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16 Burial chambers containing 20 well-preserved tombs unearthed in Minya - Daily News Egypt

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16 Burial chambers containing 20 well-preserved tombs unearthed in Minya

The sarcophagi belong to high-ranked priests, 10,000 ushabti statues found, some made of pure gold

Almost 300 kilometres away from Cairo, ancient Egypt’s capital Minya is located where Pharaohs’ hidden treasure still wait to reveal its hidden gems to the world. A team discovered 16 burial shafts and 20 tombs from the Late Period in Tuna El-Gabal’s archaeological site in Minya.

Minister of Antiquities and Tourism Khaled El-Anany announced the discovery on Thursday, in a press conference that took place at the discovery sight.

The shafts belong to a number of high-ranked priests of the 26th Dynasty where Ashmunin was the fifteenth nome of Upper Egypt. Some of the shafts contain sealed tombs that are believed to contain well-preserved mummies. The found sarcophagi vary in shape and size, some of them were found in one chamber belonging to one family, while five were found made of limestone and engraved with hieroglyphic texts.

The unearthed treasures also contain 10,000 ushabti statues with the names of their owners, some of which are made of pure gold, as well as pottery vessels.

The mission also found more than 700 amulets of various shapes, sizes, and materials; including heart scarabs, amulets of the gods, and amulets made of pure gold such as the “Ba” and an amulet in the shape of a winged cobra.

El-Anany stated in his speech that the archeological site still had a number of treasures to be discovered, explaining that “it is still virgin, with much gems waiting to see the light.” Anany added that the ministry is currently working on listing Minya on the international touristic map, due to its distinguished archeological sites.

He said that the area would still fascinate people with much more discoveries.

Moustafa Waziry, the head of the excavating Egyptian mission and the Secretary-General of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, said at the press conference that “one of the discovered stone sarcophagi belongs to the son of Psamtik, who took the title of the head of the royal treasury. He was named with many titles, most important of which are the priest of Osiris and Nut.”

The second sarcophagus belongs to Horus and has a scene depicting the goddess Nut, spreading her wings above the chest and below it inscriptions showing the deceased’s titles, especially the title of the royal treasurer, and the sarcophagus of Epy which has three vertical lines of hieroglyphic inscriptions showing the names and titles of the deceased.

The discovery, which is the first in 2020, also marks the first anniversary of a similar discovery in the same area where a family cemetery had a collection of 40 sarcophagi of different shapes and sizes, with statues and figurines with the names of the members carved on them.

Digging for history

The discoveries are the results of only three excavation seasons in the site. So far, the excavation that started in August 2017, came to find 35 burial chambers and 90 sarcophagi, all belonging to senior officials of the late Kingdom.

Mohammed El-Saeedy, Director of the Scientific Office of the Secretary General of the Supreme Council of Antiquities told Daily News Egypt that the unearthed gems are only the beginning of a long way to go. “So far, we only discovered all of that from excavating one hill of the site, which contains over 12 more others.”

He explained that through discovered names engraved on the tombs and the attached relics, the mission managed to draw a family tree of the senior priests that were in charge of worshipping Gods at the time, “especially with the help of having some family members buried together.”

El-Saeedy explained that all of the shafts in the area are just the “beginning of a huge cemetery dating back mainly to the 26th Dynasty.”

“The priests buried in this cemetery are the highest priests of that time. They were dubbed with special names that were given to them only throughout the eras at Ashmunin,” he stated, explaining that the amulets that the mission found are unique, indicating their positions as the only priests who worshipped the five gods of that time.

He further noted that the main distinguishing element of the chambers is the fine-quality limestone used in them, which indicate, along with the other unearthed relics, their wealth.

Behind Al-Ghoreifa’s name 

The archeological site located 75 kilometres south of Minya was only listed as an archeological site in 1925. Al-Ghoreifa (the very small room), was named after the miracles it was believed to bless its visitors with. The area was long believed before that to be holy. Surrounded by hills in the middle of the desert, El-Ghoreifa was culturally believed to have a secret spell for fertility.

Women used to enter it in the dark, looking to be blessed with a male born son. The belief was  that the fear the grim brings to one soul is all what the upper power needs to bless the person with a male born and keep him safe from all danger.

Among the residents of Minya, the site is a well-known heritage location, and was frequently visited by pregnant women.

It was not announced as an historical site until 1925, when officials discovered an illegal digging in the area, that resulted in the discovery of one of the most fascinating and well-preserved limestone tombs, belonging to a high-ranked priest of the 26th Dynasty. The sarcophagus is currently on display at the Egyptian museum.

Future of discoveries 

So far, two of the unearthed tombs were transferred to be showcased at the new capital museum, according to El-Saeedy.

As for the rest, they are to be on display at the Grand Egyptian Museum (GEM), Hurghada, and Sharm El-Sheikh Museums, amid their official openings, also planned to take place this year.

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