Archeology in Egypt: they discovered another royal tomb in Luxor, the Thebes of the pharaohs

A British-Egyptian mission found a royal tomb at an ancient site on the west bank of the Nile River in Luxor (AFP)

A new tomb, probably that of a royal wife of the 18th dynasty, that of Akhenaten and Tutankhamun almost 3,500 years ago, It was discovered in the Luxor necropolis, where Thebes, the capital of the pharaohs, was located.

This royal tomb was discovered by Egyptian and British researchers in the west bank of the Nile at Luxor -where the famous valleys of kings and queens meet, 650 kilometers south of Cairo – and excavations are continuing, Mostafa Waziri, head of Egyptian antiquities, said in a statement.

“The first items discovered so far within the tomb seem to indicate that it dates from the Eighteenth Dynasty,” considered as the heyday and most prosperous period of Ancient Egypt, indicated. “This data is what will be verified soon during the archaeological documentation of the tomb,” Waziri clarified.

royal tomb in luxor, egypt
Initial studies show that the tomb apparently belongs to the 18th Dynasty of pharaonic Egypt, which lasted from 1550 BC to 1292 BC (AFP)

For Piers Litherland, from the University of Cambridge -who leads the team of British researchers on this mission-, “This tomb could be that of a royal wife or a princess of the Tuthmosis lineage, of which very few have been discovered so far.”

This era of the XVIII dynasty is considered one of the most splendor in the pharaonic civilization.

The interior of this tomb is “in poor condition”, with “numerous buildings and inscriptions destroyed by the floods of Antiquity, which filled the burial chambers with sandy and calcareous sediments,” added Egyptian archaeologist Mohsen Kamel, also quoted in the statement.

royal tomb in luxor, egypt
The head of the mission for the English side, Perez Lezerland, said that the discovered tomb may “belong to one of the female queens or princesses during the Thutmosis era, of whom not much has been discovered so far.”

Egypt has reported several important discoveries in recent months, mainly in the necropolis of saqqara, south of Cairo. The country, with 104 million inhabitants and in the midst of a serious economic crisis, relies on these announcements to reactivate tourism, hit hard by the covid-19 pandemic. This sector, which employs two million people and generates more than 10% of GDP, has been in decline since the Arab Spring in 2011.

Sarcophagus returned by the US

On the other hand, on January 2 it was announced that a old wooden sarcophagus that was in the Museum of Natural Sciences in Houston was returned to Egypt after the US authorities determined that it was looted years ago.

The repatriation of the piece is part of the actions of the Egyptian government to stop the trafficking of antiquities stolen from the country. In 2021, the Cairo authorities managed to return 5,300 looted artifacts to Egypt that were in various nations.

Mostafa Waziri said that the sarcophagus dates back to the Late Dynastic Period of ancient Egypt, an era that runs from the last pharaonic rulers in 664 BC to the campaign of Alexander the Great in 332 BC

An ancient wooden sarcophagus, once on display at a Houston museum, is unveiled during a handover ceremony at the Egyptian Foreign Ministry in Cairo, Monday, Jan. 2, 2023. (AP Photo/Mohamed Salah)
An ancient wooden sarcophagus, once on display at a Houston museum, is unveiled during a handover ceremony at the Egyptian Foreign Ministry in Cairo Monday, Jan. 2, 2023. (AP Photo/Mohamed Salah) (Mohamed Salah /)

The sarcophagus, which is almost 3 meters high and has a brightly painted surface, may have belonged to an ancient priest named Ankhenmaat, although part of the inscription on it has been erased, Waziri said.

The handover took place in Cairo more than three months after the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office determined that the sarcophagus was looted from the Abu Sir Necropolis, north of Cairo. He was smuggled into Germany and from there into the United States in 2008, according to Alvin L. Bragg, the Manhattan district attorney.

“This impressive sarcophagus was trafficked by a well-organized network that has looted countless antiquities from the regionBragg said. “We are pleased that this object is returned to Egypt, where it rightfully belongs.” According to the prosecutor, the same network smuggled a golden sarcophagus looted from Egypt and exhibited at the Metropolitan Museum in New York. The Met bought the piece in 2017 for $4 million from an art dealer in Paris. It was returned to Egypt in 2019.

(With information from AFP, AP and EFE)

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