Archaeologists have discovered two ancient Egyptian tombs, belonging to a father and his son, at the Saqqara necropolis in Egypt. The rock-hewn painted tombs were unearthed last week, and with at least one tomb never looted, are considered an important find.
The discovery was made during routine excavations at ‘Gisr El-Muder’, west of Djoser’s Step Pyramid, the first pyramid in Egyptian history. Work in the area has been ongoing since 1968.
Dr Zahi Hawass, Egypt’s antiquities chief, says the tombs belong to 6th Dynasty government official ‘Shendwa’ and his son, ‘Khonsu’.
The older tomb consists of a painted false door bearing the different titles of the tombs owner. Amongst Shendwa’s honorary titles is ‘Head of the Royal Scribes’. The door’s decorations show scenes of the deceased seated before an offering table.
Directly located beneath this faux door is a burial shaft leading down about 20m. Inside the shaft, the excavation team discovered a painted relief and a 30cm-tall limestone obelisk.
This obelisk is a symbol of worshipping the sun god Re, says Dr Hawass. He adds that Old Kingdom Egyptians erected small obelisks in front of their tombs and inside temples related to the tombs of the Queens pyramids.
When opened, Shendwa’s tomb was found intact. No tomb robbers had ever found and plundered it, but sadly the wooden sarcophagus had disintegrated through humidity and erosion.
Alongside thesarcophagus was a collection of limestone jars, including five offering vessels in the shape of a duck, with duck bones still inside.
Khonsu’s tomb was discovered next to his father’s. The team located its false door, an offering table directly opposite that door and a floor lintel decorated with 6th Dynasty symbols. The false door lists Khonsu’s official titles, most of which he inherited from his father. Above it is a small coloured relief depicting Khonsu in different poses.
The 6th Dynasty ruled from 2374 to 2191BC, around 200 years after the construction of the Great Pyramid of Giza. Finding an intact burial at Saqqara is not exceptional, as you can see in this video, showing the discovery of the tomb and opening of the sarcophagus. Another recent ‘6th Dynasty’ discovery is that of Queen Behenu’s burial chamber, and, of course, there are the ongoing quests for Userkare’s pyramid.