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 by an Egyptian-Czech
archaeological mission in 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 27 km south of Cairo, said Egyptian Minister of Culture,
The embedded box is made of diorite and has on it inscriptions
from the Book of the Dead, he added.
The grave, which belongs to Menkhep-Nikaw, also houses funereal
furniture, including faience pots, good-luck amulets and carnelian
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
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 there.
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 2,000 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
about 4,500 years ago during the 5th Dynasty's 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 Saqqara, said Miroslav Verner of the Czech Institute of
Egyptology in Prague.
"We believe it is 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," said Verner,
who has been researching the region for decades.