Egypt unveiled Thursday the 3,000 year-old tombs of two senior pharaonic military men in the famed Saqqara necropolis, one of them decorated with well-preserved reliefs depicting the afterlife.
Saqqara, roughly 20 kilometres (12 miles) south of Cairo, was the burial ground for the neighbouring city of Memphis.
Antiquities Minister Mohamed Ibrahim told reporters at the site that the burial in Saqqara confirmed that Memphis remained important in the New Kingdom (1550-1070 BC), after the capital shifted to Luxor.
“The burial of these people here shows that Memphis preserved its importance as an administrative and military centre when (the southern city of) Luxor became the effective capital,” he said.
Both tombs were designed in the form of a temple, in the fashion of burial sites for noblemen during the New Kingdom.
The first, built from limestone, dates back to the end of the New Kingdom, said Ola el-Aguizy, head of the Cairo University archaeological team that discovered them.
It belonged to Paser, head of army archives and a royal emissary to foreign countries.
The tomb contains well-preserved reliefs, with some remaining paint in blue, red and yellow.
In one scene, Osiris, the ancient Egyptian god of the underworld, presides over a tribunal for the deceased.
Other sculptures show Paser’s wife crying for her deceased husband, and Paser and his children presenting offerings to the gods.
The tomb, discovered earlier this year, appears to be unfinished, suggesting that Paser may have died before it could be completely decorated, Aguizy said.
The second tomb, of mud brick, belonged to Ptahmes, an army chief and treasury head under Seti I and Ramses II, Aguizy said.
Ramses II, one of the best-known pharaohs of the New Kingdom, was renowned for his military prowess and the monuments he left behind.
The tomb’s existence was known to archeologists, with some of its columns and reliefs being found in the 19th century and displayed in the Egyptian Museum or sent abroad. But the tomb itself was uncovered by excavators only three years ago, Aguizy added.
It contains reliefs of fishing scenes painted in red, and hieroglyphic inscriptions detailing the titles of the deceased.