Egypt unearths tomb of Ramses II's royal treasurer at Saqqara necropolis

The discovery was made by the Cairo University archaeological mission, which has been excavating the complex for more than a century

The walls of Ptah-M-Wiah's tomb at Saqqara necropolis. The painting depicts a sacrificial procession. Photo: Egypt's Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities
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Archaeologists working in the Saqqara necropolis, in Giza governorate, have announced a major new discovery at the ancient tomb complex.

A Cairo University mission unearthed the tomb of Ptah-M-Wiah, a high-ranking ancient Egyptian official and head of the treasury during the reign of King Ramses II.

Ramses II ruled from 1279 BC to 1213 BC.

“What makes this tomb unique is the area it was found in,” said Dr Ola El Aguizy, who led the archaeological mission that discovered the tomb.

“A number of very important military leaders, statesmen and aristocrats were buried there, most of whom date back to the reign of Ramses II,” she told The National.

Dr El Aguizy adding that Horemheb, the famed military leader who became pharaoh and ushered in the 19th dynasty of ancient Egypt – from 1292 BC to 1189 BC – was found buried nearby.

The dig was overseen by the secretary general of Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities, Dr Mostafa Waziri.

He said that the discovery of Ptah-M-Wiah’s tomb is particularly significant because of the high position he held in Ramses II’s Cabinet.

Alongside being the royal treasurer, he also served as royal scribe, chief supervisor of livestock and the government’s main administrator of divine offerings at Rameses II’s temple in Thebes, modern-day Luxor.

Dr El Aguizy also highlighted Ptah-M-Wiah’s prestigious roles.

“We know through the inscriptions that he headed the entire kingdom's livestock, which is a very distinguished role,” she said.

“Additionally, he oversaw all the ritual sacrifices at the temples in Thebes, which was the religious centre of the kingdom at the time.

“So his influence was present in both the upper and lower kingdoms, which is no small feat,” Dr El Aguizy said.

Teams of researchers from Cairo University have been excavating ancient Egypt's treasures for more than a century. Their latest discovery fitted in well with the grandeur of previous discoveries in the area.

“The tomb itself is much like others we have found in the area before, most of which date back to the Ramesside era of the New Kingdom,” said Dr El Aguizy.

The Ramesside period – which spanned the 19th and 20th dynasties, between 1292 BC and 1075 BC – is renowned for its prosperity, as shown by the grandeur of its archaeological treasures.

Ptah M Wiah's tomb, like most other Ramesside-era tombs, is made up of a grand entrance adorned with an edifice depicting scenes from its occupant's life, and features two inner chambers.

The first chamber was usually left bare, while the second chamber would be much more ornate, featuring decorative columns flanking the entombed mummy.

The columns, known as Osirian columns after the god Osiris, are meant to connect the earth to the sky, bridging the world of the living with the afterlife, Dr El Aguizy said.

“Osirian columns are a symbol. The ancient Egyptians believed that they would grow to reach the heavens, and through this, Ra, the god of the heavens, would make contact with Osiris, the god of the underworld, and their realms would be connected,” she said.

Also found in Ptah-M-Wiah's tomb were a number of stone blocks, which Dr El Aguizy said were once part of the ceiling and walls of the tomb, but had fallen down over the centuries.

This kind of wear and tear is typical of other tombs found in the area, she said.

On one of the walls left standing is a large painting depicting a procession of people carrying offerings which ends with a scene of a calf being slaughtered.

“We found scenes of the afterlife that were really striking – the style of Ramesside tombs is really intricate and quite beautiful,” Dr El Aguizy said.

The artefacts will be catalogued and then placed back in the tomb, in their original positions, so they can be seen by visitors when it opens to tourists, Dr Waziri said.

Updated: October 31, 2021, 6:02 PM