3,300-year-old Egyptian tombs with "amazing" decorations discovered in Saqqara

3,300-year-old Egyptian tombs with "amazing" decorations discovered in Saqqara

Archaeologists in Egypt have discovered several tombs and chapels dating back some 3,300 years in an ancient graveyard at the site of Saqqara.

The largest tomb was of a man called "Panehsi," the "superintendent of the Temple of Amun." Lara Weiss, curator of the Egyptian and Nubian collection at the National Museum of Dutch Antiquities in Leiden and author of the book "The Walking Dead at Saqqara" (De Gruyter, 2022), one of the leaders of the excavations, told Live Science in an email.

Weiss noted that Panehsi "had a beautiful tomb with wonderful carvings showing great traces of color." The inscriptions indicate that he had no children and that a servant arranged for offerings to be made to the tomb. Weiss said that human remains were found in the Panisi cemetery, but they appear to be from people buried later and will be studied in detail in 2024.

Another newly discovered tomb, Weiss said, belonged to a man named "Yoyo," who was "a gold foil maker and therefore a specialist artist for the royal treasury." While Yoyo's tomb is smaller than Banishi's, it contains impressive artwork depicting "many interesting details such as several ship bearers and a huge procession of mourners," noted Weiss. Weiss said four generations of his family are depicted, including "his parents, himself, his wife, and his brother with his wife, children, children, and grandchildren."

Another newly discovered tomb, whose owner is unknown, has figurines carved in relief and appears to show four people likely belonging to the same family. Weiss noted that the statues appear incomplete, but the design of the statues is similar to those found in a nearby tomb belonging to a couple named Maya and Merit, who lived about 50 years before this tomb was built.

Live Science contacted scientists not involved in the excavation to get their thoughts. Francesco Tiradritti, professor of Egyptology at Core University in Enna, Italy, was impressed with the relief. "The quality of this relief is amazing," said Tiradritti, noting that "the artist played on the three-dimensionality and forehead of the four figures with an awareness rare for the art of ancient Egypt," Tiradreti said the inscription reminded him of relics found in a necropolis near Memphis that date back to the Old Kingdom (c. 2649 BC to 2150 BC), the period when the pyramids were being built in Egypt.

Work on Saqqara is ongoing and directed by scholars from the National Museum of Antiquities in Leiden and the Egyptian Museum in Turin, Italy.

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