Tomb of Ancient Egyptian Mercenary Commander Found in Egypt

Archaeologists in Egypt have discovered a 2,600-year-old tomb belonging to a high-ranking man: a “commander of foreign mercenaries” named “Wahibre-mery-Neith”.

The tomb’s embalming cache, found in 2021, includes more than 370 pottery storage jars containing materials used in the commander mummificationmaking it the “greatest embalming cache never discovered in Egypt“, said a team of Egyptian and Czech researchers in a statement (opens in a new tab). The tomb is buried at Abusir (also spelled Abū Ṣīr), a few kilometers south of the giant necropolis of Saqqara.

Grave robbers stole the mummy of Wahibre-mery-Neith in antiquity, but archaeologists have located remains of his sarcophagus on which are inscribed hieroglyphics. The glyphs give his identity and quote part of Chapter 72 of the Book of the Dead which describes “the resurrection of the deceased and his departure for the afterlife”, according to the press release.

In his role as commander of ancient egypt mercenary troops, Wahibre-mery-Neith reportedly “supervised and commanded mercenaries from the Aegean islands and Asia Minor”, the statement said.

Related: Why does the Rosetta stone have 3 types of writing?

The commander lived either at the end of the 26th Dynasty (around 688 BC to 525 BC) or at the beginning of the 27th Dynasty (from 525 to 404 BC), according to the statement. While Egypt was independent under the 26th Dynasty, the 27th Dynasty saw the country being conquered and ruled by the Persians.

Despite the growing foreign influence, Wahibre-mery-Neith appears to be of “local ancestry”, according to his name and the artifacts found in his tomb, Miroslav Bárta, the director of the Czech excavations in Egypt, told Live Science in a E-mail. Why he was buried with the largest known embalming cache in ancient Egypt is uncertain. “It’s a difficult question and at this stage of the analysis we don’t know,” Bárta said.

The commander was also buried with 402 earthenware (glazed ceramic) shabti figurines. The ancient Egyptians believe that shabtis worked for the deceased in the afterlife and are commonly found in Egyptian tombs. Finds also include a heart-shaped scarab, an amulet, and an ostracon (pottery shard) on which other spells from the Book of the Dead appear.

Academics react

Live Science reached out to several researchers unaffiliated with the research to get their thoughts on the findings. They all thought it was an interesting discovery. “It is certainly an important, interesting and welcome discovery, although not unique in this field: the Czechs have been working in Abusir for more than twenty years already, they have unearthed several tombs of high officials from the end of the 26th and from the beginning of the 27th Dynasty.” Günter Vittmann, professor of Egyptology at Julius Maximilian University in Würzburg in Germany, told Live Science in an email.

Depending on the exact period he lived in, the commander’s life could have been very different. “I think our Wahibre lived most of his life, maybe all of his life, during the 26 [dynasty]Benjamin Sullivan, a senior lecturer in ancient history at Arizona State University, told Live Science in an email. He doubted Wahibre would have boasted of being a “commander of foreign mercenaries” if he had lived. under the 27th Dynasty – the time when the Persians ruled ancient Egypt. Additionally, Sullivan noted that this title was more commonly used during the 26th Dynasty.

Interestingly, no armor or weapons were found in the tomb, noted Daniel Gómez-Castro, a historian who has researched and written extensively on Greek mercenaries in the ancient world. It’s possible that Wahibre was not a warrior/battlefield commander, but rather a political appointee who handled administrative duties, such as ensuring mercenaries were paid, Gómez-Castro said. If Wahibre lived when the Persians controlled Egypt, he might be related to a “Dinast”, a Persian appointee who had local authority.

If the tomb dates from the time of Persian rule, it illustrates that the “Persians were so confident in their rule that they entrusted such an important task to local dignitaries,” said Stefan Pfeiffer, professor of ancient history. at Martin Luther University of Halle-Wittenberg in Germany, Live Science said in an email. It wouldn’t be the only time the Persians did it. A tomb belonging to an Egyptian named Udjahorresnet dates from the time of Persian rule, and he served as a high official for the Persians, Pfeiffer noted.

Originally posted on Live Science.

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