4,400-year-old lost Egyptian tomb rediscovered with mummy inside

Czech archaeologists have rediscovered the lost tomb of ancient Egyptian high official Ptahshepses, who lived during the 24th and 25th centuries BCE.

The discovery was announced in a statement published on Facebook by the Czech Institute of Egyptology – a department of the Faculty of Philosophy and Arts, Charles University in Prague.

Ptahshepses’s tomb was found in the zone between the pyramid fields of Abusir and Saqqara.

Tomb underground in desert egypt
Eastern front of the tomb. Credit: M. Bárta / Czech Institute of Egyptology via Facebook.

It was partially exposed nearly 160 years ago by French archaeologist Auguste Mariette, who uncovered a huge false door and a lintel originally placed above the cult chapel’s entrance. The sands of the Western Desert soon covered the tomb again.

“It was a difficult search lasting several years,” says Miroslav Barta, head of research at Abusir.

“Detailed satellite imagery of the area and the study of old maps led to the rediscovery of the tomb of Ptahshepses in 2022. The tomb of a man who changed the course of Egyptian history has thus been rediscovered, representing one of the expedition’s greatest recent discoveries. The research is still ongoing, and further discoveries will likely be made to shed new light on his family and times.”

The high official served under Nyuserre Ini – a pharaoh during the Old Kingdom period. Nyuserre was the sixth ruler of the Fifth Dynasty.

“Given Ptahshepses’s political, historical and religious significance, the tomb is one of the most remarkable discoveries of the recent periods in Egyptian archaeology,” the Czech mission statement asserts.

They also highlight the tomb’s role as a link between the mastaba where Ptahshepses was buried and the neighbouring extensive family tombs, such as that of senior official Ty whose nearby tomb was constructed at about the same time.

Ancient egpytian pyramid in desert saqqara
Pyramid of Djoser in Saqqara, near the tomb of Ptahshepses. Credit: M. Bárta / Czech Institute of Egyptology via Facebook.

Ptahshepses’s mastaba measures 42 by 22 metres. It is more than 4 metres high.

While the burial chamber was robbed centuries or even millennia ago, the team found pottery, remains of votive offerings, canopic jars and the world’s first example of a mummified fish.

The partially opened sarcophagus still contained the complete mummy of Ptahshepses.

Analysis of the mummy confirms that Ptahshepses lived a long time – a fact hinted to by the inscriptions on the false door. That biography suggests that he lived during the reign of 6 kings of the late fourth and fifth dynasties: Menkaura, Shepseskaf, Userkaf, Sahura, Neferirkara and Nyuserra.

According to anthropologists, he lived to the age of 65 years or more.

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