Sunday, January 19, 2014


THE tomb of a "forgotten" pharaoh from an equally forgotten dynasty has been discovered in Abydos, the most sacred city of Ancient Egypt ... a find which, experts hope, could lead to finding several more royal tombs from the "lost" 13th Dynasty.

The find also reminds us that the Lost Tomb of Antinous has yet to be found under the sands of Egypt.

The 3,650-year-old tomb and the mummy of pharaoh Woseribre Senebkay were found by accident by University of Pennsylvania archaeologist Josef Wegner, doctoral student Kevin Chahail and their colleagues.

The find is significant for several reasons. First of all, little is known about the 13th Dynasty, a time when the Egyptian civilization was in chaos and numerous kings ruled for very short periods of time.

Invaders from the north were encroaching on Egypt. Called the Hyksos, they would soon conquer Egypt.

Another reason why the find is significant is because Abydos was the most sacred city to the Ancient Egyptians. 

It was the site of the Tomb of Osiris, and almost every king had a symbolic tomb of his own at Abydos.

So far, however, only very few tombs have been excavated at Abydos. 

This new discovery encourages experts to suspect there could be scores of royal tombs waiting to be discovered in the desert sands west of Abydos.

Senebkay's tomb had been looted in ancient times, but some lovely, if rather modest wall paintings were intact. The pharaoh's mummy had been torn apart by thieves searching for gold and jewels, but the experts were able to piece together the royal skeleton. 

They found that Senebkay was 5 feet, 10 inches (1.75 meters) tall and was in his mid- to late-40s when he died.

The archaeologists first uncovered hints of Senebkay in the summer 2013. 

That field season, the researchers discovered an enormous red quartzite sarcophagus (or coffin) at the site of Abydos. 

It was clear that the 60-ton behemoth had been removed from its original tomb, but no one could tell who had first been buried inside.

Continued excavations revealed a story of ancient Egyptian recycling. As it turns out, the original owner of the sarcophagus was a pharaoh named Sobekhotep. Most likely, it belonged to Sobekhotep I, the founder of Egypt's 13th Dynasty around 1800 B.C.

Sobekhotep I was buried in a pyramid in Abydos. 

A century and a half later, pharaohs apparently began looting Sobekhotep I's tomb for their own purposes. 

One unknown king snagged the huge sarcophagus. 

Another king picked up a cedar chest, covered up Sobekhotep's name, and used it in his own tomb. 

The recycling ruler's name? Senebkay.

Senebkay's tomb dates to 1650 BC. The tomb is made up of four chambers, including a burial chamber of limestone painted with colorful images of gods and goddesses. 

Nut, the goddess of the sky, Nephthys, the goddess of morning, Isis, the goddess of motherhood and fertility, and Selket, the goddess of protection against scorpions and snake bites, all make appearances on the white walls.

Senebkay is called a "forgotten" pharaoh because his name was only ever mentioned on one ancient list of royal names. 

That documents the Turin King List, is written on papyrus and dates to 1200 BC, some 400 years after Senebkay lived. 

The list shows two kings with variations on the royal name "Woser … re." On the list, these kings head up a dynasty of more than a dozen other kings, but most of those names are illegible or broken off.

Archaeologists suspect at least 16 tombs of kings from the mystery-shrouded 13th Dynasty are hidden nearby. The reuse of old tomb materials suggests the 13th Dynasty pharaohs were relatively poor compared with rulers of other dynasties.

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