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4500-year-old tomb found of royal palace official in Egypt

The spectacular pyramids which cover the tombs of the pharaohs are well-known, but the long-running excavation of the Western Cemetery at Giza has recently discovered the tomb of a female official from around 4500 years ago. Egypt’s Ministry of Antiquities announced the discovery at the weekend, the high-ranking palace official has been called “Hetpet” and is thought to date from the Fifth Dynasty.

Amongst the discoveries so far, according to the statement from the Ministry are very well-preserved wall art showing the official taking part in hunting and fishing scenes or receiving gifts from her children. Alongside the paintings featuring “Hetpet”, there are also pictures featuring monkeys which were kept as domestic pets in that period. Though not native to Egypt, it is thought monkeys were more than likely brought as gifts to the Egyptians by traders and visitations from other parts of Africa and kept by Egyptians for amusement.

In addition to the wall art, another discovery which was less usual was a rectangular arcade intended for incenses and offering holders. It is thought that the tomb dates from the Fifth Dynasty, hence around 2400 years BC, judging by the architecture and decorative styles that have been discovered so far.

This period of Egyptian history gives us the first evidence of prayers at funerals, evidence of these seems to be restricted to the Royal Tombs. In the case of officials, these prayers are replaced with a biography of the official which accords with the discovery in this tomb of “Hetpet” being featured in various images. One of the ways that the tomb can be dated within the dynasty is that this was a time of religious change, at the beginning of the dynasty worship of the God Ra, was in ascendancy, but this had been replaced by the deity Osiris.

The discovery is part of a project which has been ongoing for more than one hundred and seventy years, with the occasional hiatus obviously for the various conflicts. It is currently being led by Egypt’s secretary general of antiquities, Dr. Mostafa Wazir

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