In the southern Egyptian city of Luxor, site of the ancient metropolis of Thebes, two new artifacts have been added to a place that is already crowded with mysteries of Egypt’s distant past. On Saturday, the country’s Ministry of Antiquities announced the excavation of two small tombs from about 1400 BC containing a trove of unexplained funeral treasures.
The burial sites are located on the western bank of the Nile river, the water source that played such a central role in ancient Egyptian life and culture. The cemetery, or necropolis, in which the tombs are located is a known burial place of top officials from the 18th dynasty, according to the Associated Press. “It is truly an exceptional day,” said antiquities minister Khaled El-Enany in the announcement. Although the tombs were known about, this occasion marks the first moment that modern archaeology finally stepped inside, said El-Enany.
Friederike Kampp-Seyfried, a German Egyptologist who now directs the Egyptian Museum in Berlin, was the first to chronicle the tombs in the 1990s. But Kampp 161 and Kampp 150, as they are known, were never opened—the former was left untouched and the latter was cleared only up to its entrance, reports National Geographic.
Kampp 161 contains engravings and inscriptions that likely date the tomb to sometime between the reigns of King Amenhotep II and King Thutmose IV, notes the press release. Amenhotep II assumed the throne around 1450 BC, succeeding his father, Thutmose III. Thutmose IV became king starting in 1400 BC. Kampp 150 appears to be a bit older, and inscriptions throughout the tomb indicate it may have belonged to someone named “Djehuty Mes” or someone named “Maati”.
The antiquities ministry provided some preliminary descriptions of the tombs. One has a brick-lined courtyard surrounding a burial shaft with wooden coffins contained inside. The other, which earlier reports tie to Kampp 150, has five separate entrances. Inside, a rectangular hall holds two burial shafts.
That tomb contains about 100 funerary cones, small conical-shaped objects made of mud that were common to burial practices in Upper Egypt (which was located in the southern part of the country). These cones were often placed outside the center of the tomb and their exact purpose is still unknown. Some experts think they identified the owner of the tomb and others theorize that they were offerings or simply decorations. Earlier reports of Kampp 150 also describe scenes engraved in the tomb, including four oxen being offered food by a man.
Carvings on one wall of Kampp 161 show the occupant and his wife presented with offerings, National Geographic reports. A mummy wrapped in linen was found in Kampp 161, that “could be for a top official or a powerful person,” the ministry said. The site also contains more than 400 statues and other artifacts, such as a painted mask specifically for funerals. The ministry also disclosed that the name of King Thutmose I, who reigned in the early part of the 18th dynasty, was carved on a cartouche in one of the tombs.
According to Saturday’s announcement, the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities envisions revising a limping tourism industry with discoveries such as this. The new excavation follows close on the heels of a recent announcement that cosmic rays detected a hidden chamber inside the largest of the Giza pyramids. And in September, the tomb of a goldsmith was discovered in Luxor.
The country’s tourism industry suffered after former President Hosni Mubarak was removed in 2011, according to Reuters. “The situation has not returned to the way it was before the January 25 Revolution in 2011,” El-Enany told Al-Monitor in a 2016 interview. The Supreme Council on Antiquities, as the ministry is also known, had just become an independent government office that same year.
El-Enany whimsically described the latest tomb excavations to Ahram Online as a sign that “our ancient Egyptian ancestors are bestowing their blessing on Egypt’s economy.”