It seems one can’t throw a stone or a dried camel turd in Egypt without hitting an ancient tomb with coffins and sarcophagi dating back to the pharaohs, but hitting an actual pharaoh or queen’s tomb is still a rarity. That may be why news of the recent discovery of 22 burial shafts, with one containing 54 coffins, and dozens of mummies and artifacts was quickly overshadowed by the announcement of the uncovering of the funerary temple of Queen Nerat, the wife of King Tati (or Teti), whose pyramid is nearby. The discovery is in the Saqqara archaeological site in Memphis where hundreds of coffins and well-preserved mummies have been found recently. Why does the head of the project say this discovery “rewrite the history of Saqqara during the New Kingdom, in addition to confirming the importance of the worship of King Teti during the 19th Dynasty of the New Kingdom”?
“The mission discovered the layout of the temple in which the queen’s tomb was being revived, and the mission also found within the temple three mud-brick warehouses attached to the temple in the southeastern side – these stores were built to store temple provisions, offerings and tools.”
While the popular movie depictions of ancient Egypt and mummies generally imply that most if not all of them were pharaohs or their relatives, this site and discovery – described in a Facebook post – led by Dr. Zahi Hawass with help from the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities and Bibliotheca Alexandrina, shows that coffin-building and mummification was a thriving business for the common folk as well. Not only were there rooms for the carpenters and mummifiers, the shafts were filled with hundreds of wooden coffins from the New Kingdom (16th century BCE to 11th century BCE). (Photos here and here.)
“The discoveries found in the shaft are considered one of the most important findings uncovered in the Saqqara region, and date back to the New Kingdom.
Inside the shafts, the mission discovered large numbers of archaeological artifacts and a large number of statues that represent deities such as the god Osiris and Ptah-Soker-Osiris, in addition the mission found a papyrus, whose length reached four meters and one meter in width, representing Chapter 17 from the Book of the Dead, and the name of its owner is recorded on it (Pw-Kha-Ef). The same name was found on four ushabti statuettes, and on an anthropoid wooden coffin. Many beautiful ushabti statuettes made of wood, stone and faience have been found dating back to the New Kingdom.”
Not much is known or revealed about Queen Neit (or Nearit in some announcements). It appears this may be Iput, the mother of Pepi I, the third pharaoh of the Sixth Dynasty. As the press release points out, the big deal is the shaft filled with coffins and artifacts that appears to have never been looted. All of this means King Tati and his queen (at least the first one) were revered a thousand years after their deaths and the funeral business boomed as a result. Based on that, more shafts, coffins, mummies, temples, and artifacts will undoubtedly be found – with or without the benefit of a camel turd toss. And that is the real reason why this discovery is so important to Egypt.
“Dr. Zahi Hawass confirms that this discovery is considered the most important archaeological discovery during the current year and will make Saqqara, along with other discoveries, an important tourist and cultural destination.”