Secret tunnels and ancient mysteries

Although nearly 200 years have elapsed since the discovery of the tomb of Pharaoh Seti I, there is still much more to learn about it. Nevine El-Aref looks at the latest revelations

When the famous explorer Giovanni Battista Belzoni discovered the tomb of Pharaoh Seti I in 1817, he knew that it represented a very developed example of a New Kingdom royal tomb. Not only was it the longest, deepest and most completed tomb ever found in the Valley of the Kings, but its walls were painted with fine scenes in full colour featuring the great pharaoh in various positions before the gods and with his family. Inside the burial chamber Belzoni found a calcite anthropoid sarcophagus and a fragment of a canopic chest that used to hold the internal organs, and is now on display at Sir John Soane’s Museum in London.

Not only is the architectural design of the tomb very distinguished, but so too are the scenes that decorate the burial chamber. The tomb is comprised mainly of a long corridor with seven unidirectional passageways connecting several decorative chambers. It has a special chamber dedicated to the god Osiris and another to the ritual of the opening of the mouth. The vaulted burial chamber has a painted ceiling featuring astronomical scenes.

The most mysterious feature in the tomb, and one that has perplexed Egyptologists until today, is the long passageway found underneath Seti I’s marble sarcophagus.

Why did the ancient Egyptians dig such a tunnel beneath the Pharaoh’s sarcophagus? Was it to his treasure, or for religious purposes, or as a security precaution? What was the real purpose of the tunnel? And what did it lead to?


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