A tomb dating back to the reign of New Kingdom Pharaoh Amenhotep IV in the 14th century BC has been discovered in the Giza suburb of Saqqara, according to an antiquities official.
“This is a unique discovery because it is the first time we have uncovered a tomb in Sakkara from the reign of Akhenaton, who had his capital at Akhetaton (now called Tel al-Amarna) in Upper Egypt,” said Adel Hussein, director of Sakkara at the Supreme Antiquities Council.
The tomb once occupied by the high priest Meryneith, whose name means “the beloved of Neith (goddess of war and hunting)”, was discovered by a Dutch-Egyptian archaeological mission on 31 January 2001 during excavation of New Kingdom tombs at Sakkara. The excavation work, which is still under way, has so far uncovered two store rooms in the east of the tomb, three small chapels in the west, wall reliefs that include depictions of funeral rituals, five columns with hieroglyphic inscriptions and a burial chamber, Hussein noted.
“No mummies have yet been uncovered, but we have come across bones. There is a good chance we will find a mummy once excavation work on the burial chamber is complete,” he added.
Hussein sees the discovery as an addition to our knowledge of the reign of Amenhotep IV and Sakkara, which was used as a site for pyramids and tombs from the first pharaonic dynasties.
In his quest to unify Egypt in the worship of a single deity, Aton – a form of the sun-god Ra –, the 18th dynasty ruler Amenhotep IV changed his name to Akhenaton, meaning “it pleases Aton”, and built a new capital in Amarna dedicated to Aton and called it “Akhetaton” (the Horizon of Aton).
Akhenaton, a religious hardliner who provoked the wrath of the powerful Amun priesthood, among others, for his reforms, is said by some scholars to have been the world's first monotheist. He ruled from 1353-36 BC.
This article was first published by Reuters on 11 February 2001.