Rare Middle-Class Tomb Found From Ancient Egypt

Steven Stanek in Cairo, Egypt
for National Geographic News
January 18, 2008

Archaeologists have unsealed the intact burial chamber of an ancient Egyptian official, providing a rare glimpse into the burial customs of the Old Kingdom's middle class.

The relatively modest tomb, belonging to a fifth dynasty priest and politician named Neferinpu, was discovered in 2006 at Abusir, the ancient necropolis of the fifth and 26th dynasties, located near modern-day Cairo.

Only recently, however, did a Czech team open the tomb's burial chamber, a tiny room about 33 feet (10 meters) below ground packed with offerings and personal effects that had remained undisturbed for nearly 4,500 years.

"The most important conclusion to be connected with this discovery—which is, in principle, a major discovery—is that everything we saw was found intact, which means nobody has seen or touched this burial since the Old Kingdom," said Miroslav Barta, the Czech archaeologist who led the excavation.

It is rare to unearth intact burials of upper-middle class officials such as Neferinpu—a tier below extravagant royal burials but more elaborate than those of the lower classes—he added.

(Related: "'Gentrified' Egyptian Burial Chamber Discovered" [August 2, 2007].)

"[There was] no gold and no silver, but the wealth of information makes this chamber quite unique within the context," said Barta, who added that last year his team found four much poorer burials in Abusir, which contained little more than the bones of the deceased.

"In ancient Egyptian archaeology today, it's not about discoveries, it's not about beautiful things, but it's about information."

Buried Mummy

The team found Neferinpu's burial chamber behind a mud-brick wall to the east of an ancient burial shaft.

"It became clear within several hours that we had an unrobbed burial chamber in front of us," said Barta, who added that the thrill of opening the burial chamber was tempered by his attention to detail.

"You are excited; you feel like Indiana Jones for a couple of seconds," he said.

Continued on Next Page >>


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