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Egypt: The First King's Burial Found Intact


The First King's Burial Found Intact
By Norman Hayes


Many people think that the first modern (relatively) find of an intact burial of an Egyptian pharaoh was that of Tutankhamun. Granted, this find was glorious and stunning, and certainly out-shined earlier finds, but it was not the first king's burial to be found intact.


Funerary Diadem

Funerary Diadem

Many of the kings of the 17th Dynasty were named Intef, and they mostly had very heavy, large coffins with vulture-wing feathered decorations called rishi coffins. Most of these tombs were rather poor, and cut into the Theban hillside.

A Greek excavator named Giovanni d'Athanasi provides us with the following account:

The First King's Burial Found Intact

'during the researches made by the Arabs in the year 1827, at Gourna, in the mountain Il-Dra-Abool-Naggia, a small and separate tomb, containing only one chamber, in the centre of which was placed a sarcophagus, hewn out of the same rock, and formed evidently at the same time as the chamber itself....In this sarcophagus was found (the coffin of Nubkheperre Intef), with the body as originally deposited. The moment the Arabs saw that the case was highly ornamented and gilt, they immediately knew that it belonged to a person of rank. They forthwith proceeded to satisfy their curiosity by opening it, when they discovered, placed around the head of the mummy, but over the linen, a diadem, composed of silver and beautiful mosaic work, its centre being formed of gold, representing an asp, the emblem of royalty. Inside the case, along side the body, were deposited two bows, and six arrows...

The Arabs...immediately proceeded to break up the mummy for the treasures it might contain, but all the information I have been able to obtain as to the various objects they found, is, that the Scarab was placed on the breast, without having any other ornament attached to it.'

d'Athanasi associated the scarab with Intef but it was probably made for Sebekemsaf

d'Athanasi Associated the Scarab with Intef, but it was probably made for Sebekemsaf.

From documentation, we learn that tomb robbers had attempted to tunnel into the tomb of Infef from that of Shuroy/Iurony, but were unsuccessful in doing so. This discovery was actually the first of a recorded king, though at the time this 17th Dynasty Theban ruler's identity was unknown. The find seems to have been forgotten almost immediately. In fact, the artifacts of the tomb seemed to have been spread about Europe, and the facts surrounding the find were not put together until some eight or nine years afterwards. Currently, the coffin and the heart scarab of Nubkheperre Intef is in the British Museum, acquired upon the sale of Henry Salt's third collection was sold at Sotheby's in 1835. The diadem is in the Rijksmuseum van Qudheden, Leiden.

The First King's Burial Found Intact


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