What Is the Only Excavated Egyptian Royalty Tomb Discovered Intact?
The ruins of the ancient Egyptian kingdoms provide an endless source of speculation for historians and Egyptologists. Understanding more aspects of the region's culture depends on excavating remains, but many archaeological finds are often damaged over time or ruined by grave robbers. There is one royal tomb found completely intact, at the site of the ancient Egyptian city of Tanis.
1 The City of Tanis
Tanis lies on the Nile delta of Egypt, northeast of Cairo, and was initially excavated in the 1930s and 1940s. The site had faded from memory, and was seen as "a silted plain with some hill-like mounds thought to be of little interest." According to the Archaeological Institute of America, a series of royal tombs was discovered during the dig which yielded impressive pharaonic artifacts. Among these were alabaster jars, a sarcophagus and figurines. Some of the tombs were already looted, but additional searching found previously untouched royal tombs.
2 The Royal Tombs
The royal tombs of Tanis housed the remains of four Egyptian kings, but only two of the chambers were not broken into by looters. According to inscriptions found by the archaeological excavation team, the undisturbed burial chambers housed the remains Psusennes I and Sheshonq II -- the latter previously unknown to Egyptologists. Their remains were housed with more of the statues -- "ushabtis" -- which would serve pharaohs in the next life. Impressive golden masks and silver coins and jewelry were also found, prominent displays of the rulers' wealth.
3 Principle Discoverer
The man credited with the excavation of Tanis and subsequent discovery of the untouched tombs is Pierre Montet, a French archaeologist. According to the Archaeological Institute of America, Montet devoted 12 years of his life to the excavation. His finds rival Howard Carter's discovery of King Tutankhamun's tomb, but are much less well-known since they coincided with the outbreak of World War II. King Tut's tomb is commonly thought to be discovered intact, but it was in fact raided by tomb robbers in antiquity. The initial records of Montet's findings were only available in French, which further hindered awareness.
Ironically, the city of Tanis may be more well-known in popular culture due to being mentioned as the site of the Ark of the Covenant in the movie "Raiders of the Lost Ark." But the riches entombed with the kings helped historians establish the extent of the city's commerce and the strength of its rulers' influence. According to National Geographic, the jewelry found on Sheshonq II was also worn by Shesonq I, who is spoken of in the Bible.