The tomb is one of the largest in Thebes, says Dr Farouk Gomaa, the highly-respected archaeologist from the University of Tbingen in Germany who is leading the exploration of the burial monument of Montuemhat, in a new video interview for Heritage Key by Nico Piazza. Clearly, Montuemhat was a powerful and influential figure in ancient Egypt if he was able to carve out such a substantial resting place for himself in the necropolis of the pharaohs. Yet you wont find him on any Egyptian king lists.
In this latest ArchaeoVideo from the Theban tombs, from where Sandro Vannini has been taking photographs for the new “The Lost Tombs of Thebes:Life in Paradise” book, we learn about the hunt for the chamber of Montuemhat, who from around 660-648 BC was Mayor of Thebes, and a highly skilled and crafty diplomat. Egypt underwent some tumultuous changes during his time in office, as the last Nubian kings of the 25th Dynasty, Taharqa and Tantamani, were driven back into Nubia, first by the invading Assyrians, then by the first kings of the 26th Dynasty.
Against this unstable backdrop, Montuemhat managed to maneuver himself into a position whereby he effectively ruled Upper Egypt (it probably helped that his wife, Wedjarenes, was a granddaughter of the Nubian king Piye). History reports that he held onto power right up until his death, after the Nubians had been cleared out, even though he was himself probably of Nubian blood. This allowed Montuemhat plenty of time in which to build for himself his impressive tomb at Thebes a dense complex that extends over multiple levels, with various halls and a large open court at its centre.
Work must have begun on the tomb when Montuemhat who additionally held the title of the Fourth Priest of Amun was only a young man, raising the possibility that it may have originally been built for his father, Nesptah the elder (who was mayor of Thebes before Montuemhat). Inscriptions within his tomb give Montuemhat such glorious titles as eyes of the king in all the land, prince of the deserts and keeper of the gate of the deserts.
Work on TT34 began in 1941, when Zakaria Gomein began excavation of the site, but unfortunately died in a tale recounted by Dr Zahi Hawass. However, no self-respecting Egyptian dignitary would be buried alone, and as Gomaa describes, one of the most spectacular finds made in the tomb of Montuemhat in 1988, was the burial chamber and mummy of Montuemhats son, Nesptah the younger. Its located at the bottom of a deep, dark shaft, many of which are located around the warren-like tomb. In the video, we see archaeologists descending a ladder by lamplight to polish and treat Nesptahs beautiful stone sarcophagus. After his father he was the main person here in Thebes, notes Gomaa.
Gomaa tells an amusing story about how Nesptahs chamber was initially located thanks to the unwitting assistance of some dopey thieves. It was first found by tomb robbers, he says. They managed to go inside, and take the wooden sarcophagus of Nesptah, and they burned it to have light down there. And this made smoke and somebody [saw] this and the police come and stopped the work in the tomb.
A similar break might be required in the hunt for the chamber of Montuemhat himself, and his sarcophagus, should it still be interred within (some suspect it’s buried beneath the temple). The tomb of Montuemhat, the shaft of Montuemhat, we have not found, explains Gomaa. We hope we can find it, he adds.
There are loads more great archaeovideos on Heritage Keys Youtube channel. Enjoy the likes of Dr Salima Ikram revealing how ancient Egyptians mummified their pets, Dr Vassil Dobrev describing the hunt for the tomb of the lost pharaoh Userkare and Dr Mark Lehner discussing the lives of pyramid builders in ancient Egypt. You can also keep track of our latest news, views and videos via Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, Flickr and iTunes – not to mention subscribing to our feeds. Exploring the planet’s ancient past has never been easier with Heritage Key: Unlocking the Wonders.