By Waleed Abu al-Khair in Cairo
In an archaeological find Egyptian experts are calling very important, an Italian mission -- headed by Angelo Sesana and working in the mortuary temple of Amenhotep II on Luxor's west bank -- recently discovered a necropolis containing tombs dating back to the beginning of the Third Intermediate Period (roughly 1075-664 BCE).
Amenhotep II, son of King Thutmose III and Merytre-Hatshepsut, was the seventh pharaoh of the 18th Dynasty.
"The site of the discovery is located near the Ramesseum temple, one of the most important funerary temples not only in Egypt but in the world," said Niazi Ali, a professor of pharaonic antiquities at Cairo University's Faculty of Archaeology.
Mission members have found a number of burial chambers, with a well in front of each and remnants of wooden sarcophagi containing some skeletal remains, Ali said. The sarcophagi are believed to be made of decay-resistant wood.
A set of funereal articles commonly used during that period -- jewellery, toiletries and food left for the deceased to consume in his second life -- also were found at the site, along with a number of canopic jars containing the mummified internal organs of the deceased.
"Amenhotep II is known for his great interest in building funerary temples, and the tombs were likely built for athletes and warriors, whom he held in great esteem, particularly horse riders and archers," Ali said.
Officials immediately transferred the new findings to the antiquities warehouse in Luxor for lab tests, repairs and restoration, said Gamal Abdel Hakim, an archaeological site supervisor at the Egyptian Antiquities Authority.
They will be prepared for display, first at the Egyptian Museum, in the near future, and later at the Luxor Museum, Abdel Hakim said.
EXCAVATIONS ARE UNDER WAY AT NUMEROUS SITES
Excavation activity is currently under way at other sites, he said, most notably in Deir al-Mantaqa, the Valley of the Queens on the west bank of Luxor, al-Kharga in New Valley province, Deir al-Muneira and al-Tabshiya.
"The year 2013 will witness the opening of 13 archaeological projects in various provinces and the signing of two international antiquities-preservation agreements," he said.
Among these is an agreement signed with the Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation that calls for the maintenance, documentation and preservation of heritage sites and the restoration of a number of Islamic antiquities and the Church of the Apostles in Atfih, he said.
The Ministry of Antiquities is currently taking action to remove encroachments on some archaeological sites, particularly in Dahshur, where residents are demanding the allocation of land for cemeteries.
Girgis Hanna, a fourth-year student at Cairo University's Faculty of Antiquities, is one of a number of students who periodically participates in excavations carried out by foreign missions working in Egypt.
"Working with foreign missions provides the student with a lot of experience, especially if the student works with more than one mission from more than one country, as each mission has its own methods, techniques and scientific plans," he told Al-Shorfa.
A mission from the American Research Centre in Egypt recently unearthed a statue of the goddess Sekhmet in the Temple Precinct of Mut in Karnak on Luxor's east bank, he said.
The 180-centimetre statue has the head of a lioness and body of a human, with a sun disk and cobra crown on its head. It holds an Ankh -- the key of life -- in its right hand and a lotus flower in its left.
"The discovery shows that many archaeological excavations are needed for the goddess Mut temple," Hanna said, adding that there will be some exploratory excavations inside the temple to determine if other antiquities remain buried inside.