In the coming week, archaeologists in Egypt will open a 3,000-year-old burial shaft at the Saqqara necropolis, south of Cairo.
The unexplored tomb is one of 52 burial shafts found near the much older pyramid of Pharaoh Teti. Workers at the site discovered the entrance to the new shaft earlier this week, just as they were about to announce a slew of other discoveries, including the tombs of military leaders and high-ranking courtiers, a copy of the Book of the Dead, and ancient board games.
Also among the discoveries is the name of the owner of an elaborate mortuary temple near Teti’s pyramid: Narat or Naert, the pharaoh’s queen.
“I’d never heard of this queen before. Therefore we add an important piece of Egyptian history about this queen,” archaeologist and former Egyptian Minister of Antiquities Zahi Hawass told CBS News.
Archaeologists first unearthed the stone temple in 2010, but it wasn’t clear who the grand structure had been built for. At mortuary temples like this one, priests and supplicants could make offerings to the dead queen to keep her comfortable in the afterlife—and ask her to help them out in this world.
(Side note: surviving examples of ancient Egyptian prayers to the dead often include reminders that if the deceased don’t do their part and help the living, then the living might conveniently forget to keep making offerings and reciting prayers for the dead. It turns out the mummy’s curse was really just his ungrateful grandchildren all along.)
Excavations in the past decade revealed three mud-brick warehouses alongside the temple, where the priests would have stored tools and offerings for the dead Queen Narat. Recently, archaeologists found Narat’s name inscribed on a fallen obelisk near the temple’s main entrance. The name turned up again on a wall of the temple.
The queen’s temple stands near her husband’s pyramid at Saqqara. Together, they founded the last dynasty of Egypt’s Old Kingdom; 150 years and 6 kings later, the country slid into the political chaos of the First Intermediate Period.
Burial place of the rich and famous
Practically in the shadow of Teti’s pyramid, the 52 recently excavated burial shafts at the site date to Egypt’s the New Kingdom, a set of dynasties that ruled from around 1570 to 1069 BCE. The earliest tombs at Saqqara are older than Egypt itself, dating back to the predynastic period when the land along the Nile was divided among several smaller kingdoms.