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New: Valley of the Kings
 
New: Valley of the Kings

First new tomb found in Valley of the Kings for 84 years    
  By Sam Knight and agencies





Archaeologists have discovered the first new tomb in the Valley of Kings since Howard Carter shone a light into the vault of Tutankhamun in 1922 and said: "I see wonderful things".
One of the 3,000-year-old sarcophagi
found in the tomb in Luxor, Egypt
(Reuters/Aladin Abdel Naby)
 
A team of American archaeologists, led by Otto Schaden from the University of Memphis, made the unexpected find last week when working on a site just yards from King Tutankhamun's tomb.



Today, Egyptian authorities allowed journalists the first glimpse of the tomb, a bare room with five wooden sarcophagi, its floor littered with around 20 stone vessels.

Although archaeologists are yet to enter the tomb and decipher the clues that may identify the bodies inside, Egyptologists said today it was likely that the unadorned gravesite belonged to members of the royal household rather than a pharaoh.

The tomb and bodies are believed to date from the 18th dynasty, the time of King Tutankhamun, around 1,500 BC, although the sarcophagi may have been moved into the chamber at a later date to hide them from grave robbers, archaeologists said.

"Maybe they are mummies of kings or queens or nobles, we donít know. But itís definitely someone connected to the royal family," said Zahi Hawass, the Secretary General of Egyptís Supreme Council of Antiquities, at the tomb today.

"It could be the gardener," joked Dr Schaden. "But itís somebody who had the favour of the king because not everybody could come and make their tomb in the Valley of the Kings."

Whether it contains a gardener or a king, the tomb, labelled KV1-63, has given lie to the belief, widely held for nearly 84 years, that the Valley of the Kings was fully explored. Pored over by grave robbers and archaeologists for centuries, the valley was ancient Egypt's royal burial ground and has yielded 62 tombs so far.

"Right now, they haven't explored the coffin so we don't know how significant the find is," said Mike Murphy, Egyptologist and Deputy Revise Editor of The Times.

"But what seems intriguing is that there are these alabaster vessels, perhaps canopic jars that contained the organs of the dead. That said, there don't seem to be any other grave goods, which would have indicated that the tomb was for a member of the royal family."

Dr Schaden's team stumbled on the first sign of the tomb last year when they found the remains of workmen's huts near the neighbouring tomb of Amenmeses, a late 19th dynasty pharaoh.

Next to the remains, the archaeologists found a depression in the bedrock that they suspected was a shaft. When they returned to work during this excavation season, they opened the shaft, which ran five metres into the valley wall, and found a passageway blocked with stones.

So far, only a small hole 30cm across has been cleared from the door. Inside the chamber, which measures 4m by 5m, alabaster vessels, some broken, sit next to the sarcophagi. One of the coffins has toppled and faces the door, showing its white, painted face. Another is partially open, showing a brown cloth covering a mummy inside.

Dr Schaden will finish clearing rubble from the bottom of the shaft and then open the door in the coming days to enter the tomb. The archaeologists hope to remove the coffins before the end of the digging season, usually around May when the weather gets too hot to work in the deserts outside Luxor, 500 km (300 miles) south of Cairo.


Courtesy The London Times
 
Tutankhamen on Tour, 1978

Valley of the Kings

Tutankhamun
 
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