Culture

Archaeologists find 4,400-year-old tomb outside Cairo

CAIRO: Archaeologists in Egypt have discovered a 4,400-year-old tomb near the country’s famed pyramids at the Giza plateau just outside Cairo, the Antiquities Ministry said at the weekend. The tomb was found in a wider area of Giza’s western necropolis, which is known to be home to tombs from the Old Kingdom.

It likely belonged to a woman known as Hetpet, who archaeologists believe was close to ancient Egyptian royals of the fifth dynasty.

Unveiled to the media Saturday, the tomb is made of mud brick and includes wall paintings in good condition depicting Hetpet observing different hunting and fishing tableaux.

Other scenes depict a monkey – in pharaonic times, monkeys were commonly kept as domestic animals – picking fruit. Similar depictions have been found in other tombs belonging to the later 12th dynasty, according to the ministry’s statement. Another setting shows a monkey dancing before an orchestra.

According to the ministry, the archaeological mission behind the discovery started excavating the site last October. Archaeologists have been unearthing ruins in the vicinity since the 19th century, and Mostafa al-Waziri, who led the mission, believes there is still more to be found.

“This is a very promising area. We expect to find more,” Waziri told reporters at the dig.

“We have removed between 250 and 300 cubic meters of layers of earth to find the tomb.

“What we see above the earth’s surface in Egypt doesn’t exceed 40 percent of what the core holds.”

Waziri believes Hetpet had another tomb in Giza’s western necropolis and said that excavation work is underway to find that one too.

Hetpet is a previously known figure in Egyptian antiquity though her mummy has not yet been discovered. Fragments of artifacts belonging to Hetpet were found in the same area in 1909, and were moved to a museum in Berlin at the time, antiquities Minister Khaled al-Anani said Saturday, speaking at the site to reporters and Western diplomats.

Despite all the discoveries already made about ancient Egypt, experts say they hope to find many more – in part thanks to modern technology – treasures still buried under the vast desert.

The area of the latest discovery is close to an archaeological museum under construction that will house some of Egypt’s most unique and precious artifacts, including many belonging to the famed boy King Tutankhamen.

The first phase of the Grand Egyptian Museum is expected to be opened later this year while the grand opening is planned for 2022.

In January, Egypt placed the ancient statue of one of its most famous pharaohs, Ramses II, at the museum’s atrium, which will include 43 massive statues.

Throughout 2017, Egypt’s Antiquities Ministry made a string of discoveries across Egypt – including some in the southern city Luxor, known for its spectacular temples and tombs spanning different dynasties of Egypt’s ancient history.

Egypt hopes the inauguration of the new museum, along with the recent discoveries, will draw back visitors to the country, where tourism has been hit hard by extremist attacks and political turmoil following the 2011 popular uprising that toppled longtime autocrat Hosni Mubarak and the authorities’ struggles to rein in an insurgency by Islamic militants.

The state has tightened security around archaeological and touristic sites and spent millions of dollars to upgrade airport security, especially following the 2015 downing of a Russian airliner over the restive Sinai Peninsula by Daesh (ISIS), killing 224 people on board.

The bombing dealt Egypt’s vital tourism sector a staggering blow after Russia suspended flights to and from Egypt.

In December, Cairo and Moscow signed a security protocol and announced plans to resume Russian flights to the Egyptian capital, due to start this month.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on February 05, 2018, on page 16.

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