Egypt hopes restored tombs attract tourists
CAIRO — The tombs of seven men, including several who served King Tutankhamen and his father, the pharaoh Akhenaten, were opened to tourists yesterday after restoration.
Egypt’s minister of antiquities, Zahi Hawass, told reporters that the tombs in the New Kingdom Cemetery could draw more visitors to the site in South Saqqara, which is better known for its pyramids.
The area served as the necropolis for the ancient Egyptian capital at Memphis.
Hawass noted that two of the men who built tombs for themselves — Maya, the treasurer of King Tutankhamen, also known as King Tut — and Horemheb, a general under King Tut who later became king, “were very important men during one of Egypt’s most tumultuous periods.’’
Akhenaten, who lived some 3,300 years ago, closed down the temples where Egyptians worshipped in Luxor and moved his capital to a site in the desert known as Amara. After he died, King Tut tried to restore order in Egypt by moving the religious capital back to Luxor and reestablishing worship of the traditional god, Amun. Under King Tut, “Maya was responsible for restoring order in Egypt, while his colleague Horemheb restored order abroad,’’ the antiquities ministry said in a statement.
A tomb built for Meryneith, who was temple steward under Akhenaten, was of mudbrick encased in limestone blocks. A scene on a rear wall shows metal workers plying their trade.
Other tombs were built for Ptahemwia, a royal butler; Tia, a top official under Ramses II; and Pay and his son, Raia. Pay was the overseer of the harem under King Tut, and Raia took over his father’s post.
Some of these tombs were discovered in 1843 by explorer Richard Lepsius, but were not fully excavated until an Anglo-Dutch mission began excavating there in 1975. Now a Dutch team excavates at the site and has been restoring the tombs.