A Unique Discovery at Saqqara

Article excerpt

Tutankhamun came to the throne of ancient Egypt at the age of nine. Because of the monarch's youth a bevy of experts and advisers, who effectively ran the county, surrounded him. One of these advisers was a financial expert named Iniunia who enjoyed a prestigious position and accumulated many titles during his lifetime. An exciting new discovery by a European team working in Saqqara looks likely to supply unique information about Iniunia and life at the court of the world's most famous boy king.

A Dutch excavation team working in close cooperation with members of the British Egyptian Exploration Society have unearthed a major new find at Saqqara, the famous necropolis of the old Egyptian capital of Memphis, 30 miles south of Cairo.

Scientists from the Rijksmuseum for Antiques in Leiden, Holland, led by Professor Hans Schneider, discovered the tomb of Iniunia, a dignitary at the court of Tutankhamun, the famous boy king. Even with 30 years experience in the field of Egyptology Professor Schneider ranks the latest discovery, which includes the grave and tomb of the ancient dignitary, as well as a small chapel, inside a small pyramid as one of "astonishing beauty".

The wall paintings in the chapel, which date back to around 1300 BC are in particularly good condition. "To find such beautiful artefacts after so many centuries and in such wonderful condition is absolutely amazing. Thousands of years have gone by since these things were last seen. For centuries sand concealed these beautiful paintings and reliefs.This has been a fantastic experience for all of us," Professor Schneider told The Middle East.

Experts from around the world agree that the discovery is a significant one. Fifty-three year old Professor Schneider, who is the conservator of the Egyptian Department at Holland's Leiden Museum, explained why: "In this part of Egypt nothing like this has been found before. The pyramid is absolutely unique. Of course over the years it has sustained some damage but nothing that cannot be repaired. We have dug out tons and tons of sand from the chapel and discovered that paintings there are of extremely good quality still. The colours of the paintings we have uncovered are very strong and we are expecting to discover much more. This is only the beginning."

Despite the understandable euphoria, Professor Schneider and his team kept the find, which was made in January, a closely guarded secret until mid-February. "We wanted to be absolutely sure we had discovered the tomb of Iniunia, who was an important financial expert at the court of Tutankhamun. We believe he was also the rent collector and, among many other titles, he was also head of the cow herds of Amon.

"Tutankhamun became king when he was just nine years old and died when he was 18. During his reign he was surrounded by experts and advisers who ran the kingdom for him. In 1986, quite close to where we have just discovered the tomb of Iniunia, we found the huge grave of Maya, King Tut's finance minister. In the years before that archeological teams from Britain had dug out the monumental grave of General Horemheb, the regent. Although Horemheb built the grave for his own use, he was not buried there because after Tutankhamun's death he became king of Egypt and on his death was buried in the Valley of the Kings near Luxor, alongside Egyptian monarchs dating back more than 4000 years BC. …