The findings are dramatically altering our understanding of the funerary landscape in this area during the Old Kingdom and First Intermediate Period in 2278-2184 BC.
The pyramids get all of the publicity and photo ops but there are other tombs in the “funerary landscape” of Egypt that are older and tell more about the ancient culture and history that lead to the building of the pyramids. The knowledge of that time – the Old Kingdom period in the third millennium BCE – is changing with a new discovery of a previously unknown supporting wall that indicates more tombs are likely to exist in the area.
The discoveries were made under the direction of Dr. Martin Bommas of the University of Birmingham and t. he Egypt Exploration Society (EES) Qubbet el-Hawa Research Project Group (QHRP). Qubbet el-Hawa is the site of a group of elite tombs cut into the rock on the western bank of the Nile, opposite the modern city of Aswan. This is the location of the tomb of Harkhuf, a governor of Elephantine Island, an important strategic site in the Nile, during the 23rd century BCE under the pharaoh Merenre I,
What Bommas and his team found was a two-meter (6.6 feet) high retaining or encroachment wall under the visitor grounds of the northern part of Qubbet el-Hawa. While this wall was probably built to support the elite upper tombs, its location indicates that it probably supported lower tombs as well.
The wall was easy to date because the mortar used to build it contained crushed pieces of pottery shaped like that used during the period of pharaoh Pepi II, the successor of Merenre I, who also ruled during the Sixth Dynasty from about 2278 to 2184 BCE.
Why is this a “dramatically altering” discovery? Little is known about Egypt’s Old Kingdom. The knowledge of Harkhuf comes from his “autobiography” which is inscribed on the wall of his tomb and gives details of his life as a traveler and trader during an important transitional period between the Old Kingdom and Egypt’s First Intermediate Period.
New tombs could lead to the discovery of new writings and new historical revelations about the people of the time period, says Carl Graves, a PhD student on the team.
I don’t think anyone yet knows who the tombs might have belonged to.
Let’s hope the wall keeps out the exploiters so the explorers can reveal their secrets to the world without destroying them.