For more than three decades, the Czech Institute of Egyptology has been excavating at the Abusir necropolis, a site several kilometers north of Saqqara, in an area that contains a group of large shaft tombs dating to the late 26th dynasty. (664-525 BC) and early 27th (525-404 BC).
The team of archaeologists led by Miroslav Bárta has just made an important discovery at this site: A deposit of embalming materials practically intact.
The “cache” contains a total of 370 large ceramic storage jars and a number of smaller containers, and is probably the largest find of its kind in Egypt, according to experts.
Multitude of vessels
According to Bárta, “Abusir’s shaft tombs, built in a similar way to the famous burial of Pharaoh Djoser under his stepped pyramid, played an important role as a form of cultural expression of the Egyptian elites in that late era.”
All the vessels, which contained the remains of various materials and utensils that were used during the mummification process, were located inside a huge pit measuring 5.3 x 5.3 meters and more than 14 meters deep located next to a large funerary structure that still remains unexcavated.
The vessels were placed in a total of 14 groups, situated at different depths, ranging from 4 to 12 meters, and attached to the sides of the pit in a spiral pattern. The number of containers that made up each of these groups varied from 7 to 52.
Unused canopic jars
In the highest part of the well, four canopic jars (containers used to store the mummified viscera of the deceased) made of limestone and with inscriptions were also found.
They were all empty and clearly unused. According to the texts inscribed on them, these vessels belonged to a certain Wahibre-mery-Neith, son of the Lady Irturu.
“Although several dignitaries with this same name are known at this time, none of them can be clearly identified as the owner of these canopic vessels.
Judging by the size of the embalming deposit and, mainly, by the dimensions and layout of the tomb nearby, the owner of the tomb (and we assume that also the deposit) he must have been a high dignitary, just like his famous closest neighbors in the cemetery (and who lived in the same period): Udjahorresnet and General Menekhibnekau,” explains Professor Ladislav Bareš, one of the leading experts.
In 2022, the excavation of the funerary structure associated with the deposit of mummification materials by the archaeological team is planned.
At the same time, the vessels and the context in which they were found will be thoroughly analyzed and studied using the most modern scientific methodologies applied to archeology to try to reveal their ancient mysteries.