Enlarge /. Copies or extracts of the Book of the Dead were often included in funerals so that the deceased had a guide to life after death.
Archaeologists in Egypt are preparing to open a 3,000-year-old grave shaft in the Saqqara necropolis south of Cairo next week.
The unexplored tomb is one of 52 tomb shafts located near the much older pyramid of Pharaoh Teti. Workers on the construction site found the entrance to the newest shaft earlier this week as they prepared to announce a number of other finds at the construction site, including the graves of military leaders and high-ranking courtiers, a copy of the Book of the Dead. and old board games. The discoveries also include the name of the owner of an ornate mortuary temple near Teti's pyramid: Narat or Naert, the queen of the pharaoh.
"I had never heard of this queen before. So we are adding an important piece of Egyptian history about this queen," archaeologist and former Egyptian minister of antiquities Zahi Hawass told CBS News. Archaeologists first discovered the stone temple in 2010, but it wasn't It was clear for whom the great structure was built. In mortuary temples like this, priests and supplicants could make sacrifices to the dead queen so that she would feel good in the afterlife – and ask her to help them in this world.
(Side note: surviving examples of ancient Egyptian prayers to the dead often remind us that if the living don't do their part and help the living, they may forget to keep making sacrifices and reciting prayers for the dead, and the mummy's curse was really just his ungrateful grandchildren all the time.)
Excavations over the past decade have revealed three adobe warehouses next to the temple where priests would have kept tools and offerings for the dead Queen Narat. Recently, archaeologists found Narat's name on a fallen obelisk near the main entrance to the temple. The name reappeared on one wall of the temple.
The Queen's Temple stands near her husband's pyramid in Saqqara. Together they founded the last dynasty of the Old Kingdom of Egypt. 150 years and 6 kings later, the country slipped into the political chaos of the first interim period.
Burial place of the rich and famous
Practically in the shadow of the Teti pyramid, the 52 recently excavated tomb shafts are from the New Kingdom of Egypt, a series of dynasties that began between 1570 and 1069 BC. Ruled. The earliest tombs in Saqqara are older than Egypt itself and date from the predynastic period when the land along the Nile was divided into several smaller kingdoms. During the next three thousand years, some of the great and powerful Egyptians returned to Saqqara to build their tombs. In addition to the graves of generals, princes and aristocrats, there are elaborate temple complexes for pharaohs on the 7 kilometer stretch of desert.
Egyptian archaeologists have excavated around 50 wooden sarcophagi from the grave shafts, which are rectangular pits 10 to 12 meters deep and covered with wooden boards or flagstones. The coffins are much less ornate than royal burials, but they still suggest that their occupants were people of wealth and status. They are painted with images of the deceased, scenes of deities and the afterlife, as well as lines from the Book of the Dead: a collection of prayers and instructions intended to guide the dead through the various trials and challenges that lie on their way to the afterlife . Think of it as the original version of the manual for the recently deceased from the Beetlejuice movie.
In one of the grave shafts, archaeologists found the remains of a copy of Chapter 17 of the text. The 4 meter long, 1 meter wide papyrus roll belonged to a man named Bu-Khaa-Af, whom we know because his name is written on it. The name of Bu-Khaa-Af also appears on his sarcophagus and on four wood-ceramic figures called ushabtis, who were to be brought to life and worked as servants in the afterlife.
Their presence, along with the painted coffin and high-ranking real estate, marks Bu-Khaa-Af as a member of the old percent. He is buried near a military leader whose grave contains a bronze ax in case he is called out of retirement by Osiris.
Another cemetery neighbor is a courtier named Khu-Ptah and his wife Mut-am-wea. According to texts in his rather ornate tomb, Khu-Ptah held the high position of "superintendent of the king's chariot" for the Pharaoh of the New Kingdom, whom he served. It is not exactly clear what this position meant. Perhaps it was largely ceremonial, like many British court positions today, or it was an actual maintenance of the chariot.
In a carved limestone slab, Khu-Ptah and his wife are shown making a sacrifice to Osiris together. Another scene shows the couple sitting with their six sons and three daughters, sniffing lotus flowers and wearing perfume cones on their heads.
The things with which these people were buried suggest that they had a comfortable life and expected a comfortable life after death. Their graves naturally contained shrines and statues of the gods – notably Anubis (a grave god), Ptah (a creator god), and Osiris – as well as many ceramic vessels and pottery. Archaeologists also found board games, including a Senet set.
Senet dates from at least 3100 BC. BC, which makes the game as old as the land of Egypt. It seems to have been a strategy game, something like modern chess or checkers. Some surviving texts offer insight into the rules, and some modern researchers have cobbled together reconstructed versions of the game.
However, life and death were not all pleasant to even the richest New Kingdom Egyptians. The Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities announced that it had already examined the mummified remains of a woman who died with an abscess (a swollen, pus-filled lesion) on the liver in what appeared to be an unpleasant souvenir of an infectious disease. Another of the mummies on the site belonged to a child, suggesting that wealth and status are not a guarantee of annihilating losses.
Along with the newly discovered grave shaft slated to open this week, local archaeologists are still digging up a large adobe building. The Ministry of Antiquities believes the structure will end with a burial chamber. So far, the evidence suggests it was not looted.