March 31, 2012

The Tomb of Queen Hetepheres Facts and Secrets

The Tomb of Queen Hetepheres
The concealed entrance to a 99-ft (30.2-m) deep shaft was found by accident, disguised with plaster, by a photographer in 1925 during survey work in the Giza area. At the bottom of the shaft was a small chamber which, to judge from the blocking that had to be removed to reach it, had remained intact since the day it was sealed during the Old Kingdom. It contained a large alabaster sarcophagus with a canopic chest and a quantity of furniture which included a large dismantled canopy frame, two armchairs, a bed (shown restored, above right, Cairo Museum,) and a carrying chair. The wood of all these items had suffered over the course of the millennia, but careful recording made their complete reconstruction possible. There were various vessels in gold, copper and alabaster as well as other items of an obviously personal nature, such as a gold manicure set and 20 silver bracelets inlaid with delicate dragonflies. Inscriptions in the gold casing on the wooden furniture identified the owner of the tomb as

Tomb of Queen Hetepheres
Hetepheres, wife of Snefru and mother of Khufu.
When the sarcophagus was opened it was found to be empty, but the queen had obviously occupied it once since her canopic chest had been used. This chest had four compartments containing the queen’s embalmed viscera, and is the earliest known use of evisceration in the mummification process. This strange situation may be explained as follows: at first, the queen had probably been buried close to her husband Snefru’s northern pyramid at Dahshur, but the tomb had been robbed. The robbers were not completely successful, although they had obviously destroyed the queen's body before the guards were able to rescue the remainder of the burial. It was decided, therefore, to move the burial to Giza, to the more secure area close to her son's pyramid (Khufu probably never knew that his mother’s body was no longer in the sarcophagus).

One day, perhaps Hetepheres’ original tomb will be found at Dahshur, since little excavation or survey work has been carried out there.

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