During autumn 2014, Czech archaeologists exploring a tomb which forms part of a small cemetery to the southeast of the funerary complex of King Raneferef, believe they have found the burial place of an unknown queen.
The Czech Institute of Egyptology, Faculty of Arts, Charles University has been excavating the pyramid necropolis at Abusir for nearly 55 years. Abusir is an important archaeological site, located approximately 25 km to the southwest of modern Cairo. In addition to the pyramid complexes of several rulers of the Fifth Dynasty, there are cemeteries of officials and priests dated from the Third to the Sixth Dynasty and shaft-tombs dated to the Saite-Persian period (circa 525 B.C.).
Members of the court elite of the middle of the Fifth Dynasty (about 2450 B.C.) were buried in the cemetery. The tomb (marked as AC 30 on map to left) is similar in size and shape to other tombs in the area. A chapel, originally with a pair of false doors in its west wall is located above the ground. The burial chamber in its substructure was accessible through a vertical shaft. Despite the fact that the tomb was destroyed by robbers, the mission managed to find some parts of the funerary equipment in the burial chamber – for example, 24 miniature alabaster vessels and 4 copper tools.
Queen Khentkaus III
Examination of the burial chamber also revealed masons’ inscriptions on its side walls, and according to the archaeologists, strongly suggests that the owner of the tomb was the “King’s wife” and “Mother of the King” Khentkaus (III). Up until this discovery it was unknown whether Raneferef had any wives.
This important discovery provides new information on the history of Egypt in the middle of the Fifth Dynasty said excavator, Dr. Jaromir Krejčí, “The so far unknown Queen Khentkaus III was likely the wife of King Raneferef, whose tomb complex with an unfinished pyramid and a significant collection of finds (a temple papyrus archive and a collection of sovereign’s statues) was uncovered by Czech Egyptologists close to her tomb in the 1980s and 1990s.” Even more important is another title of Khentkaus – “Mother of the King“.
If the queen was buried during the reign of King Niuserre, as is suggested, for example, by the find of mud seals, one can assume that she probably was the mother of King Menkauhor, the successor of Niuserre on the Egyptian throne. Information concerning this king is rather scarce, and this proposed relationship with the royal family members buried in Abusir is thus very important.
Director of the Abusir excavations, Prof. Miroslav Bárta said that “… by this discovery we have uncovered yet another unknown part of the Fifth Dynasty history which adds to the mosaic known so far. And more is to be expected to come. This find illustrates the importance of women at the royal court and in Ancient Egypt in general”.