During excavation work in the area around the early 18th Dynasty rock-cut tombs of Djehuty and Hery (ca 1500‐1450 BCE) in Draa Abul Nagaa necropolis, a Spanish archaeological mission unearthed a unique funerary garden.
Mahmoud Afifi, head of the Ancient Egyptian Antiquities sector at the Ministry of Antiquities told Ahram Online that the garden was found in the open courtyard of a Middle Kingdom rock-cut tomb and the layout of the garden measures 3m x 2m and is divided into squares of about 30cm.
These squares, he pointed out, seem to have contained different kinds of plants and flowers. In the middle of the garden the mission has located two elevated spots that was once used for the cultivation of a small tree or bush.
At one of the corners, Afifi continued, the roots and the trunk of a 4,000 year-old small tree have been preserved to a height of 30cm. Next to it, a bowl containing dried dates and other fruits, which could have been presented as offerings, were found.
Excavators during their mission. (photos courtesy of the Spanish mission)
Dried dates and other fruits found as offerings. (photos courtesy of the Spanish mission)
“The discovery of the garden may shed light on the environment and gardening in ancient Thebes during the Middle Kingdom, around 2000 BCE,” said Jose Galan, head of the Spanish mission and research professor at the Spanish National Research Council in Madrid.
He explained that similar funerary gardens were only found on the walls of a number of New Kingdom tombs where a small and squared garden is represented at the entrance of the funerary monument, with a couple of trees next to it. It probably had a symbolic meaning and must have played a role in the funerary rites. However, Galan asserted, these gardens have never been found in ancient Thebes and the recent discovery offers archaeological confirmation of an aspect of ancient Egyptian culture and religion that was hitherto only known through iconography.
One of the newly discovered stelae. photos courtesy of the Spanish mission
Moreover, he pointed out, near the entrance of the Middle Kingdom rock-cut tomb, a small mud-brick chapel measuring 46cm x 70cm x 55cm was discovered attached to the façade. Inside it three stelae of the 13th Dynasty, around ca 1800 BCE, were found in situ.
He explained that early studies reveal that the owner of one of them was called Renef‐Seneb, and the owner of the second was “the citizen Khemenit, son of the lady of the house, Idenu.” The latter mentions the gods Montu, Ptah, Sokar and Osiris.
The second newly discovered stelae. (photos courtesy of the Spanish mission)
“These discoveries underscore the relevance of the central area of Dra Abul Naga as a sacred place for the performance of a variety of cultic activities during the Middle Kingdom,” asserted Galan.
The Spanish mission has been working for 16 years in Dra Abul Naga, on the West Bank of Luxor, around the early 18th Dynasty rock-cut tombs of Djehuty and Hery.
The discovered garden. (photos courtesy of the Spanish mission)