The discovery, during the 12th season of archaeological excavations will shed light on a little-known historical period in which Thebes became the capital of a kingdom that heralded the dominance of Egypt over Palestine and Syria to the north, and Nubia to the south.
The project was led by CSIC researcher José Manuel Galán, Institute of Languages and Cultures of the Mediterranean and the Middle East. His team included 16 Spanish and four other foreign specialists.
The discovery of Neb
|Photocredit: Higher Council for Scientific Research (CSIC)|
Inside this small rock chamber lay the anthropomorphic carved wooden casket decorated in the characteristic style of the seventeenth dynasty, called “rishi” (which means “beautiful” in Arabic).
“The coffin is painted on the upper surface with a pair of extended wings over the body of the deceased, as if a winged goddess embraced him from behind, thus giving protection in the afterlife,” explains Galán.
“This style of coffin is rare because it was in use for only a short period of time when Egypt was not unified. Thus, very few have been found in their original place and have been well documented in the archaeological context, ” the researcher concluded.
An inscription that runs from the chest to the foot of the coffin lid directs an invocation offering to a man named Neb. His mummy remains inside and is apparently in good condition.
The owner of another discovered tomb was called Intefmose, interred with three inscriptions – including one accompanied by a portrait in relief calling him “son of the king“.
Galán states: “We believe that Intefmose could be the son of Sobekemsaf, one of the first kings of the 17th Dynasty, about whom we have barely any historical information.”
The tomb of Intefmose consists of a small chapel built with adobe bricks, erected in front of a shaft-grave (about seven metres deep) that leads to a burial chamber, where, through a hole in the back of this room, the team found access to the burial chamber of a further tomb.
The second tomb belongs to the high-level official Ahhotep, also called “spokesman of Nekhen“, a city better-know as Hierakonpolis. In this burial chamber, archaeologists found three funerary figurines called shabtis, painted and with the name of the deceased written on the front.
Galán adds: “Two of these shabtis were found inside small clay sarcophagi, decorated with an inscription on the sides and on the top. The third one was wrapped in nine linen fabrics, as if it was a real mummy, and each of the fabrics had traces of writing in black ink.”
Taken together, these finding, along with others conducted in the same area, confirm that Dra Abu el-Naga was where the members of the royal family and their courtiers of the 17th Dynasty were buried.
17th Dynasty: a time of war
The 17th Dynasty is part of the historical period called Second Intermediate Period (between 1650 and 1550 BCE), characterised by the imperial dominance of rulers of Syro-Palestinian origin who had settled in the eastern Delta in the north of Egypt. It is a time of great political complexity, in which the monarchy did not control all the territory and the real power was in the hands of local governors.
In a fragmented political context, the 17th Dynasty, originally from Thebes, the largest southern city, led the conquest and expulsion of the rulers of the north (the Hyksos) and unified the country into the historical era in Egypt known as the New Kingdom. This was a time of the great Pharaohs who forged the Egyptian empire from the capital of Thebes.
Source: Higher Council for Scientific Research (CSIC)