16 January, 10:17

US archaeologists unearth tomb of previously unknown pharaoh in Egypt

US archaeologists  unearth tomb of previously unknown pharaoh in Egypt

US archaeologists have uncovered the tomb in southern Egypt of a previously unknown pharaoh who ruled 3,700 years ago, antiquities officials said on Wednesday. The discovery by a team from the University of Pennsylvania provides new evidence that at least part of Egypt may have escaped the rule of the Hyksos, invaders from what is now Syria who dominated the Nile Delta between the 18th and 15th centuries BC, the officials said.

A royal cartouche bearing the full name of pharaoh Senebkay was found on the sarcophagus and on a wall of the tomb unearthed in the ancient city of Abydos, the head of the antiquities ministry's pharaonic department, Ali El-Asfar, said.

The team also recovered the skeleton of the pharaoh, which suggested he stood 185 centimetres (just over six foot) tall.

They found canopic vases, traditionally used to preserve body organs, but no grave goods, suggesting the tomb was robbed in ancient times.

Asfar said the discovery suggested that the rule of the Hyksos did not extend to all of Egypt and that a native dynasty managed to preserve its independence in the south.

"The royal family in Abydos, which may have been founded by Senebkay, is of Egyptian origin and did not submit to the Hyksos's rule," he said.

The same US team announced last week that it had identified the pharaoh whose tomb they unearthed at Abydos last year.

Pharaoh Sobekhotep I is believed to have been the founder of the 13th dynasty 3,800 years ago.

His identity was established after the team found fragments of a slab inscribed with his name.

Archaeologists discover tomb of Pharoah Sobekhotep I in Egypt

The tomb of the Egyptian pharaoh King Sobekhotep I, believed to be first king of the 13th Dynasty (1781BC-1650BC), has been discovered by a team from the University of Pennsylvania at Abydos in Middle Egypt, 500km south of Cairo.

The team from the University of Pennsylvania had discovered the quartzite sarcophagus of Sobekhotep I, which weighed about 60 tonnes, a year ago, but was unable to identify who it belonged to until last week, the ministry said.

Its identity was established after the team found fragments of a slab inscribed with the pharaoh's name and showed him sitting on a throne, Antiquities Minister Mohamed Ibrahim said in a statement.

"He is likely the first who ruled Egypt at the start of the 13th dynasty during the second intermediate period," the minister said.

The discovery is important as not much information was available about Sobekhotep I "who ruled Egypt for four years and a half, the longest rule at this time," said Ayman El-Damarani, a ministry official.

The tomb's discovery in the southern archaeological site of Abydos is expected to reveal more details about his life and rule, he added.

The team also discovered the remnants of canopic vases traditionally used to preserve internal body organs, along with gold objects owned by the king.

Since new royal tombs are rarely discovered, and as only ten from the 13th Dynasty are known—all at Dahshur, just south of Cairo—this is an important find. King Sobekhotep I ruled for only about three years, at a time when Egypt was entering a period of decline. In fact, the chronological evidence for this period is so complex that scholars are still debating the order of the 13th Dynasty kings.

Sobekhotep I’s tomb was constructed from limestone brought from the Tura quarries near modern Cairo, while his burial chamber is made from red quartzite. The burial was originally topped by a pyramid. Among the further finds are a 60-ton quartzite sarcophagus, a stele bearing the name of the king, an image of Sobekhotep I enthroned, parts of the canopic jars that once contained the pharaohs internal organs, and funerary objects.

Excavation at the tomb is ongoing, though Egypt’s antiquities chief, Mohamed Ibrahim, hopes to open the site to the public, once the tomb has been restored.

Voice of Russia, Timeslive.co.za, The Art Newspaper, AFP

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