False Doors for the Dead Among New Egypt Tomb Finds

Steven Stanek in Cairo, Egypt
for National Geographic News
February 25, 2008

Three false doors that served as portals for communicating with the dead are among ancient burial remains recently unearthed in a vast Egyptian necropolis, an archaeological team announced.

The discoveries date back to Egypt's turbulent First Intermediate Period, which ran roughly between 2160 and 2055 B.C.

The period is traditionally thought to have been a chaotic era of bloodshed and power struggles, but little is known based on archaeological evidence.

In addition to the false doors, the Spanish team found two funerary offering tables and a new tomb in the former ancient capital of Herakleopolis—today referred to by its Arabic name Ihnasya el-Medina—about 60 miles (96 kilometers) south of Cairo.

Previous excavations had uncovered tombs that had been deliberately burned and ransacked in antiquity, but experts are unsure if the damage was done by military conquerors or pillaging thieves.

The latest finds, along with the team's new studies of the site's charred remains, could offer a fresh look at the poorly understood First Intermediate Period.

The necropolis "is a very big site in a town that was very important in Egypt, but there is a lot that is still unknown," said excavation leader Carmen Pérez Díe of the National Archaeological Museum in Madrid, Spain.

"In this place any discovery is very important, and I think [our excavations] will help write a new page for the history of Egypt."

Doorway for the Soul

Ihnasya el-Medina, known among historians by the Greek name Herakleopolis Magna, was the seat of the 9th and 10th dynasty kings.

These rulers held a loose grip over a fragmented country after the decline of Egypt's Old Kingdom.

Local rulers from Thebes eventually defeated the Herakleopolitans and established the Middle Kingdom, but details of the battles and power transfer are scarce.

Continued on Next Page >>


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