During excavation works carried out at the courtyard of the Horhotep’s rock-hewn tomb in Assassif necropolis, adjacent to Hatshepsut temple on Luxor west bank, a Polish team from the Institute of Archaeology of Wroclaw University stumbled upon what is believed to be a rare mud brick funerary chapel with a limestone altar.
The chapel is 4000 years old and it shows the first known monument of this type from the Middle Kingdom (2055-1733 BC).
Patryk Chudzik, head of the project, described the discovery as “very important” since it provides a lot of information about the layout of private funerary complexes known in the Middle Kingdom. He explains that the newly discovered chapel is carved of mud brick and bears fragments of limestone in the altar where sacrifices were offered to the deceased.
“This is the third example of such a structure in the Theban necropolis, but it is the first time to contain the remains of funeral offerings and an altar,” asserted Chudzik in a press release.
Fragment of an outdoor altar in the burial chapel (photo: Chudzik)
Cleaning work inside the courtyard uncovered ruins of a collection of ceramic vessels, which once contained gifts for the deceased from members of his family.
Early studies and inspection inside the tomb revealed that it is an unfinished tomb as excavators unearthed a collection of unused bricks a few metres below the chapel, set up in preparation for further work. A wooden dowel, used by workers to mark straight lines, was also found.
Chudzik says that such a discovery shows that the ancient Egyptians were “pragmatic” as they used to visit the deceased, make offerings and pray in an unfinished tomb escorting the tomb’s builders.
“There are other examples in the Theban necropolis,” he said adding that the neighbouring tomb MMA 512 was never completed, though the actual burial still took place.
During excavations, archaeologists accidentally discovered a 15-metre-deep hole in the rock leading to a burial shaft of one of Horhotep’s relatives or one of his close associates.
“Lower-level officials used to be buried within the funerary complexes of the top officials whom they were directly subordinates,” said Chudzik.
Deeper inside the shaft, archaeologists found a number of ushabti figurines, a flint hammer and clay fragments.
Excavation will resume in December in an attempt to reveal more of what lays inside Horhotep’s tomb.
Horhotep was an important official in the Middle Kingdom who lived during the reign of the twelve dynasty kings Amenemhat I and Senweseret I.