Friday, June 04, 2010

More re rediscovery of Ptahmes at Saqqara

The official press release from the SCA, with some photographs that I haven't seen elsewhere.

The Archaeology faculty at Cairo University has discovered a new tomb at Saqqara. The mission uncovered the tomb of Ptah Mes, arm leader and royal scribe, in the 19th dynasty cemetery of top governmental officials, which is located at the southern side of the ramp of king Unas’ pyramid in Saqqara.

Culture minister Farouk Hosni announced the discovery today adding that the tomb can be dated to the second half of the 19th dynasty (1203-1186 BC).

Dr. Zahi Hawass, Secretary General of the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA), explained that the tomb is 70m long and composed of a number of corridors and chapels. This tomb design is similar to the tomb of Ptah Im Wiya, the royal seal bearer, who lived during the reign of king Akhenaten. A Dutch mission discovered Ptah Im Wiya’s tomb at Saqqara in 2007.

Dr. Ola El-Egezi, former Dean of the Faculty of Archaeology at Cairo University, said that the owner of the tomb is a prominent figure as he was appointed to several governmental posts, including the inherited prince, the royal scribe and the supervisor of Ptah temple. She continued that excavations also revealed several stelae. Among them is an unfinished stela engraved with a scene featuring the deceased and his family before the Theban triad: Amun, Mut and Khonsu. Such a stelae, El-Egezi said, reveals that during the second half of the 19th dynasty, the cult of Amun was revived.

Deputy of the mission, Dr. Ahmed Saeed, said that during the excavations several fragments of a statue of the tomb’s owner and his wife were unearthed. A painted head that most probably belongs to his wife or one of his daughters has also been discovered along with a lower part of a limestone statue that belongs to the deceased. Clay vessels, shawbti figurines and amulets have also been found within the sand.

Dr. Heba Mustafa, another member of the mission, said that pillars of this tomb were reused during the Christian era to build chapels. The tomb was also subjected to robbery in the 19th century, which lead to the deterioration of some of its walls. Several pieces of the wall were found within the debris inside the tomb. Mustafa said that all of these pieces were collected in order to be restored and registered.
Excavations will continue at the tomb of Ptah Mes in an attempt to find the main shaft of the tomb, which will lead to the burial chamber where the deceased’s sarcophagus and his funerary equipment were placed.

Talking Pyramids (Vincent Brown)

I know that Vincent has been particularly busy recently so congratulations for pulling together a coherent account of the rediscovery of Ptahmes, together with some great photos.

It seems difficult to imagine how such a large tomb, reported as being 70 meters long, can be ‘lost’. The desert has a hunger for tombs and can gobble up large necropolises in no time at all. In the last couple of years at Saqqara alone there have been many finds as teams of archaeologists work to remove the sand. Looking at just the pyramids, we saw the rediscovery of the pyramid of Menkauhor which Lepsius had discovered and documented in 1842 only to be lost in again under the sand. That was followed by the discovery of the pyramid of Sesheshet, then the discovery of the pyramid of Behenu. There is also the quest to find the lost pyramid of Userkare, which Lepsius may also have mapped but has since been lost under the sands.

With the tomb of Ptahmes though, there were clues scattered all over the world. Some of the artefacts that had been looted in the 19th century now reside in museums in the United States, the Netherlands, Italy, and even in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo. These artefacts all contained information about the tomb, giving their own clues. Pillars that were removed from the tomb, for example are now kept in the Rijksmuseum van Oudheden.

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