The finds from the time of the pharaohs simply do not seem to stop in Egypt. Archaeologists keep making spectacular discoveries here and come across well-preserved tombs, often with valuable, lovingly designed objects, sometimes with untouched mummies in them. Now there was another sensation of this kind: Researchers came across a mysterious shaft that led to four previously unknown burial chambers.

As has now been discovered, those buried here are not queens or kings, but high-ranking palace employees who were buried almost as magnificently as the members of the pharaoh’s family. Grave inscriptions even tell us the names of the people who were laid to rest here around 4,300 years ago. And one mummy particularly amazed the scientists.

After the archaeologists explored the 15 meter deep shaft and climbed down, they found the four intact burial chambers there. One contained the nearly intact mummy of a man named Hekashepes, thought to be one of the oldest non-royal mummies yet found in Egypt. Another tomb belongs to a high court official named Khnumdjedef. He was an important figure as a priest and guardian of the country’s nobles.

In the third burial chamber lay the mummy of a man named Meri. He is described as a “secret keeper”, which presumably means that he held an important religious office and was allowed to perform special mystical rites. Examination of the fourth tomb was also spectacular, revealing a judge and scribe named Fetek – and an impressive collection of statues of considerable size.

“These finds are so important to us because they connect the kings to the people who lived around them,” Ali Abu Deshish, one of the archaeologists involved, told the BBC. He and his colleagues will also have been amazed when they examined the mummy of Hekashepes from the first burial chamber more closely: it was decorated with gold leaf. It is well known that mummies are often richly decorated, for example with amulets. Such a find, however, is extremely rare. Nothing is currently known about the exact meaning.

What: BBC