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Egyptian training program leads to discovery of Ptolemaic-era tomb

A group of archaeologists found a tomb dating back to the Ptolemaic era during their participation in a training program organized by the Ministry of Antiquities in Sohag governorate.
This picture taken on April 5, 2019 shows a view of the entrance inside a newly-discovered tomb dating to the Ptolemaic era (323-30 BC) at the Diabat necropolis near the city of Akhmim in Egypt's southern Sohag province, about 500 kilometres south of the capital Cairo. (Photo by Khaled DESOUKI / AFP) (Photo credit should read KHALED DESOUKI/AFP via Getty Images)

CAIRO — An excavation training program organized by the Central Training Unit in the Egyptian Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities, in cooperation with the Sohag Antiquities Office, has led to the discovery of a tomb dating back to the Ptolemaic era in the Akhmim area in Sohag governorate in southern Egypt.

According to archaeologists, the tomb is believed to belong to a senior statesman during the Ptolemaic era, which highlights the importance of the discovery.

An Oct. 4 statement published by the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities on its Facebook page quoted Mostafa Waziri, secretary-general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, as saying that 16 antiquities' inspectors and restoration specialists from various sectors of the Supreme Council of Antiquities took part in the training program, which was organized as part of the ministry’s plan to train the largest possible number of archaeologists and restoration specialists and to enhance their practical and scientific skills.

Mohamed Abdel Badie, the ministry's head of the Central Administration of Antiquities in Upper Egypt, said in the same statement that the discovered tomb is carved in an archaeological hill and is accessed by a staircase preceded by a courtyard that may have been built of mud bricks.

He noted that the tomb consists of two rooms, the first with an area of 2.7 meters by 2.65 meters (8.8 feet by 8.7 feet) and a height of 1.7 meters (5.6 feet). He explained that part of the ceiling of the first room was inspected, as well as its walls that do not show any inscriptions. 

He continued that two limestone coffins were found inside the room, in addition to a part of a coffin lid, none with any inscriptions.

Abdel Badie said that the eastern wall of the first room has an entrance leading to the second room. 

He added that the team found in the southern part of the second room’s entrance from the inside the White crown (Hedjet, worn by the kings of Upper Egypt), and in the northern part of that entrance from the inside the Red crown (Deshret, worn by the rulers of Lower Egypt) was found.

Most of the rooms are covered with a layer of soot, probably because the tomb was used as a residence in the Coptic period, according to Abdel Badie.

He said that the cleaning and restoration works of the tomb’s ceiling are scheduled in the coming period in order to study the scenes and writings in a bid to identify the owner of the tomb, who may be a senior official from the Ptolemaic era. The cemetery’s important location, the presence of the White and Red crowns, the scenes and hieroglyphic writings found in the tomb, as well as the pottery fragments, all indicate that he was a senior official, according to Abdel Badie.

Mohamed Hussein Nasser, director of the archaeological field school in Sohag and supervisor of the antiquities area in the east of Sohag, told Al-Monitor that the scientific part of the training course focused on the participants’ experience in finding surface traces that point to the presence of antiquities in this area.

He said that during the first days of the practical exercises at one of the sites carried out under the ministry’s supervision, the participants found steps of stairs and the excavation works began immediately. Then, two stone coffins were found in the first room, in addition to the other room where inscriptions illustrating the journey of the deceased to the other world were found.

Nasser added that this discovery is important because it could lead to the discovery of other tombs dating back to the Ptolemaic era, particularly since Akhmim was the capital of the ninth nome of Upper Egypt during the Ptolemaic era, which in turn was the most prosperous era in Egyptian history.

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