Mystery Box Found in Tomb of Ancient Egyptian Princess

Egypt’s Ministry of Antiquities has announced a rare discovery: the burial chamber of a royal princess dating back almost 4,000 years. The tomb was found beneath a pyramid outside Dahshur, an ancient royal necropolis along the Nile River which boasts some of the oldest pyramids in Egypt. The pyramids at Dahshur have been described as prototypes which served as a learning experience for royal pyramid builders in ancient dynastic Egypt.

The "bent pyramid" at Dahshur.

The “bent pyramid” at Dahshur implies that pyramid construction methods were in transition during its construction.

The princess’ tomb comes as somewhat of a mystery, as researchers do not know who exactly the interred woman might have been. There are several inscriptions throughout the tomb which state that she might have been a daughter of a pharaoh named Ameny Qemau. The most curious discovery in the tomb is a wooden box inscribed with hieroglyphs which are still being deciphered. The name “Hatshepset” appears several times on the surface of the box, although archaeologists are currently unsure to whom the inscriptions might refer.

What's in the box? Not much, it seems.

What’s in the box? Not much, it seems.

Such boxes are common in ancient Egyptian tombs and were used to house mummies’ canopic jars, the vessels in which bodily fluids and internal organs were preserved after mummification. This particular box was mostly empty, although the wrappings which once surrounded the jars remain. Aidan Dodson, an Egyptologist at the University of Bristol, told LiveScience that the inscriptions imply that the tomb might have originally been intended for someone else but re-purposed for the princess:

The canopic box definitely belongs to a king’s daughter, but I’m having difficulty reading the name. It gives no indication of her parentage,. The pyramid is not of a type appropriate to a princess. It must therefore have been built for a king, but then usurped for her burial.  [The] presence of the Ameny Qemau text suggests that he may have usurped the pyramid built for his predecessor for the interment of one of his daughters, as there is no reason why he should have built two pyramids of his own.

A sarcophagus was also found in the tomb, but is in terrible condition due to centuries of looting. If there was a princess inside, her corpse was either reanimated through some dark, ancient magic or, more likely, looted and sold to museums. Even the jars containing her internal organs were stolen. Is nothing sacred?

Not for archaeologists.

Not for archaeologists.