Ancient Egyptian tomb may be royal female from rule of Thutmosid pharaohs
A tomb dating back 3,500 years to a golden age of ancient Egypt has been uncovered by a joint British and Egyptian team near the Valley of the Kings.
The discovery on the western bank of the Nile in modern-day Luxor may be the final resting place of one of the queens or princesses of the 18th Dynasty (1550 to 1292BC). The Thutmosid pharaohs of that dynasty include some of the most famous rulers of ancient Egypt, such as Tutankhamun, Hatshepsut, Thutmose III and Amenhotep II.
If confirmed to be the tomb of a female royal, it would be the first such discovery in the necropolis for more than a century, the experts said.
Piers Litherland, the British head of the New Kingdom Research Foundation, a private project working with the Supreme Council of Antiquities, in Cairo, said the tomb “probably belonged to one of the royal wives or princesses during the period of Thutmosid rule”. He said a large number of them had yet to be uncovered.
Litherland said the tomb could be for a daughter or consort of Thutmose II or III, the fifth and sixth pharaohs of the dynasty and the ancestors of Tutankhamun. “There is a cliff tomb above the new tomb and the tomb of the Three Foreign Wives of Thutmose III is 500 metres (1,600ft) to the northwest,” Litherland said. “This [area] is now emerging as a burial ground for royal women of the early 18th Dynasty.”
He ruled out that it could be the burial place of Nefertiti, Tutankhamun’s stepmother, the location of which has triggered speculation for decades.
The Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities said further studies would reveal more about the secrets of the tomb, of which only a staircase cut into the rock, two corridors and one partly painted chamber have been uncovered.
“Three chambers have been discovered so far, there is one further chamber we can see on the main axis but we do not know what is beyond that,” Litherland said. “The tomb has been entered in ancient times but it has certainly not been disturbed since the Third Intermediate Period [3,000 years ago]. I suppose the hope is that the collapsed chambers might hold material that has not been disturbed since the original burials but that is highly speculative.”
Fat’hi Yaseen, director-general of Upper Egypt Antiquities and head of the project in Egypt, said if the tomb belonged to one of the royal wives, it would be the first such discovery since the intact burials of Thutmose III’s three “Foreign Wives” were found in 1916.
“We hope that with the removal of debris, inscriptions, canopic vessels or parts of funerary furniture will be found,” Yaseen said.
Mohsen Kamel, an Egyptian archaeologist, said the tomb’s interior was in poor condition, however. Parts of it, including inscriptions, were “destroyed in ancient floods which filled the burial chambers with sand and limestone sediment”, Kamel added.
There have been several important archaeological discoveries in Egypt in recent years, notably in the Saqqara necropolis south of Cairo, as it seeks to revive tourism with new museums to showcase its ancient heritage.
The New Kingdom Research Foundation, founded by Litherland and colleagues from Cambridge University, has been working in the western wadis of Luxor for five years but it may take a while until the tomb is fully excavated.
“Given the state of the tomb and the fact that we are having to rebuild much of the interior to make it safe, it will take two to three years,” Litherland said.