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Grave changes

Sunday, December 28 2008 @ 09:47 PM CST

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The newly-found tombs of King Unas's favourite singer and the supervisor of his exploration missions at the Saqqara necropolis reveal new burial patterns, Nevine El-Aref reports

An Egyptian archaeological team stumbled upon the two rock-hewn tombs on the south-eastern side of the Step Pyramid during routine excavation work at Saqqara. The tombs belonged to the Fifth-Dynasty king Unas's chief singer, Thinh, and the supervisor of his exploration missions, Iaa-Maat.

Both tombs have a similar architectural style, including a long vertical corridor leading to a chapel with a decorated false door, an offering table and an empty burial shaft.

The tomb of Iaa-Maat is actually much better preserved than that of Thinh, but it was unfinished, which suggests the owner died before its completion. Abdel-Hakim Kara, director-general of archaeological activities at the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA), told Al-Ahram Weekly that various titles of the deceased were inscribed on the false door, among them those naming him as the supervisor of missions to Tura to obtain fine limestone and to the Aswan quarries to fetch red granite, as well as overlord of the king's properties and inspector of the Unas pyramid priests.

Some parts of the tomb walls are decorated with scenes featuring Iaa-Maat presenting himself before the gods and the offering table. On one side of the tomb is engraved a list of the offerings.

Although Thinh's tomb is in a very poor state of preservation, it still bears some decorations. The lintel over the entrance is inscribed with Thinh's various titles revealing that she served as the supervisor of all the singers. Reliefs on one of the walls show Thinh smelling a lotus flower and during one of her performances.

"In my opinion, it is a very important discovery," SCA Secretary- General Zahi Hawass says. Hawass emphasises that this not only tells us more about the community that lived in the area at the time of King Unas, but also highlights the changing architectural style of the tombs of the period as they switched from a plain mastaba to a tomb with chambers and a burial shaft. Hawass said that both tombs were being restored in an attempt to consolidate the walls so they could be opened to public as soon as possible.

http://weekly.ahram.org.eg

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