Tomb of 12th Dynasty Noblewoman Unearthed in Egypt
The tomb of a prominent lady called Sattjeni, who lived during the reign of the 12h Dynasty, was discovered by Spanish Egyptologists in the necropolis of Qubbet el-Hawa (West Aswan), Egypt.
The team of researchers from the Jaén University in Spain has been working on West Aswan since 2008 and, since that year, has discovered several intact burials from different time periods. However, the most recent discovery appears as one of the most impressive.
The group led by Alejandro Jimémez-Serrano discovered the tomb of Sattjeni, who appears as one of the most important women of her times. According to El Confidencial, inside the tomb the researchers discovered the remains of a woman, who was buried in two wooden coffins. The inscription allowed the identification of her name.
The inscription identifying the name of the woman. Credit: Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities
Sattjeni was known as mother, daughter and wife of great governors. Her family worked mostly in the service of pharaoh Amenemhat III (1800-1775 BC). She was the daughter of Prince Sarnbhut II, and a mother to Heqa-Ib III and Amaeny-Senb, two of the highest authorities of Elephantine under the reign of this pharaoh.
The body of Sattjeni was wrapped in linen and deposited in two coffins made of cedar from Lebanon. Her face was still covered by the cartonnage mask. The inner coffin was very well preserved, enabling the accurate dating of the year in which the tree was cut to make the coffin. Inside the coffin was Sattjeni’s mummified remains. As Alejandro Jimémez-Serrano said to Ancient Origins:
''The body of Sattjeni was laying in her original position with some remains of the original covering of wrappings. The body is in excellent condition, which will permit our team of anthropologists to know more about her living conditions, age of death, pathologies, ethnic features, etc.''
The time when Amenemhat III ruled Egypt, was one of the most impressive times in the history of ancient Egypt. Amenemhat was a great builder of pyramids and an impressive military leader. He also accomplished the building of the canal which connected Fayum Depression with the Nile. It was 16 kilometers (9.9 mi) long and 1.5 kilometers (0.93 mi) wide. It seems that the period of his rule was also good to women like Sattjeni because they were able to achieve high positions in society. Moreover, his daughter, Sobekneferu became a ruler of Egypt. Named after the crocodile God Sobek, Sobeknefru, whose name means ‘she who shows the beauty of Sobek’, succeeded her brother to the throne of Egypt. She was perhaps the first famous female pharaoh in history.
Bust of Amenemhat III, Neues Museum, Berlin (Flickr)
In 2014, the Spanish Mission in Qubbet el-Hawa, also directed by Dr. Alejandro Jiménez-Serrano, discovered a tomb of Lady Sattjeni's son, Heqaib III. He was a local governor on the Elephantine and a priest of Khnum. Inside the tomb the researchers discovered a painted coffin and remains of a mummy mask.
Among the most important discoveries of the team are the oldest remains of a woman who suffered due to breast cancer. She lived during the reign of the Sixth Dynasty (c. 2200 BC) and was an aristocrat from Elephantine.
Mask depicting female face found in tomb. Credit: Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities
Asked about the future plans related to the discovery, Jimémez-Serrano claimed:
''Our project is mainly devoted to the study of highest officials of Elephantine from the Old Kingdom to the end of the Middle Kingdom. In the last years, we have focused on the 12th Dynasty funerary complexes, but surely new discoveries will lead to work in other periods.''
The major goal of researchers from Spain is to reconstruct the life and funerary rituals of the governors of Elephantine, but also the life of their families who lived between 2250 and 1750 BC. The necropolis of Qubbet el-Hawa still protects many of its treasures. The Spanish Mission will unearth them soon, hopefully.
Top image: The newly-discovered coffin of an Egyptian noblewoman. Credit: Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities