomb chambers, but the archaeologists predict that next season may be a "transit route to new discoveries" despite the cleanup they will have to begin their work with.

Featured image: Photograph of the ceremonial cup known as "the holy grail of Luxor." (Photo: EFE / 20 Minutes)

This article was first published in Spanish at and has been translated with permission.

By: Mariló TA



Nubian Pharaoh: Riiiiiiiiiiiiiiight...pure fantasy.

"Rediscovered" - The latest weasel word du jour.

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