Saturday, February 25, 2006

KV-63 and other Luxor Caches

Egyptian Gazette writer Hassan Saadallah on the subject of KV63 and the other Luxor caches.

"The recently discovered catacomb in Luxor is the first intact tomb to be discovered in over 80 years. The tomb, unearthed by an American team of archaeologists, lies very close to the tomb of King Tutankhamun, making experts wonder why the Ancient Egyptians collected so many mummies in one place, known as a catacomb.
The stunning discovery was made in Luxor's Valley of the Kings on the West Bank of the Nile. The tomb lies to the northeast of King Amounmes' tomb. A rectangular chamber cut into the mountain side, 1.3m wide and 1.95m long, the tomb contains five mummies dating back to the 18th Dynasty (1767-1320 BC), lying in wooden sarcophagi bearing coloured human faces and funerary masks. The archaeologists also found 20 sealed pots there.
Asked why the Ancient Egyptians used to gather lots of mummies in one place, Secretary-General of the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA) Zahi Hawass attributed this to the many robberies of mummies and their treasures in the past. 'This was because the kings had little power. They could neither protect the country nor even the mummies and tombs of their forefathers,' he explained.Much has been revealed about these robberies and the trials of the thieves from ancient papyri. Priests would wrap the mummies in their sarcophagi and rebury them in secret places, so secret in fact that so far only four have been found.
As for the other three catacombs, a senior archaeologist called Mohamed Megahed says the first was discovered in AD 1881 inside the tomb of a woman called In-Habi, south of Al-Deir Al-Bahari. This catacomb is thought to date to one of the Intermediate Period dynasties.'It was the biggest catacomb discovered in the 19th century,' adds Megahed, head of the Technical Office for Scientific Research at the SCA General Secretariat.
The catacomb contained 40 mummies, most of which were in good condition, and they are now in the Egyptian Museum. Among the mummies were those of Ahmose; Thutmose I; Thutmose II; Thutmose III; Ramses I, II, III and IV; Seti I; King Ahmose's wife, Nefertari; Sand Merit Amoun and wife of King Amenhoteb I.
It was later found that members of an influential local family had explored the catacomb three times before it was officially discovered and announced that they had royal antiquities for sale. Investigations soon led to the family and the catacomb. 'Happily, the same member of the influential family who guided the authorities to the first one, reported the second cache in January 1891. He led director of the [Egyptian] Antiquities Authority at the time to the cache located at the foot of the mountain near Queen Nefro's tomb, very near Al-Deir Al-Bahari Temple,' Megahed explains. 'At a depth of about 35 feet, they reached the bottom of a well that took them to a hole leading to a little corridor where many wooden sarcophagi were found. The way the sarcophagi were made show they date to the 21st Dynasty. The mummies belonged to ordinary priests of the god Amoun.' The catacomb contained 153 sarcophagi, 110 funerary statues and 77 other statues, as well as eight wooden placards, a wooden bed and 16 pots containing the intestines from the mummified bodies. As for the third cache, it was also found in the Valley of the Kings in 1898, in one of the side rooms of the tomb of Amenhoteb II. It contained 13 mummies, nine of them ancient Egyptian kings, which are now all in the Egyptian Museum."

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