Restored Ancient Tombs in Khonsu Temple Opening in Luxor
Sometime between 1189 BC and 1077 BC in the Dra Abul-Naga necropolis at the Khonsu Temple in Karnak, on Luxor's west bank, two high status men were the focus of a highly-theatrical and elaborate death ritual. As the souls of these men undertook adventures in the afterlife, their tombs were sealed shut by their followers never to be opened again, until now that is.
On Sunday, a collaborative team of archaeologists from the American Research Centre in Egypt ARCE and the Ministry of Antiquities in Egypt celebrated the completion of a complex restoration project which was undertaken with a grant of $2.13 million (EGP 35million) from the US Agency for International Development (USAID).
Tombs Of A Sacred Scribe And High Priest Of Amun
An article in Ahram Online explains that the project at Khonsu Temple at Karnak required cleaning, documenting, and restoring the four temple chapels and two tombs. Patches from previous restoration work in the 1960s and 1970s were removed and replaced using current technology and major structural repairs were carried out on the ancient tombs’ architraves and ceilings.
The tombs at Khonsu Temple in Karnak have been restored and will be open to visitors. (Ahram Online)
According to the depictions on wall reliefs the first of the restored tombs belonged to Raya, from the 19th Dynasty, who was the fourth prophet of Amun. The priesthood of Amun constantly worshiped, and made offering to, the god Amun and the priesthood in Thebes had four high-ranking priests led by the Chief Prophet of Amun at Karnak, otherwise known as the chief priest.
The second tomb, dated to the 20th Dynasty, belongs to Niay who was the Scribe of the Table. Not everyone in ancient Egypt could read and write and the knowledge held by scribes was perceived as magical arts. Only scribes were permitted to have this sacred knowledge which most of us take for granted today.
Collaborative Archaeology Enhances Peace In The Middle East
While the Priesthood of Amun, the tomb builders, did everything to assure that the physical remains of these two men remained intact, so as not to disturb their soul’s existence in the afterlife, contrary to this mission a new visitor walkway, to facilitate access to the once sacred space, has been installed.
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A new visitor walkway has been installed in the tomb area of the Khonsu Temple. (Ahram Online)
Minister of Antiquities Khaled El-Enany said that the project is a good example of “the cooperation that takes place between Egypt and the USA”, a relationship that according to the Embassy of Egypt’s, in Washington DC, website has for decades been a “meaningful, functioning alliance” grounded in a mutual commitment to advancing peace, prosperity, and stability in the Middle East.
This new facility is one of many that have recently opened in Egypt as attempts are made to rebuild the country's tourism industry in the wake of the significant downturn after the 2011 revolution that toppled longtime strongman Hosni Mubarak.
In July this year, Khaled el-Anany told reporters at DW that a pair of ancient pyramids were opening to tourists for the first time since 1965. The 259 feet (79 meter) tall Bent Pyramid and another nearby pyramid are located roughly 25 miles (40 kilometers) south of the capital, Cairo, and were built in the 4th Dynasty around 2,600 BC by founding pharaoh Sneferu.
In July 2019, Egypt opened the Bent Pyramid for tourism for the first time since 1965. (Lexie / CC BY-SA 2.0)
Khaled el-Anany says he’s “very proud” of these efforts towards preserving Egypt’s heritage and humanity and he wished all success to the US associations in his new post and he promises to help create lasting jobs and prosperity in Egypt. The tourist dollar aside, what is really great in all these recent conservation and commercialization efforts in Egypt is that 59 young archaeologists and conservators were trained, hands-on, as these chapels and tombs were restored.
Archaeological Jobs Bring A Sense Of Security
Notwithstanding I might sound like a controversial president, what Egypt really needs are jobs. Lots of jobs. Jobs like you have never seen before. In May, an Arab Weekly article said that the unemployment rate in Egypt is moving down significantly but that Cairo needed to boost economic growth and “attract foreign investments”. And archaeology is a superb vessel to achieve this.
To facilitate on-site conservation work and training, ARCE established and outfitted a conservation laboratory in 2008, complete with equipment, a classroom, and administrative spaces. (Ahram Online / Fair Use)
The Egyptian unemployment rate dropped to 8.1% in the first quarter of 2019 which is the lowest in 20 years, but in comparison, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in the first quarter of 2019 in the US the national unemployment rate remained at 3.7%. In an article in Egypt Independent, economics professor at Cairo University, Yumn al-Hamaqi, said the fact that more people are working is good for the economy because a drop in the joblessness rate means more demand in the market, more production and more “social and economic stability”.
And, in achieving ‘social and economic stability’ Egypt will return to its golden years between 1189 BC and 1077 BC, for all evidence suggests in the 20th Dynasty, these key cultural factors had been achieved and maintained. So much so, dignitaries and high priests were buried in urban centers without fear of them ever being disturbed, especially not by advanced civilizations like our own claims to be.
Top image: The south facing entrance of Khonsu Temple, located in the Karnak Temple Complex on Luxor's East Bank. Source: ARCE / Fair Use.
By Ashley Cowie