Mystery Pharaoh Found in Egypt

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The remains of a previously unknown pharaoh who reigned more than 3,600 years ago have emerged from the desert sand at South Abydos in Sohag province, about 300 miles south of Cairo, the Egyptian antiquities ministry said.

The skeleton of Woseribre Senebkay, who appears to be one of the earliest kings of a forgotten Abydos Dynasty (1650–1600 B.C.) was found by a University of Pennsylvania expedition working with Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities. It rested in a four-chambered tomb amidst the fragmented debris of his coffin, funerary mask and canopic chest. Such chests were used to contain the organs of an individual.

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Senebkay's tomb dates to about 1650 B.C., during Egypt's Second Intermediate Period, when central authority collapsed, giving rise to several small kingdoms. It was found close to a larger royal sarcophagus chamber, recently identified as belonging to king Sobekhotep (probably Sobekhotep I, ca. 1780 BC) of the 13th Dynasty.

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According to the archaeologists, the kings of the Abydos Dynasty placed their burials near the tombs of earlier Middle Kingdom pharaohs, including Senwosret III of the 12th Dynasty (about 1880–1840 B.C.) and Sobekhotep I.

In fact, there is evidence for about 16 royal tombs belonging to the dynasty, whose existence was first hypothesized by Egyptologist Kim Ryholt in 1997.

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"It's exciting to find not just the tomb of one previously unknown pharaoh, but the necropolis of an entire forgotten dynasty," said Josef Wegner, Egyptian Section Associate Curator of the Penn Museum, who led the University of Pennsylvania team.

Badly plundered by ancient tomb robbers, the tomb of Senebkay is modest in scale. It features a limestone burial chamber painted with images of the goddesses Nut, Nephthys, Selket, and Isis flanking Senebkay's canopic shrine.

Other texts in the tomb identify the pharaoh as the "king of Upper and Lower Egypt, Woseribre, the son of Re, Senebkay."

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