One of the questions I often hear immediately after I tell someone I want to be an Egyptologist (other than “What does that even mean?”) is always, “Didn’t we find everything already?”
This month, the Penn Museum team answered that question loud and clear.
(courtesy of Penn Museum)
An archaeological team working at Abydos, a site in southern Egypt, have discovered the tomb of a previously undiscovered ruler: Pharaoh Woseribre Senebkay—and in turn have discovered the first material proof of a unknown Abydos dynasty ca. 1650-1600 BCE.
The excavation of this tomb began in the summer of 2013, when Dr. Josef Wegner, The Egyptian Section Associate Curator of the Penn Museum, led the Penn Museum team in the discovery of a 60-ton royal sarcophagus chamber at South Abydos (depicted above). The summer ended with little information on the sarcophagus—no known owner and only a possible dating to the late Middle Kingdom.
Then, during just the last few weeks of excavations, more and more information was discovered concerning this mysterious chamber. It is now known that the chamber is derived from a royal tomb built originally for Pharaoh Sobekhotep in the 13th Dynasty, but re-used for the previously unknown Pharoah Senebkay in Egypt’s Second Intermediate Period. Senebkay’s tomb dates from around 1650 BCE and is composed of four chambers (including a decorated limestone burial chamber). The tomb has multiple texts providing the king’s titulary.
As is the case for many Egyptian tombs, tomb robbers had most certainly hit the tomb of Senebkay. The king’s body was originally mummified, but his remains were torn apart during the assumed violent incursion that also likely resulted in the loss of the pharaoh’s tomb equipment. However, archaeologists were able to recover remains of the body (and reconstruct it—minus a jaw bone), coffin, funerary masks, and even the canopic chest. The canopic chest of Senebkay was made of cedar wood that had been reused from the nearby tomb of Sobekhotep I and still bore Sobekhotep’s name, covered by gilding. Along with the reused sarcophagus, the canopic chest provides historical evidence for the suggestion of limited resources during the economic situation in the Second Intermediate Period.
(courtesy of discovery.com)
Yet the most important aspect of this discovery is best expressed by the Co-Founder/Owner of Past Preservers (and my former boss!) Nigel Hetherington, a British archaeologist in Egypt.
“There was a gap in the chronology for this period, so people presumed that these pharaohs existed but they had not found the graves. The history books will now be rewritten because of what [these archaeologists] have discovered.”
The excavation of this tomb has further proven that the tomb is just one of many that may be hidden in this area. Lead archaeologist Joseph Wegner predicts that around 20 previously unknown pharaohs may be buried near Senebkay’s tomb.
Who knows what the future holds for the Acropolis at Abydos and what wonderful discoveries may be made in the future? One thing that is certain, however, is that there will always be more to discover about the Ancient Egyptians.