Egypt opens 4,400-year-old tomb of ancient priestess

Tomb of the priestess of fertility unveiled in Egypt

Archaeologists in Egypt have unveiled the newly discovered tomb of an ancient priestess that dates back 4,400 years.

The tomb found near Cairo is adorned with well-preserved and rare wall paintings depicting the priestess, Hetpet, in a variety of scenes.

Hetpet was a priestess to the goddess of fertility Hathor, who assisted women in childbirth.

It was found during excavations near the Great Pyramid of Giza, Egypt’s antiquities ministry says.

This site, in Giza’s western cemetery, housed officials from the Old Kingdom’s Fifth Dynasty, some of which have already been dug up since 1842.

“We know of course that she was a high official and that she had a strong link with the royal palace,” Egyptian Antiquities Minister Khaled al-Anani said, describing Hetpet on Saturday.

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The tomb “has the architectural style and the decorative elements of the Fifth Dynasty, with an entrance leading to an ‘L’ shaped shrine,” the ministry said.

The wall paintings inside were in “a very good conservation condition depicting Hetpet standing in different hunting and fishing scenes or… receiving offerings from her children”.

Scenes of music and dancing performances, as well as monkeys featured as domestic animals were also depicted.

One wall painting shows a monkey dancing in front of an orchestra.

“Such scenes are rare… and have only been found previously in the (Old Kingdom) tomb of ‘Ka-Iber’ where a painting shows a monkey dancing in front of a guitarist not an orchestra,” Mostafa Waziri of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, told AFP news agency.

Minister Anani said he was hopeful of further discoveries at the site, which is located about 20km (12 miles) south of Cairo.

“We’re going to continue digging in this area and I believe that very soon we’re going to discover something.”