The grave of a royal guard of the late 26th Dynasty,
which dates back to shortly before 525 BC, just before Egypt was
conquered by the Persian empire, was unearthed in 2007 by an
Egyptian-Czech archaeological mission to the south of Cairo.
A large limestone sarcophagus, which enclosed yet
another casket, was discovered while the archaeologists were
excavating in search of yet-to-be discovered pharaonic monuments in
the Abu-Sir area, about twenty-seven kilometres to the south of Cairo,
as announced by the Egyptian minister of culture, Farouq Hosni.
The embedded box was made of diorite and had on it
inscriptions from the Book of the Dead. The grave, which
belonged to Menkhep-Nikaw, also housed funereal furniture, including
faience pots, good-luck amulets, and carnelian stones. Zahi Hawwas,
secretary-general of the Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquities, said
the new discovery proved Abu-Sir to be a virgin area, with many pharaonic
mysteries still buried under its earth.
Hawwas noted that the engravings, which represent
whole chapters from the Book of the Dead, were indeed the most
captivating of discovered pharaonic designs between the 26th and 27th
dynasties (672-404 BC).
Judging from experience, Hawwas said that the
Egyptian-Czech mission was only the second batch of visitors into the
grave after the inevitable tomb-raiders, who looted it in ancient
pharaonic times, probably not long after the guard's body was interred
The burial chamber bore unusual decorations and may
offer further proof of how the nobles of Egypt's 26th Dynasty 'gentrified'
what was already a two thousand year-old necropolis of their 5th Dynasty
The necropolis had fallen into disrepair in the intervening
millennia. The monuments were part of a complex which had been built
around 2500 BC during the 5th Dynasty's relatively brief reign, from 2498
to 2345 BC. The necropolis then served the nobles of Memphis, Egypt's
ancient capital. Twenty centuries later, the site was revived by a new
generation of Egyptian nobles, who wanted to be buried near the temples of
It could have been the proximity to the complex of sacred
installations in north Saqqara - just a kilometre (half a mile) away
- that led to the building of new tombs at Abu Sir.