Egyptian Dentists' Tombs Found by Thieves

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The fact that the tombs were built there reflects the prominent status with which dentists were held in ancient Egypt.

"These are people who on a fairly regular basis would actually touch the person of the king," Keller said.

False Door

The tombs, built of mud brick and limestone, did not contain the dentists' mummies—leaving at least one mystery to be solved.

Hieroglyphs on the tombs give the names of the chief dentist as Iy Mry and the others as Kem Msw and Sekhem Ka.

Hawass said the dentists were not related but must have been partners or colleagues, given that they were been buried together.

Wall figures also depict the chief dentist and his family playing games and presenting offerings to the dead.

It's fairly common for ancient Egyptian tombs to be decorated with colorful scenes depicting their inhabitants in their daily lives.

"I wouldn't expect there to be any depictions [of the tomb owner] working in the royal mouth," Keller said.

"We'd love to see him applying those ancient drills," she said. "But what he's interested in is showing how he conforms to accepted standards of elite representation."

Around the corner from the chief dentist's tomb's entrance, archaeologists found a false door, which tomb builders may have constructed as a gateway to the land of the living for the deceased.

Hawass has said he believes that only 30 percent of what lies beneath Egyptian sands has been discovered.

Likewise, archaeologists say they expect to find more tombs in the area.

"There are vast expanses of areas [at Saqqara] that have simply not been scientifically investigated," Keller said. "The fact that local looters found the tombs is an index to how much more there must be out there."

She added, "Just about every expedition I know of that has gone out to Saqqara to look for tombs has found something."

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