Ancient Egypt
© Spanish National Research Council
The Djehuty Project, led by the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC), has discovered on the hill of Dra Abu el-Naga in Luxor (ancient Thebes), the burials of four personages belonging to the elite of the 17th Dynasty of Ancient Egypt, who lived about 3.550 years ago.

These findings, discovered during the 12th campaign of archeological excavations of the project, shed light on a little-known historical period in which Thebes becomes the capital of the kingdom and the empire's foundations become established with the dominance of Egypt over Palestine and Syria to the north, and over Nubia to the south.

The project is led by the CSIC researcher José Manuel Galán, from the Institute of Mediterranean and Near Eastern Languages and Cultures (ILC), and funded by Unión Fenosa Gas and the Ministry of Education, Culture and Sport.

The 17th Dynasty belongs to the historical period called Second Intermediate Period of Egypt (between 1800 and 1550 BC), characterized by the hegemony of rulers of Syrian-Palestinian origin settled in the eastern Delta. This is a period of great political complexity in which the monarchy did not control all the territory and the real power was in the hands of local rulers.

Intefmose and Ahhotep

The owner of one of the tombs found was a personage called Intefmose, to whom the three inscriptions found inside (one of them accompanied by a portrait in relief) call "son of the king". Galán states: "We believe that Intefmose could be the son of Sobekemsaf, one of the first kings of the 17th Dynasty, about whom we barely have historical information".

The tomb of Intefmose consists of a small chapel built with adobe bricks, erected in front of a shaft-grave (about seven meters deep) that leads to a burial chamber. Through a hole in the back of this room, it is found the access to the burial chamber of a second tomb discovered by archeologists during this campaign.

The second tomb belongs to the high-level official Ahhotep, also called "spokesman of Nekhen", city better-know as the Greek toponym Hierakonpolis. In the burial chamber, archeologists found (as part of the grave goods) three clay funerary figurines (shabtis), painted and with the deceased's name written on the front.

Galán adds: "Two of these shabtis were found inside of both small clay sarcophagi, decorated with an inscription on the sides and on the top. The third one was wrapped in nine linen fabrics, as if it was a real mummy, and each of the fabrics had traces of writing in black ink. These figurines have a very original and naïf style, which provides them a special charm and a unique character".

In addition, during this archeological campaign, Galán and his team unearthed the intact coffin of a boy that lived about 3.550 years ago, as well as a set of shabtis and funerary linens of another child, prince Ahmose-Sapair, who lived during the transition from the 17th to the 18th Dynasty.

Tribute of Djehuty to the 17th Dynasty

This series of findings confirm, according to Galán and his team, that the Dra Abu el-Naga hill, on the northern edge of the necropolis of ancient Thebes, was the cemetery of the Royal Family of the 17th and early 18th Dynasties, as well as of their main courtiers. Recent findings help to contextualize the work done during previous campaigns in the tombs of Djehuty, supervisor of the Treasure of Queen Hatshepsut (ca 1470 BC), and Hery, a courtier who lived about 50 years before the said royal scribe.

The head of the Djehuty Project concludes: "Unlike what the rest of courtiers of his time did, around 1470 BC, Djehuty did not place his tomb in the surrounding area of Deir el-Bahari, where the Mortuary Temple of Queen Hatshepsut was erected, but he chose the hill of Dra Abu el-Naga for his eternal rest, half kilometer further to the north, because that's where the members of the 17th Dynasty were buried".

In a fragmented political context, the 17th Dynasty, native to Thebes, the most important southern city, led the reconquest and expulsion of northern rulers (called "Hyksos"), unified the country, and contributed to the germ of a new historical stage in Egypt, the New Empire, the time of the great kings who would forge the Egyptian Empire from its new capital, Thebes.