Introduction to the Dahshur Necropolis
In 1894, Jacques de Morgan spent the year excavating and exploring the Dahshur necropolis. He found many tombs of ancient royalty during that time. His first discovery took place while excavating near the Pyramid of Senwosret III. The tombs he found featured two galleries with ladies of royalty buried in them.
On top of the ground, small pyramids had been built for these tombs. There was a burial chamber hidden within them. As de Morgan explored this chamber, he discovered a wide range of jewellery which belonged to Princess Sithathor. This was the daughter of the pharaoh, Senwosret II. One of the jewellery pieces was a glorious pectoral piece which imitated Senwosret II. This pectoral piece is now on display in the Cairo Museum. Another jewellery piece found was a scarab that belonged to Senwosret III.
As de Morgan continued his excavation, he found jewels which belonged to Queen Meret. She was believed to be either the wife or daughter of Senwosret III. The various jewels found bore the names of the pharaohs Amenemhet III and Senwosret. These included a variety of rings, scarabs, and two gorgeous pectorals.
The following season, de Morgan went to the Pyramid of Amenemhet II and conducted an excavation at the west wall area. Once again, he found the tombs of ancient royalty buried there. Some of the tombs found were of Queen Khnemet, Chancellor Amenhotep, Princess Itweret, Princess Ita, and Princess Sithathormerit.
Queen Khnemet was married to Senwosret II while Amenemhet II was the father of Princess Itweret and Princess Ita. A lot of fine jewellery pieces were placed on the mummies of the princesses as decorations. Fortunately, grave robbers never touched these tombs over the centuries. This meant they were largely intact when de Morgan found them. As a result, the Cairo Museum has a nice collection of artefacts from these tombs.
During de Morgan’s third season excavating the Dahshur necropolis, a lot of other interesting burials were found near the Pyramid of Amenemhet III. On the pyramid’s northern side, he found the tombs and shafts of 12 royal family members. One tomb belonged to King Hor-Awibre of the 13th Dynasty. A wooden ka statue of the king was discovered too and has since become a famous artefact.
The wooden ka statue remains in the wooden shrine where it was originally found. The shrine itself has a height of 1.75 meters. Most of its carvings are all still intact as it sits beautifully preserved. Several funerary artefacts were found at the tomb site of King Hor-Awibre, such as a canopic chest, pottery objects, alabaster objects, 2 stelae, a table, and a rectangularly shaped wooden coffin with an inscription.
As de Morgan continued his search, he discovered Princess Nubhotepti-Kheref’s tomb. Historians believe her father was King Hor-Awibre. The tomb of the princess remained untouched, although there was a lot of dampness which decayed the burial site over the centuries. Her burial chamber was lined with stones and consisted of a sarcophagus. Inside the sarcophagus was a wooden coffin ornamented in gold which housed the princess’s remains. Her mummy still had on jewellery, which proves those grave robbers never found the site. Various funerary artefacts were discovered near the burial chamber. These artefacts are believed to be 4,500 years old.
Historians are fascinated by these artefacts from the Middle Kingdom era because they display the very best of Egyptian artistry and innovation.