Intriguing Egyptian tomb was made for the “Commander of Foreign Soldiers”
An intriguing Egyptian tomb has been discovered just south of Cairo, belonging to the “Commander of Foreign Soldiers.” The tomb, discovered by a Czech archaeological team from Charles University in Prague, was uncovered in Abusir, an important necropolis of the ancient Egyptian capital of Memphis. Despite having been looted in antiquity, the tomb’s incredible finds shed new light on Egypt during the Persian period, when Egypt, like biblical Judah, had come under the control of a foreign power.
The tomb of the Egyptian dignitary, named Wahibre-mery-Neith, dates to the Persian Period (c. 525–332 B.C.E.), during the late 26th or early 27th Dynasty. At this time, the Persian Empire had spread across the Near East, destroying Babylon and conquering Egypt. Among the many accolades and titles attributed to the tomb’s owner is “Commander of Foreign Soldiers,” a position that would have supervised Aegean and Anatolian mercenaries. Despite the difficult circumstances of the period, which saw the gradual decline of Egypt’s ancient traditions and culture, the tomb still features many distinct aspects of traditional Egyptian art and religious belief.
Among the finds from the Egyptian tomb were the sarcophagus of Wahibre-mery-Neith and the largest cache of embalming goods ever discovered in Egypt. The cache included more than 370 pottery jars containing material used in the mummification process. The team also found two wooden boxes containing hundreds of faience shabtis, small figurines that were believed to serve the deceased in the afterlife. Other finds included alabaster canopic jars, model cups, and an ostracon inscribe with excerpts from the Book of the Dead, written in hieratic script.
While more elaborate funerary goods were likely also once in the tomb, they were robbed around the fourth or fifth century C.E., as evidenced by two early Coptic vessels found in the tomb. Additional evidence for this ancient looting is found in the sarcophagus itself, which was damaged when the looters opened it. The outer sarcophagus was made of two massive white limestone blocks. Inside was an inner sarcophagus of black basalt. This inner sarcophagus was inscribed with the 72nd chapter of the Book of the Dead, which describes the resurrection of the dead and the journey to the afterlife. The inner coffin, which measures 7.5 feet long, contained a single uninscribed scarab and an amulet.
The final resting place of Wahibre-mery-Neith was constructed as a deep, rectangular shaft tomb. The main shaft, which descends 20 feet, measures 2,100 square feet. At the bottom of the main shaft, a secondary shaft was cut into the bedrock, which descends another 33 feet into the earth. It was at the bottom of this shaft that archaeologists found the double sarcophagus of Wahibre-mery-Neith. There are no exact parallels to the tomb’s structure and design, though it does have similarities to the nearby tomb of Udjahorresnet and the so-called Campbell’s tomb in Giza.
Based on the condition of the tomb and its grave goods, it is thought that Wahibre-mery-Neith may have died unexpectedly before his tomb was finished. Researchers hope the tomb will provide a snapshot of tomb construction during the period and reveal new details about burial equipment and tomb decoration.
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