for National Geographic News
An unusual, well-preserved burial chamber that may contain the mummy of an ancient warrior has been discovered in a necropolis in Luxor.
Scientists opened the tomb—found in Dra Abul Naga, an ancient cemetery on Luxor's west bank—on Wednesday. (See an Egypt map.)
Inside the burial shaft—a recess crudely carved from bedrock—experts found a closed wooden coffin inscribed with the name "Iker," which translates to "excellent one" in ancient Egyptian.
Near the coffin they also found five arrows made of reeds, three of them still feathered.
A team of Spanish archaeologists made the surprise find during routine excavations in a courtyard of the tomb of Djehuty, a high-ranking official under Queen Hatshepsut whose burial site was built on top of graves dating to the Middle Kingdom, 2055 to 1650 B.C.
(Related: "Rare Middle-Class Tomb Found From Ancient Egypt" [January 18, 2008].)
The coffin dates to Egypt's Middle Kingdom era, though the cemetery is better known for its use during the New Kingdom, 1550 to 1070 B.C.
Based on the coffin's inscriptions and pottery found near it, experts date the burial to the early reign of the 11th dynasty, which lasted from 2125 to 1985 B.C. Soldiers played an important role in society during that time, when Egypt was reunified after years of civil war.
Some intact burials from that period had been found in the 1920s, but the leader of the new excavation, Jose Galán of the Spanish National Research Council, said the new find could offer a fresh look into the era's burial customs.
"It's fairly uncommon to find nowadays an 11th-dynasty intact burial. This is really remarkable," Galán said.
"It gives us information about the continuous use of the necropolis and ... about a period that was not so well documented."
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