Burial site revealing ancient Egyptian funerary rites uncovered

Nevine El-Aref , Wednesday 30 May 2012

The well preserved coffin of an unidentified Middle Kingdom provincial governor was found in the Deir Al-Barsha necropolis near the upper Egyptian city of Minya

libation pots

In the course of routine excavation work at the tomb of the first Middle Kingdom governor of the Hare Nome or province, the nomarch Ahanakht I at the Deir Al-Barsha site in Minya, Belgian archaeologists from the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven stumbled on what is believed to be an important burial going back to the beginning of the Middle Kingdom.

“It is for the first time in over a century that a relatively well preserved burial of this kind has been found,” said Mohamed Ibrahim, Minister of State for Antiquities. He went on to explain that, although the burial was robbed at least twice in antiquity and has suffered extensive damage since, a large part of the funerary collection was found well preserved at its original position.

Early studies suggest that the burial must belong to one of the governor or a member of his family.

Mohamed Ismail, the director of Foreign Missions Affairs at the Ministry of State for Antiquities (MSA), pointed out that a collection of ritual objects in alabaster, faience, copper and pottery was found in its original position – embedded in the dried lime crust. It includes many alabaster model vessels, offering table head rests, faience libation vases, copper vases and dishes.

These funerary items, Ismail explained, enable Egyptologists to envision how ancient Egyptians practiced their religious rituals in detail. He went on to say that ancient Egyptians might have installed the sarcophagus in the middle of the burial chamber and then started the purification and offering processes.

Harco Willems, field director of the Belgian mission, told Ahram Online that the coffin remains discovered in the burial are in bad condition, yet early studies reveal that the coffin remains were inscribed with texts showing that it was the burial of  a man called Djehutinakht.

This is important, Willems asserted, because the inscriptions in the Ahanakht tomb also mention his father, also Djehutinakht. This man had an offering place in the tomb, which suggests that Ahanakht buried his father in his own tomb. “Djehutinakht is known to have been the last nomarch of the Hare Nome of the First Intermediate Period. It can now be concluded that this person was buried here.”

The coffin is inscribed with a group of Coffin Texts among the most important religious texts of the Middle Kingdom, forming the link between the royal Pyramid Texts of the Old Kingdom and the famous Book of the Dead of the New Kingdom.

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