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Archaeologists uncover previously unknown king and a forgotten dynasty

Posted By Leigh Goessl On January 26, 2014 @ 12:44 am In Archaeology | Comments Disabled

Researchers from the University of Pennsylvania have uncovered evidence of an unknown pharaoh and a forgotten Ancient Egyptian dynasty while at a dig site located in the region known as Abydos, an area richly entwined in early civilization. The group of archaeologists, working in collaboration with Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities, had been exploring a neighboring tomb of an earlier pharaoh called King Sobekhotep I, the first king of the 13th Dynasty when they made the remarkable find.

While seeking to uncover early civilization’s mysteries buried in the sand, the team found the “first material proof” of a dynasty previously existing only in theory, along with a “new” king.

A forgotten dynasty and an unknown pharaoh

The unknown pharaoh’s identity was inscribed in his tomb, and researchers ascertained he was named Woseribre Senebkay. Senebkay ruled during a time not well understood to historians. While excavating the tomb of what is believed to be of Sobekhotep I (circa 1780 BC), the team of archaeologists, led by Dr. Josef Wegner, Egyptian Section Associate Curator of the Penn Museum, not only found remains of the pharaoh, they also uncovered evidence of an entire dynasty.

“It’s exciting to find not just the tomb of one previously unknown pharaoh, but the necropolis of an entire forgotten dynasty,” said Dr. Wegner, according to a University of Pennsylvania press release.

The Abydos Dynasty reigned approximately 1650-1600 BC, and it is an era that is not soundly documented. So this find potentially unlocks all kinds of ancient secrets.

A tale of tomb robbery

According to the University of Pennsylvania’s press release, the team had found a massive 60-ton royal sarcophagus chamber at South Abydos during the summer of 2013. The royal owner was not able to be identified at the time, but recent evidence unlocked the discovery of not only the original owner (Sobekhotep), but another pharaoh that reused the tomb’s sarcophagus. It appears Sobekhotep’s tomb was badly looted and later kings reused parts of the tomb for their own burial chambers—Senebkay included.

Pharaoh Senebkay and the Abydos Dynasty

The idea of an “Abydos Dynasty” was first hypothesized by Danish Egyptologist K. Ryholt in 1997, reported Mashable. But until now, there was no tangible evidence to prove the dynasty’s existence. The discovery of Senebkay and the royal necropolis proves this dynasty did actually exist. It is believed King Senebkay reigned around 1625-1650 BC during Egypt’s Second Intermediate Period. Archaeologists found evidence of 16 royal tombs, with Senebkay being one of the earliest rulers in this group of kings.

Like his predecessor, Senebkay’s tomb had also been looted, as modest as it had been designed. Parts of his royal burial were also recycled components from the tombs of earlier rulers and was not seemingly as elaborate as some other royal tombs that have been found over the course of time. However, experts were able to extract the pharaoh’s remains and learn more about him. Penn graduate students Paul Verhelst and Matthew Olson were able to determine Senebkay was about 5’10″ (1.75 m) and lived to reach his mid to late-40s.

Researchers plan to return to this dig site this spring and try and uncover more about the mysterious time frame that had seemingly been lost to history.

“Continued work in the royal tombs of the Abydos Dynasty promises to shed new light on the political history and society of an important but poorly understood era of Ancient Egypt,” said Dr. Wegner.


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