Lost tomb of ancient Egyptian official Ptahmes re-discovered

Sean Williams
Tuesday 01 June 2010 12:41 BST

The lost tomb of an Egyptian general and scribe has been unearthed in the ancient necropolis of Saqqara – 125 years after it was first discovered. The tomb, of 19th Dynasty (1203 – 1186 BC) official Ptahmes, is over 70m long and features several chapels - so it's a wonder no-one recorded its location in 1885, leaving it to disappear beneath the desert sands.

Most of the tomb's treasures are already in museums as far apart as The Netherlands, Italy and the United States. But its latest discovery by experts at Cairo University revealed several stelea (grave markers) including an unfinished image of Ptahmes himself. Another shows his family before the 'Theban Triad' of Amun, Mut and Khonsu: three gods popular at the time. A painted head of Ptahmes' daughter or wife was also found, alongside shabti figurines, amulets and clay vessels. Yet Ptahmes' sarcophagus remains missing, as work continues to find the tomb's main shaft and burial chamber.

Ptahmes was a high-ranking official of his time who was appointed several important roles in the empire, including mayor of Memphis, royal scribe and supervisor of the temple of Ptah. His tomb was located on the side of the Pyramid of King Unas, a highly-prized plot. Excavation member Dr Heba Mustafa notes the tomb's pillars were reused for chapels during Egypt's Christian era, while damage to its walls were incurred during its 19th century opening.

Saqqara, dubbed the 'City of the Dead', is a major necropolis 40km south of Cairo. It is home to a plethora of ancient landmarks including early mastabas, rock-cut tombs and the Step Pyramid of Djoser, which at around 4,600 years old is Egypt's first pyramid. Saqqara today is a hive of archaeological activity – among its highest profile digs is French expert Vassil Dobrev's ongoing quest to find the Pyramid of Userkare.

Video: Where will Userkare's pyramid be discovered?

A History of Archaeological Excavations at Saqqara

Saqqara, City of the Dead

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