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article imageArchaeologists unearth 2800-yr-old burial chamber in Egypt

By Subir Ghosh     Sep 19, 2010 in World
Luxor - A team of archaeologists has found the burial chamber of a priest named Karakhamun at the Theban Necropolis in Egypt. The tomb dates back to Dynasty 25 (c. 755BC) and was uncovered during conservation and restoration work on the west bank of Luxor.
The restoration work of this tomb is part of a much larger project known as the South Asasif Conservation Project (ACP). The el-Asasif area is an archaeologically important site which contains nobles’ tombs from the New Kingdom, as well as the 25-26th Dynasties. The tomb in question is located at Qurnet Murai, south Assasif, on the west bank of the Nile opposite to Luxor, and belonged to a priest named Karakhamun. It dates to the Dynasty 25 (the Reign of Shabaqo, circa 700BC) and is referenced as TT223 (Theban Tomb 223).
Zahi Hawass, Secretary-General of the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA), said that the team found the burial chamber of Karakhamun at the bottom of an 8m deep burial shaft. The chamber is in very good condition and contains beautifully painted scenes. The entrance to the chamber is decorated with an image of Karakhamun and the ceiling is decorated with several astrological scenes, including a depiction of the sky goddess, Nut.
The leader of the expedition and ACP director, Elena Pischikova, said that the tomb of priest Karakhamun was discovered in the 19th century in an unstable condition. It continued to deteriorate, and only parts of it were accessible to visitors in the early 1970s. Later it collapsed and was buried under the sand.
Painted ceiling of Karakhamun s burial chamber. This scene depicts the sky goddess  Nut.
Painted ceiling of Karakhamun's burial chamber. This scene depicts the sky goddess, Nut.
Supreme Council of Antiquities, Egypt
It was considered "lost" until 2001 when archaeologists started excavating what was a mere crack in the sand, and found wall carvings with a life-size figure of Karkhamun in front of an offering table. In 2006, an Egyptian-American team lead by Pischikova started carrying out conservation works at the tomb as part of the ACP.
In addition to the tomb of Karakhamun, the team is also working on two other neglected Nubian tombs nearby: the tomb of Karabasken, the Mayor of Thebes, and the tomb of Irtieru, the Chief Attendant to the Divine Consort of Amun, Nitocris.
Described by 19th-century archaeologists and explorers as some of the most beautiful Theban tombs, the burials were erroneously believed to have been completely destroyed. “Their painted ceiling, stunning relief, and elegant architecture are not obliterated, merely hidden beneath layers of soot, veiled by dust and cobwebs, and blocked by piles of debris,” Pischikova wrote of her discovery on the project’s website.
According to Pischikova, Karakhamun’s tomb is possibly the largest in the necropolis. However, when the ACP team found the burial, it was barely visible and totally inaccessible. Almost hidden beneath the sand, the only trace of its location was a blackened crack in the bedrock. “Some days of tedious digging soon yielded much more than we could have hoped for – a wall of carving, almost completely intact, with a life size figure of Karakhamun in front of an offering table,” Pischikova said.
Little is also known of the priest, the most enigmatic figure in the necropolis. Karakhamun did not appear to hold any important administrative position and his priestly title was not particularly important. Yet his tomb, featuring two pillared halls, paintings and exquisite relief carvings, was one of the most beautiful in the necropolis. It is believed “he must have had close connections to the royal court or the royal family itself. Further exploration of the tomb must shed more light on its date and the identity of Karakhamun himself."
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