SAQQARA, Egypt (Reuters) - Egyptian archaeologists have found the tombs of two court officials, in charge of music and pyramid building, in a 4,000 year old cemetery from the reign of Pharaoh Unas.
The tombs were found buried in the sands south of Cairo and could shed light on the fifth and the sixth dynasties of the Old Kingdom, said Zahi Hawass, Egypt’s antiquities chief.
“We announce today a major important discovery at Saqqara, the discovery of two new tombs dating back to 4,300 years ago,” he told reporters at the site on Monday.
One of the tombs belonged to Iya Maat, the supervisor of pyramid-building under the reign of Unas, Hawass said.
Iya Maat organized the acquisition of granite and limestone from Aswan and other materials from the Western Desert.
The second tomb housed the remains of Thanah, who was in charge of singers in the court of Unas.
Both tombs feature hieroglyphics at their entrances but the contents of the tombs have long since been stolen, Hawass said.
The entrance of Thanah’s tomb shows carved images of her smelling lotus flowers.
“The discovery of the tombs are the beginning of a big, large cemetery,” Hawass said.
“We are continuing our excavation and we are going to uncover more tombs in the area to explain the period of dynasty five and dynasty six,” he said, adding that 70 percent of Egypt’s ancient monuments remain buried under sand.
The death of Unas brought to an end the fifth dynasty, as he did not have a male heir. His daughter is widely believed to have become a queen to the first king of the sixth dynasty.
The Sixth Dynasty, a time of conflict in Egypt’s royal family and erosion of centralized power, is considered to be the last dynasty of the Old Kingdom (2,613-2,494 BC), after which Egypt descended into famine and social upheaval.
Archaeologists have been working at the site for six months, Hawass added.
Writing by Alastair Sharp; Editing by Jon Boyle