Tomb of non-royal singer found in Valley of Kings

Archaeologists from the University of Basel in Switzerland have discovered the tomb of a woman with no connection to the royal family in Luxor’s Valley of the Kings. This is the first tomb of a non-royal woman ever found in the Valley of the Kings.

According to an inscription inside the tomb, her name was Nehmes Bastet and she was a singer for deity Amon Ra in the Temple of Karnak during the 22nd Dynasty (945-712 B.C.). She may have been the daughter of the High Priest of Amon, which would explain how she secured such a primo location for eternity.

At the time of her death, Egypt was ruled by Libyan kings, but the high priests who ruled Thebes, which is now within the city of Luxor, were independent. Their authority enabled them to use the royal cemetery for family members, according to [Mansour Boraiq, the Antiquities’ Ministry top official for Luxor].

The unearthing marks the 64th tomb to be discovered in the Valley of the Kings.

The tomb was discovered entirely by accident. The University of Basel team’s remit is to clean and document some of the less glamorous and therefore less studied tombs. While cleaning near the tomb of Thuthmosis III (discovered a hundred years ago), they found a shaft with a chamber at the bottom. Inside the chamber was an intact wooden sarcophagus painted black and decorated with hieroglyphics and a wooden plaque engraved with Nehmes Bastet’s name and titles.

The coffin will be opened this week. Egyptologists expect (probably because of the weight distribution) to find a mummy covered with a cartonnage (plastered layers of linen) mask.

Ahram Online says the burial chamber contains a “treasured collection of ancient Egyptian artefacts.” There are no specifics on what these artifacts are, but they apparently were used to determine that the tomb itself pre-dates the 22nd Dynasty burial. It was originally cut during the 18th Dynasty (1550-1292 B.C.), the dynasty of superstars like Tutankhamun and Nefertiti. We don’t know yet what exactly allowed them to date the tomb or who the original resident might have been.

Sarcophagus of Nehmes Bastet in Valley of the Kings tomb KV64

Interesting side note to this story: several Egyptology bloggers first heard rumors that the University of Basel had found a new tomb in the Valley of the Kings around the time of the Egyptian revolution last year. Security police had been withdrawn from the Valley of the Kings, so there was nobody on site to deter and capture the looters who would inevitably descend on the site like locusts should they catch wind of a new tomb.

Bloggers coordinated with Dr. Thomas Schuler of Blue Shield, an international organization for the protection of cultural heritage during emergency situations, to warn the University of Basel team and to publicly dismiss the rumored find as just a secondary shaft to a pre-existing tomb. Thanks to them, researchers were able to do their thing without dangerous interference. :notworthy: