Ancient Egyptian Tomb Held Royal Sons

By Bower, Bruce | Science News, May 27, 1995 | Go to article overview

Ancient Egyptian Tomb Held Royal Sons


Bower, Bruce, Science News


Ramses II, one of ancient Egypt's most powerful rulers, continues to wield his influence from beneath the desert sands he once trod. An archaeological team announced last week its discovery of the largest and most complex tomb known in Egypt's Valley of the Kings. Ramses II (or Ramesses II, according to some researchers) apparently built this sprawling set of at least 67 chambers as a mausoleum for many of his 52 sons.

Further excavation and study of the massive burial site will shed light on the chronology, artwork, and royal family life during a critical period in Egypt's history, the 67 years from 1279 B.C. to 1212 B.C. when Ramses II was pharaoh. Ramses II is traditionally thought to have reigned at the time of the Israelites' exodus from Egypt.

"We've found a new type of tomb from ancient Egypt, a family mausoleum," Kent R. Weeks told Science News. "This is the first major discovery in the Valley of the Kings since 1922, when Tutankhamen's tomb was found." Weeks, an archaeologist at the American University in Cairo, directs the ongoing excavation.

Nearly all pharaohs from 1550 B.C. to 1070 B.C. were buried in the Valley of the Kings, located about 300 miles south of Cairo on the western side of the Nile River.

An English traveler first exposed the entry area to the new find in 1820, after digging through flood debris that clogged the passage. English archaeologist Howard Carter reopened the tomb about 100 years later but soon abandoned the site and heaped dirt from the excavation of Tut's tomb on top of it.

Weeks' team knew from a previously found piece of ancient papyrus scroll that a captured thief had tried in 1150 B.C. to rob the tomb of Ramses II and an adjacent burial, which they assumed was the site covered over by Carter.

They established the location of the tomb's entrance in 1988 and have conducted annual fieldwork since then. Last February, Weeks and his coworkers finished clearing debris from the entry area and two chambers just beyond it. Beyond the back door of the second chamber lay dozens of rooms along three corridors arrayed in a T shape. …

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