Japanese mission reveals what lies beneath Egypt sand


During routine excavations at northwest Saqqara, an archaeological mission from Japan’s Waseda University discovered a previously unknown tomb dating to the 19th Dynasty. Egyptian Culture Minister Farouk Hosni announced the find, noting that the tomb is located on the summit of a remote, rocky outcrop some 1.5 kilometers northwest of the Serapeum. It lies near the tomb of Khaemwaset, son of Ramesses II.

Dr. Zahi Hawass, Secretary General of the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA), said that inside the tomb’s burial chamber the mission found a limestone sarcophagus belonging to a noblewoman named Isisnofret, along with three human bodies and several fragmentary funerary objects.

The tomb structure itself consists of a pylon and a colonnaded courtyard leading to an antechamber with four pillars, and terminating in three cult chapels and the base of a small pyramid. Its plan is typical for a freestanding tomb-chapel of the New Kingdom, particularly the Ramesside Period. Dr. Sakuji Yoshimura, the head of the Japanese mission, explained that unlike other Memphite tomb chapels of the period, which are normally aligned east-west, the newly discovered monument is aligned north-south. Most of the upper portion of the structure is missing, with only foundations and some of the flooring remaining.

The sarcophagus, Yoshimura said, was found in pieces along the south wall of the burial chamber, with the fragments of its vaulted lid scattered around the floor. In spite of its condition, the sarcophagus can be identified as an example of the ksrt type. It is made of fine limestone, inscribed in sunken relief painted a brilliant blue. The owner, Isisnofret, is identified as a noblewoman, a rare title in the New Kingdom. Yoshimura said that Prince Khaemwaset had a daughter named Isisnofret. Because of the proximity of the newly discovered tomb to that of the prince, it is possible that the owner of the sarcophagus is the daughter of Khaemwaset.

Just last week, Yoshimura unearthed four anthropoid wooden coffins, three wooden three wooden canopic jars, and four washabti boxes on the northern side of the Ramesside tomb of Ta in the Dahshur Necropolis, south of Giza. The coffins were found empty due to looting by antiquity tomb raiders, however their original features remain intact. The coffins are divided into two sets, each consisting of multiple coffins covered in black resin and decorated with yellow inscriptions. The two sets belong to two less known ancient Egyptians namely Tutpashu and Iriseraa.

Yoshimura said the canopic jars and washabti boxes contain at least 38 fragments or partly broken wooden statuettes. Objects have been removed from the pit to the site galleries for immediate restoration.