The Area of Royal Funerary Complexes

Since the institute has been awarded a new concession in 1976, its fieldwork has concentrated on the discovering and exploration of the hitherto missing royal funerary complexes on the South field. The basic task became to specify and complete our concept of the cemetery created on the basis of the excavations of the German Oriental Society led by Ludwig Borchardt at the beginning of the 20th century. Over the last 20 years, the tomb complexes of Queen Khentkaus II and King Neferre were uncovered here. They brought to light a lot of new evidence concerning the chronology of this period, the functioning of royal funerary cults (the discovery of the most ancient temple archives in Egypt), the arts and crafts of the period (the discovery of an unusually large set of royal statues, stone vessels, faience inlays, pottery, etc.) The unique “sanctuary of the knife” was also discovered, the hitherto most ancient archaeological evidence of a ritual temple slaughterhouse, where cattle was slaughtered for the needs of the royal funerary cult. Some parts of royal funerary temples changed at the dusk of their life into dwellings of temple priests. The exploration at Abusir thus includes also some problems of settlement archaeology. The entire pyramid cemetery is also interesting for the fact that due to a special coincidence, the individual funerary complexes were joined into a single large functional whole. The archaeological exploration of the royal necropolis is, because of its great importance, constantly followed by the entire Egyptological community.

In the year 1994, the archaeological exploration of the pyramid n an anonymous queen – pyramid Lepsius no. XXIV – probably wife of King Niuserre, which had begun in the 1980s. Because of its damaged condition, which revealed its core masonry, the structure is an important source of information about pyramid building and about the mason’s marks used by ancient Egyptian builders. We have also discovered a large amount of remains of the funerary equipment of the queen, e.g. remains of calcite canopic jars (jars for the viscera extracted during mummification), stone vessels, copper tool models, wooden chests, luxury pottery, etc. Of special interest was the discovery of a set of animal skeletons and other animal remains that probably reflect the composition of offerings given to the deceased for the other world. IN the course of the excavations, a mummy of a woman was discovered, which could belong to the pyramid owner (this would be a very significant discovery in terms of Old Kingdom archaeology). The stratigraphy, which has suffered through many robbers’ activities, does not allow us to date the mummy more precisely than somewhere between the Old Kingdom and the Arabic Period. The question will be solved only after the Egyptian authorities give permission to date the mummy by means of the radiocarbon method.

In the year 1994, another very damaged mastaba tomb was explored. It belonged to prince Nakhtkare, in all likelihood the son of the prematurely deceased King Neferre. In this tomb, too, remains of the funerary equipment were found – fragments of calcite canopic jars, an unusually large series of calcite models of offerings (in the form of geese or ducks), copper tool models, pottery, etc. In connection with the excavation of this mastaba, the waste cone in the passage between the enclosure wall of the mastaba and the funerary temple of Neferre. Inside this cone, a large number of whole vessels (the so-called “beer jars”), pottery fragments, fragments of statues, clay sealings and stone tools were founds – objects, that were part of the temple inventory and weer used in the course of the funerary rituals of the king.

In the year 1995, a new stage of the exploration of the funerary complex of Neferre was launched – the exploration of the substructure of the “Unfinished” pyramid of Neferre (the archaeological exploration of the complex begun in the year 1981). Neferre’s pyramid complex was not finished in the planned form at the time of the king’s premature death. The planned pyramid was changed into a mastaba and the king was buried into the hastily finished tomb. The plan of the funerary temple was also altered. The main building material was mud brick, while usually such a temple would be built of stone. For this reason it has not fallen victim to stone robbers, and some elements of Egyptian architecture can be studied here very well. According to the original epigraphic sources (the temple papyrus archive, coming form the time of the functioning of the temple), which were discovered inside the temple in the course of its exploration, some parts of the temple can be identified together with their original equipment and function. The Unfinished pyramid is, just as Pyramid L XXIV, an important source of information about Egyptian architecture. Its exploration should be finished soon.

  Jaromír Krejčí

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