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Now, for some items of historical interest. I have two pieces that feature examples of the high quality of ancient Egyptian funerary arts.
The first is a fascinating look at the reconstruction of the largest sarcophagus ever built, that of 19th Dynasty pharaoh Merneptah (who fans may recall from my earlier post on Queen Tausert).
Via Discovery News: Largest Egyptian Sarcophagus Identified
The largest ancient Egyptian sarcophagus has been identified in a tomb in Egypt’s Valley of the Kings, say archaeologists who are re-assembling the giant box that was reduced to fragments more than 3,000 years ago.
Made of red granite, the royal sarcophagus was built for Merneptah, an Egyptian pharaoh who lived more than 3,200 years ago. A warrior king, he defeated the Libyans and a group called the “Sea Peoples” in a great battle.
He also waged a campaign in the Levant attacking, among others, a group he called “Israel” (the first mention of the people). When he died, his mummy was enclosed in a series of four stone sarcophagi, one nestled within the other.
Archaeologists are re-assembling the outermost of these nested sarcophagi, its size dwarfing the researchers working on it. It is more than 13 feet (4 meters) long, 7 feet (2.3 m) wide and towers more than 8 feet (2.5 m) above the ground. It was originally quite colorful and has a lid that is still intact. (See Photos of Pharaoh’s Sarcophagus)
“This as far as I know is about the largest of any of the royal sarcophagi,” said project director Edwin Brock, a research associate at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto, in an interview with LiveScience.
Brock explained the four sarcophagi would probably have been brought inside the tomb already nested together, with the king’s mummy inside.
Holes in the entrance shaft to the tomb indicate a pulley system of sorts, with ropes and wooden beams, used to bring the sarcophagi in. When the workers got to the burial chamber they found they couldn’t get the sarcophagi box through the door. Ultimately, they had to destroy the chamber’s door jams and build new ones.
Also, last month brought an exciting discovery of a wooden 17th Dynasty sarcophagus of a child and collection of 18th Dynasty Ushabti figurines of a priest: More discoveries at Djehuty’s tomb in Luxor
Although the Egyptian sarcophagus does not have any engravings, decoration, or mummy inside, early studies carried out in situ by Jose Galàn, head of the archaeological mission, revealed that it belongs to a yet unidentified child who died during the 17th Dynasty.
A collection of wooden pots and pans was also unearthed beside the sarcophagus in the Draa Abul Naga area in Luxor’s west bank, along with a collection of Ushabti figurines (statuettes) carved in wood and wrapped in linen .
Mansour Boreik, supervisor of Luxor antiquities, told Ahram Online that the Ushabti figurines depict the similar facial features of the well-known priest Ahmosa saya Ir, who played a major role in the royal palace during the 18th Dynasty.
Galàn described Djehuty as an important official who lived in the reign of Hatshepsut, but died in the reign of Thutmosis III, because the names of both Pharaohs are written on the tomb wall. However, the name of Hatshepsut is slightly scratched.
Djehuty would appear to have participated in the construction and decoration of most of Hatshepsut’s monumental constructions in Thebes as well as registering all the exotic products, including minerals and spices, brought from the land of Punt, as shown on his tomb walls. “He was such an important official that he is even represented carrying out such activities on one of the walls of the mortuary temple of Hatshepsut at Deir Al-Bahari,” Galàn said.
Minister of State for Antiquities Mohamed Ibrahim said that Djehuty’s tomb was discovered in 2003. The discovery amazed Egyptologists and historians because of its distinguished and uncommon architectural design and decoration as well as the artefacts found within its corridors. Since 2003 until now, objects from different dynasties were piled in the tomb to form a haphazard treasury. Among the artefacts unearthed are eight mummies of falcons and a demotic graffito relating to them. The drawing located on one of the tomb walls suggests the tomb was reused in the Graeco- Roman era.