During excavations in the rock tomb of Ichi, notable who served at the court of Pharaoh Pepi more than 4,000 years ago, scientists found the entrance to an even older burial place. The discovery was made at Saqqara, in the vicinity of the oldest Egyptian pyramid built for Pharaoh Djoser.
"In front of the chapel, we found a stone floor ending with a sharp, vertical edge. What we thought was a sill turned out to be the crowning architrave of a tomb located deeper, certainly much older than the tomb of General Ichi" - explained Prof. Karol Myśliwiec of the Institute of Mediterranean and Oriental Cultures PAS, head of the excavation.
The discovery was made within the so-called Dry Moat, in the rock-hewn gigantic depression which surrounded the pyramid of Djoser at a distance of approximately 200 m. Archaeologists had long wondered whether the high rock "dry moat" walls could contain several floors of tombs from the successive phases of the Old Kingdom period, the time of the pyramid builders, including famous Cheops.
"In fact, none of believed in this hypothesis. Our surprise was all the greater because as this was the first such tomb found in Egypt" - said Prof. Myśliwiec.
This year, archaeologists have uncovered only the upper edge of the entrance to the tomb and peeked inside. The tomb is filled with rubble rock almost to the ceiling. They will explore the interior next year, during the next excavation campaign.
Getting to the newly uncovered tomb was preceded by excavations within the Ichi tomb discovered several years ago by Polish archaeologists. During the rule of Pharaoh Pepi, Ichi was responsible for the organization of long trips to the rocky desert to obtain precious metals.
After four weeks of digging and documenting mummies from the time of Alexander the Great, resting on a layer of sand at the entrance to the chapel, the researchers reached its beautifully decorated facade. It consisted of blocks made of snow-white limestone. According to the scientists, quality of the reliefs showed the highest craftsmanship of artists.
"Hieroglyphic on the blocks contains previously unknown titles of the deceased. Highest of these is +General+, which indicates that Ichi was one of the most elite persons in the court of Pharaoh" - explained the head of research.
It was the 17th excavation campaign conducted by the Polish archaeologists in the quarry from the times of the construction of the oldest Egyptian pyramid.
PAP - Science and Scholarship in Poland, Szymon Zdziebłowski