Lonely Planet Writer

See inside the 4000-year-old tomb of an ancient Egyptian royal priest

The ancient tomb of a royal priest has been uncovered in Egypt, and the well-preserved site is full of incredible paintings and statues.

Guests enter a newly-discovered tomb at the Saqqara necropolis. Image by Khaled DESOUKI / AFP

The tomb, dating back to the fifth dynasty of pharaohs or about 4400 years, belongs to a royal priest named Wahtye, who lived during the reign on King Nefer Ir-Ka-Re, according to Egypt’s Ministry of Antiquities. The tomb is located in the Saqqara archaeological site, which is an hour’s drive outside of Cairo.

This picture taken on December 15, 2018 shows a view of a newly-discovered tomb belonging to the high priest ‘Wahtye’ who served during the fifth dynasty reign of King Neferirkare (between 2500-2300 BC), at the Saqqara necropolis, 30 kilometres south of the Egyptian capital Cairo. Image by Khaled DESOUKI / AFP

Dr. Khaled El-Enany, the minister of antiquities, said in a statement that the tomb is exceptionally well-preserved. The interior is lined with paintings of Wahtye and his family as well as large coloured statues.

The façade of the tomb was reached back in November, but excavators were not able to enter, as the doors were sealed. The work continued on removing debris away from the façade and when the door was discovered, it featured hieroglyphic lines containing the name and titles of Wahtye.

Once inside, archaeologists were impressed with how well-preserved the ancient site was. The walls feature coloured inscriptions with scenes depicting pottery, wine, musical performances and boats. There are also 24 coloured statues showing the owner of the tomb and his family, as well as 31 statues of unidentified people. The tomb also has five burial shafts, which will be excavated at a later date to discover what is inside.

Guests enter a newly-discovered tomb at the Saqqara necropolis, 30 kilometres south of the Egyptian capital Cairo. Image by Khaled DESOUKI / AFP

For travellers interested in Egypt’s incredible history, Saqqara is also home to 11 major pyramids, including the Step Pyramid of Zoser, the world’s earliest stone monument, and the Pyramid of Teti, which contains ancient Pyramid Texts.