Friday, March 21, 2008

The eternity of the desert

Al Ahram Weekly (Nevine el-Aref)

Following 16 years of closure to the public, the Al-Muzawaka necropolis in Dakhla Oasis will soon be back on the tourists track, reports Nevine El-Aref

Restorers and archaeologists have been working on the Roman necropolis to clean, consolidate and restore the tombs, which are embraced within a rocky, table-top mound. The 300 tombs are gouged out of the rock, all unpainted tombs except for two. These, the tombs of Petosiris and Sadosiris, are certainly the most interesting, with walls vividly- painted with scenes combining ancient Egyptian and Roman deities at one time. The tombs were discovered in 1972 by Egyptian archaeologist Ahmed Fakhry, who because of the paintings called them Al-Muzawaka.

The walls of Petosiris's tomb are painted with fair-haired, Roman- nosed figures in Pharaonic poses, curly-haired angels. On the ceiling is a zodiac with a bearded Janus figure. The owner of the tomb is also featured on the back right-hand corner, standing on a turtle and holding aloft a snake and fish -- a curious amalgam of Egyptian and Graeco-Roman symbols.

The wall paintings of Sadorisis's tomb show the deceased in positions with various deities: before Anubis while his heart is weighed; before Osiris while he is judged; and with Janus looking back on the deceased's life and forward into the hereafter.

Harvesting scenes are depicted in both tombs, as well as some agricultural products of the oasis such as grapes and olives.

While the other tombs in the necropolis are unpainted, they were found still with embalmed corpses.

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