About 20 miles from Cairo, in Saqqara, Egyptian archaeologists have discovered a 3,200-year-old necropolis that once served as the final resting place for the aristocracy living in the Old Kingdom capital city of Memphis.
According to a press release by National Museum of Antiquities of Leiden, the dig was led by Lara Weiss and Daniel Soliman, curators of that institution’s Egyptian and Nubian collection, and Christian Greco, who serves as the director of the Museo Egizio in Turin, Italy.
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The dig team found several tombs shaped like small temples, many with detailed information about who had been buried there. The largest tomb belonged to Panehsy, a steward of the Amun Temple in Karnak. The temple in Panehsy’s tomb was elaborate, with a gated entrance, a courtyard, columned porticoes, and a tunnel that leads to underground burial chambers, according to Archeology.org.
Among the decorations were a statue of Panehsy worshiping the goddess Hathor, mother of Horus, who was often depicted as a beautiful young woman wearing a headdress of cow horns that once framed a great sun disk, a lioness, or a cow. Also discovered was a carving of Panehsy with his wife Baia, “the singer of Amun,” sitting at an offering table.
Four smaller tombs were found at the site, Hyperallergic reports, including one for Yuyu, who made gold foil for the royal treasury, and three for unidentified persons. Weiss, whose research is focused on Egyptian social dynamics, told Hyperallergic she was fascinated by the glimpses into daily life the cemetery brought into focus: “The choices people made in their tomb decoration, how they were inspired by others, and what all this says about the social relations of people.”
The National Museum of Antiquities has been excavating at Saqqara since 1975, and in 2015, the Museo Egizio became an official partner in the project. Earlier this year, archeologists found at Saqqara what could be the oldest known mummy in Egypt.