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Egyptian archaeological team opens door on ancient treasure trove

An ancient sandstone wall decorated with inscriptions and dating back to the Ptolemaic era has been found by a specialist antiquities team in southern Egypt.

The find, believed to be at least 2,300 years old and bearing the name of King Ptolemy IV, was made in Nagaa Hammadi, about 80 km northwest of Luxor, in the Qena governorate.

Mustafa Waziri, secretary-general of Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities, has called for further excavations to be carried out at the site, which is expected to reveal more secrets.

The wall is located about 200 meters from a shrine to the goddess Hathor. Experts believe ruins at the site are likely to have great religious significance.

Waziri said that during the excavation, entrances were found in the Holy Valley, south of the royal cemetery in Umm El-Qa’ab. Studies showed that the entrances led to rooms carved from rock and no more than 1.2 meters in height.

Archaeologists found another set of five rooms connected via narrow entrances cut into the walls.

Mohammed Abdel-Badi, head of the Central Department of Antiquities of Upper Egypt and chief of the mission, said that the rooms are undecorated and located above deep vertical wells linked to natural water tunnels.

Most of the rooms contain pottery fragments, fountains, terraces and a number of small holes in the walls. Gaps near the entrances were likely used as handles or for tying ropes.

Graffiti in one room shows the name Khou-so-n-Hour, his mother Amon Eards and his grandmother Nes-Hour.

Abdel-Badi said that pottery scattered on the valley floor south of the royal tombs in Umm El-Qa’ab indicate the area being inhabited during the Ptolemaic period, most likely during the second and first centuries B.C., and also during the late Roman era.

Pottery fragments include an item originally belonging to a jar with a spherical body made from oasis mud and imported to Abydos, one of ancient Egypt’s oldest cities.

Matthew Adams, of the Institute of Fine Arts at the University of New York and co-director of the North Abydos Mission, said that there is no indication any of the rooms was used for burial purposes.

He said that the Holy Valley, south of the royal cemetery in Umm El-Qa’ab, was thought by ancient Egyptians to be a gateway to the afterlife.

The archaeological find, located high inside a largely inaccessible mountain, shows that it has great religious importance, he said.

The archaeological survey team records and documents human activities in the desert west of Abydos from prehistoric times, and in an area about eight kilometers from the Saqqara pyramid in the south to the Salmani quarries in the north.