Egyptian Tomb Dating To 4,400 Years Ago Has Hidden Shafts Which Might Hold The Treasures Of The 'Divine Inspector’
The 4,400-year-old tomb is the next in a string of rare discoveries at the Saqqara pyramid complex in Egypt. A BBC article quotes Mostafa Waziri, secretary-general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, describing the find as “one of a kind in the last decades.”
What Treasures Were Found?
The Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities announced that the tomb had been constructed for a man called Wahtye, known during his lifetime as the “Divine Inspector.” According to an article in Live Science , Egyptian antiquities minister, Khaled El-Enany, told reporters at a press conference last week that the tomb holds “At least 55 statues” and that they were “Exceptionally well preserved and [colorful] with sculptures inside.”
The tomb contains 24 statues on the upper level and 31 statues on the lower level. (Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities)
Who Was the Divine Inspector?
This high-ranking priest known as the ‘Divine Inspector’ worked for Pharaoh Neferirkare between 2446–2438 BC, Waziri said. His tomb contains two levels “with 24 statues on the upper level and 31 statues on the lower level,” depicting both humans and deities, some life-size and others “less than about 3 feet (1 meter) tall.”
Priests were important people in ancient Egyptian society. (Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities)
What Clues do the Hieroglyphs Give?
The tomb’s blazing and exceptionally well-preserved paintings illustrate Ancient Egyptian people engaged in day to day activities like cooking, drinking, and building. The hieroglyphs make mention of Wahtye's wife “Nin Winit Ptah,” a name meaning “the greatest of the god Ptah,” a creator god worshiped in Memphis near Saqqara. It also “often mentions” Wahtye's mother “Merit Meen” which means “lover of the god Min, a fertility god in ancient time.” Waziri said.
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The walls of the tomb are coved in hieroglyphs, the writing system of ancient Egypt. (Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities)
Shafted in Ancient Egypt
According to an article about the discovery of the ancient tomb on ABC.net.au, it measures “10 meters long by 3 meters wide and just under 3 meters high,” (about 33 feet long by 10 feet wide and just under 10 feet high) according to Mr Waziri. Furthermore, “The tomb lies in a buried ridge that has only partially been uncovered” and Egyptian authorities also announced that “hidden beneath the tomb” the team of archaeologists discovered “five hidden shafts,” one of which Waziri said might lead to “the sarcophagus of Wahtye and artifacts buried with him.” The team plan to begin excavating these five shafts on December 17.
The tomb was found in a buried ridge. (Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities)
Why Were So Many Animal Mummies Found?
Saqqara served as the necropolis for Memphis, the capital of ancient Egypt for more than two millennia. In 2011 it was proven that the people had a ‘thing’ for worshiping dead animals. At the ‘dog catacomb’ in Saqqara necropolis an international team of archaeologists led by Paul Nicholson of Cardiff University unearthed “almost eight million animal mummies” at the burial site, according to a Live Science article from July this year. And in 2018 researchers discovered “an exceptionally rare gilded burial mask” and “seven ancient Egyptian tombs” in which a collection of 5th and 6th Dynasty “scarab and cat mummies” were found.
Statues are remarkably preserved. (Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities)
It can be postulated that without doubt a mummified animal of some sort will be discovered with the sarcophagus of the “Divine Inspector.” Animal cults remained popular from about 747 BC to 30 BC, sharply declining during the Roman occupation. According to a Live Science article published in June this year, researchers claim; “The [animal] cults may have been a symbol of national identity when the country was invaded by the people of other nations, such as the Libyans and Persians.” “They set up a pilgrimage temple for almost any deity you can fancy,” said Professor Aidan Dodson of the University of Bristol in England.
What Were the Temples and Catacombs Used For?
He believes that the temples and catacombs at Saqqara “likely spurred trade and commerce” and he also told Live Science, “There's probably a vast amount of trade coming in, not only for producing the animal mummies, but people wanting food, lodging, and drinks.” Dobson concluded that the animal cult was “probably an ancestor of a mass tourism industry.” The ‘Divine Inspector’ was a central figure in the animal cults of Saqqara.
Catacombs. (Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities)
Top image: This 4,400-year-old tomb at Saqqara was constructed for a "divine inspector" named "Wahtye." Source: Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities
By Ashley Cowie