Czech archaeologists discover tomb of important Egyptian dignitary

Kaires, photo: archive of Czech Institute of Egyptology

A team of Czech archaeologists have made a remarkable discovery at Abusir, near Cairo, unearthing a unique burial complex of an Egyptian dignitary dating back to the fifth Dynasty of the Egyptian Old Kingdom. The limestone tomb is located in the centre of a pyramid field where only members of the royal family and the highest state dignitaries of the time were buried.

Kaires,  photo: archive of Czech Institute of Egyptology
Czech archaeologists have conducted work in Egypt for nearly 60 years, making a number of significant discoveries in the area of Abusir, a vast necropolis from the Old Kingdom, located south of Cairo. Their most recent find, the uncovering a tomb of the royal confidant and priest Kaires, was announced by the Egyptian authorities this week.

Miroslav Bárta, the head of the Czech archaeological mission in Egypt explains what makes the discovery so unique:

“In this case, there are actually multiple unique facts. The tomb is located in the centre of a regular pyramid field in Abusir dating back to around 2,400 B.C. Besides the cult chapel itself it contains several other rooms.

“Another unique feature is that its chapel is the only royal tomb from this period using basalt blocks for paving, wall panelling and the altar. This is evidence of the exceptional status of the tomb owner.”

Among the items discovered in the burial chamber of priest Kaires are parts of the decoration of the chapel, depicting scenes from everyday life, as well as ceramic objects which were included in the burial equipment.

But perhaps the most important find is a granite statue depicting Kaires sitting on a small chair. According to Czech archaeologists, it proves that ancient Egyptians placed statues into their burial chambers, a question they have been trying to answer for years.

Although the burial chamber of Kaires had been looted already in antiquity, the statue has been miraculously preserved in its original location. It bears remnants of colours as well as engravings of titles which indicate Kaires’s exceptional career. Miroslav Bárta again:

Burial chamber of Kaires,  photo: archive of Czech Institute of Egyptology
“To put it simply, Kaires was overseeing all the king’s building projects and was described as his sole friend. He was responsible for the king’s routine at the Morning House, where he would come in the morning to wash, get dressed and have breakfast.

“He was also the inspector of the priests and the priest of the goddess Hathor. So he had all sorts of duties but we can definitely say that he was really close to the king.”

Another unique feature of the tomb is the construction of the burial chamber, which was built in an open pit. After the sarcophagus had been lowered and the side walls lined with limestone blocks, the chamber was closed by several giant ceiling blocks of limestone, each of which weighed at least eight to nine tonnes.

Czech Egyptologists will continue with their research of the tomb in Abusir for another few weeks. It will take them another year or so to analyse all the items discovered at the site.