Monday, May 23, 2011

[Vesti : Zahi] 7 New Kingdom Tombs to be Opened at Saqqara

Tomorrow Dr. Zahi Hawass the Minister of State for Antiquities will open 7 tombs in the New Kingdom Cemetery in South Saqqara for tourism for the first time. This site contains the famous tomb of Maya, who was the treasurer of King Tut, as well as the tomb of Horemheb, the general of King Tut who later became king.
The Ministry is currently in the process of developing a management plan for the Saqqara site. It is hoped that this will enhance the value of the site as a visitor destination through better signage and facilities, as well as promoting local community involvement and an improved security presence.

Maya and Horhemb, were very important men during one of Egypt’s most tumultuous periods, the Amarna Period. During this time, the pharaoh Akhenaten closed Egypt’s most important temples in Luxor and moved the capitol to a site in the middle of the desert called Akhetaten or Tell el-Amarna. He even changed the principal state god from Amun to the sun-disk, called Aten.   When Akhenaten died, his son, one of the most famous kings of Egypt, Tutankhamen, became king. King Tut decided that he would restore order to Egypt by moving the religious capitol back to Luxor, reinstating the god Amun and abandoning Tell el-Amarna. In order to make all of these changes, King Tut needed the assistance of his treasurer and his general.

Maya was King Tut’s treasurer and was essential to restoring Egypt to her pre-Amarna glory. He helped the King to reopen the temples in Luxor as well as build new temples and shrines to Amun to show that King Tut was dedicated to restoring order to Egypt.   Maya was responsible for restoring order in Egypt, while his colleague Horhemheb restored order abroad.  While his tomb was left unfinished, visitors will now be able to see the mudbrick pylon with spectacular relief fragments as well as courtyard images of Maya and his wife Merit, who was also buried in the tomb, receiving offerings. 

Horemheb began building his tomb in Saqqara while he was a general under King Tutankhamen. During this time, Horemheb would have been one of the most important men Egypt and was responsible for the foreign affairs of an empire trying to regain power after the Amarna period.  After the death of King Tut and his immediate successor, Ay, Horemheb became king of Egypt and left his tomb at Saqqara in favor of a more prestigious spot in the Valley of the Kings.    All the hard work on this beautiful tomb was not wasted and his wife Mutnodjmet was buried there at the time of her death. The tomb is built and decorated in the Amarna style art and the interior design shows that it was meant to be a funerary temple.   The details of this tomb, which is the largest in the New Kingdom Cemetery, are fascinating.   When visiting the tomb, visitors can see that the Ureaus, or headdress of the king, was added to depictions of Horemheb after the original reliefs were made to show that he had become King.   There are also depictions of Horemheb worshiping Maat, Re-hor-akhty and Thoth as well as scenes celebrating his military victories. 

 Along with these two famous tombs, five other tombs will also be open to the public:

The Tomb of Meryneith- Meryneith was the Steward of the Temple of Aten and the Scribe in the Temple of Aten during the reign of Akhenaten. After the king’s death, he became the High Preist of Aten as well as the High Priest at the Temple of Neith. His tomb is built of mudbrick encased in limestone blocks. In the very back of the temple there are three chapels for the offering cult of Meryneith. The central one shows a scene of metal workers and the bases of two small columns. A mudbrick pyramid may have originally stood here. 

The Tomb of Ptahemwia- Ptahemwia was the “Royal Butler, One of Clean Hands” to both Akhenaten and his son, Tutankhamen. He was responsible for brining the king food and drink and his tomb contains the prestigious title of “Beloved of the King”. Ptahemwia’s tomb is also mudbrick encased in limestone and contains three chapels. In one of these chapels, Martian and his team found 56 coffins from the New Kingdom. Most of them contained the bodies of children who were affected by disease.

The Tomb of Tia- Tia was one of the top officials under Ramsess II, and was the Overseer of the Treasury. He was married to one of Ramsess II’s sisters, who was also named Tia. Tia’s tomb was also used as a mortuary temple to the god Osiris and contains depections of Tia and his wife making a pilgrimage to Abydos, the cult center of Osiris. 

The Tombs of Pay and his son, Raia- Pay was the Overseer of the Harem under King Tutankhamen. Pay’s tomb consists of a chapel that opened into a pillared court with three offering chapels. Pay’s son, Raia, began his career as a solider in the army, but took over his father’s post after his death. Raia added a courtyard, and two stelae, as well as performed renovations to the tomb before he himself was buried there. The two stelae were brought to Berlin when Richard Lepsius discovered them in 1928. 

Some of these tombs were first discovered in 1843 by Richard Lepsius, but were not fully excavated until an Anglo-Dutch mission began excavating there in 1975. Between 1975 and 1998, the dig was directed by Geoffrey Martin who discovered many of the tombs.  Now a Dutch team from Leiden University, led by Dr.Maarten Raven, excavates at the site and are rediscovering and restoring these amazing tombs.
This meeting to open the tombs will be at 9:30 on May 23 at the entrance to Saqqara. 

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