The 3,600-year-old remains of a forgotten pharaoh unearthed this month in southern Egypt may be the first of several significant discoveries in a previously ignored burial ground that rivals the Valley of the Kings, the find’s lead archaeologist said on Wednesday.
The discovery of King Senebkay is the first firm evidence of a pharaonic dynasty whose existence archaeologists had suspected but never proved. About 20 previously undiscovered pharaohs may lie near Senebkay’s tomb, explained Josef Wegner, the dig’s head archaeologist.
“It’s emerging as something like a Valley of the Kings,” he added, referring to the famous ancient site in Luxor, southern Egypt, where Tutankhamun is buried.
“We had just thought there would be a handful of king’s tombs,” added Wegner, who has researched in the area of Abydos – an ancient city that stood 300 miles south of modern-day Cairo – for more than two decades. “Now we’re looking at probably 20 pharaohs. There’s probably a whole dynasty of kings buried there.”
Entering Senebkay’s tomb for the first time, Wegner found it had been sacked by ancient looters, with his mummified casing ripped apart, and some of the tomb’s decorations and trinkets removed.
But Wegner’s team of archaeologists from the University of Pennsylvania – working in collaboration with Egypt’s antiquities ministry – was able to piece most of Senebkay’s skeleton back together, with the exception of his absent jawbone. They then deciphered his name from a section of hieroglyphics inside the tomb. Further analysis revealed Senebkay was tall for his time at 1.78m (5ft 10in), and died at some point in his late 40s.
A misspelled version of the forgotten king’s name has been found once before, but Wegner said this was the first time the team had heard of the pharaoh.
“We were pretty puzzled for two days,” Wegner told the Daily Pennsylvanian. “It was a king’s name that didn’t appear anywhere else in history, so we didn’t know who he was at first.”
Senebkay’s discovery confirms for the first time the existence of a third dynasty of pharaohs that ruled a central area between Egypt’s northern and southern kingdoms in about 1600BC.
The two latter kingdoms were reunited in the century that followed – but the presence of a third dynasty suggests that their fractious relationship and subsequent amalgamation may have been more complex than initially thought.
Danish archaeologist Kim Ryholt first theorized about the lost dynasty’s existence in 1997. But until now no physical evidence had been found, and some archaeologists had doubted his hypothesis.
Read the full story at theguardian.com