For more than five thousand years tomb raiders plundered the graves of Egypt’s ancient Pharaohs, by the 20th century every royal tomb archeologists entered had already been robbed except one inside was a prize beyond imagination, it was a pharaoh’s casket made entirely of silver a treasure to rival that of Tutankhamun’s but the destruction of world war 2 overshadowed the discovery.
Today this incredible find still remains virtually unknown. One of the least understood and most turbulent periods of Egypt’s history. There’s is civil war the country is split between north and south.
Feb 1940 Adolf Hitler has launched his blitz in Europe, the first savage blow in a war which will soon engulf the world, for the moment Egypt is remote from the battlefield. At an excavation site near the Nile a French archeology team has been toiling for more than a decade.
Professor Pierre Montet the archaeologist leading the team has announced an extraordinary discovery , he’s uncovered a pharaoh from an era a few people know anything about. What Montet finds will rewrite the story of ancient Egypt. He had been looking for clues to explain one of the most mysterious in Egyptian history around 1000 bc. It Was a brief but dark era in ancient Egypt’s three thousand year history.
Egypt’s great pyramid was built by pharaoh Khufu in what’s called the fourth dynasty. The most famous Pharaohs people like Tutankhamen and Ramses the great ruled more than 1000 years later in the 18th and 19th dynasties. The last of the pharaohs Cleopatra ruled another 1000 years after that.
- Khufu 2589 BC
- Tutankhamun 1334 BC
- Rameses 2 1279 BC
- Cleopatra 51bc
Historians believe Egypt was ruled by at least 170 pharaohs, though this is a difficult number to confirm. The tombs of 70 pharaohs remain undiscovered, they might lie anywhere in Egypt’s burial grounds.
For egyptologist filling the gaps in Egyptian history is always more difficult when examining periods of political chaos or conflict.
For 500 years competing rulers 1069-525 BC fought for dominance in an era known today as the intermediate period, Egypt’s dark age. In the intermediate period there is economic downturn and civil war and the country is split between north and south even the threat of foreign invasion.
The lack of archeological evidence is there is still much to be learned about this era. Clues can be found in some of the best known stories in the world. Scholars place the old testament battle between David and Goliath right around this time 1020 bc. The bible describes how a pharaoh of this era invaded the holy land around 950 bc.
Through the 1930s the remains of a vast temple with inscriptions showing it was dedicated to Egypt’s supreme god amun was uncovered. The temple compound was protected by a massive mud brick wall inside which Montet believed there could be tombs waiting to be discovered.
One of the tombs discovered was that of pharaoh Psusennes 1 who is known by his Greek name. One of the succession of pharaohs whose lives and time weren’t fully understood. He lived during the intermediate period 1069-525 bc that dark age when power was divided between Rulers.
Psusennes 1 1047-1001 BC rained near the beginning of this chaotic era, he ruled the north of Egypt from Tanis but the real power and wealth lay in the south in the ancient capital of Thebes. Much is known about Theabians rulers from monuments and treasures they left behind but who were these northern kings petty warlords or significant pharaohs with a place in history. If psumeses 1 tomb was really intact and Montet’s find could fill one if the yawning gaps in Egypt’s story.
The doorway to the burial chamber itself was still tightly sealed with a massive block of solid granite, unfortunately unlike today’s care and preservation at archeological digs it took Montet six days of back breaking work to shatter it to pieces than finally he entered the tomb itself. It was all he could ever hope for. Montet said the tomb was filled with marvels worthy of thousand and one knights and indeed it was because on the floor there were hundreds of figurines, there were gem stones, precious metals placed there three thousand years earlier but there was no sign of a mummy or casket.
They lay as is typical in pharaonic tombs inside a huge stone sarcophagus which almost filled the chamber. It was carved and covered in hieroglyphs today the massive lid is in display at the Egyptian museum inside was another sarcophagus also richly carved. Montet and his team pried open these granite sarcophagi to reveal the pharaohs actual casket within.
When the news of the find emerged Montet was told to expect a very important guest the King of Egypt himself. Montet agreed to leave the most important find of Psusennes 1 casket sealed until the king was there to behold the incredible discovery . king farouk had been supporting Montet’s expedition and arrived at the dig dressed every inch the explorer. Montet pointed out the cartouche on the wall showed the signature of the man who was Egypt’s King three thousand years before but king farook wanted to see treasure not carvings. He had been promised something unique completely different from what he had seen so often on other digs, he was not disappointed.
The casket was forged in silver instead of familiar gold nothing like it had been found before or since. Here lay a little known ruler from Egypt’s turbulent dark age but his tomb and his riches seem to put him alongside the mightiest of pharaohs and what lay inside the silver casket only deepen the mystery of who this little known pharaoh was. The mummies death mask was solid gold this was no small time warlord or regional strong man but someone with enormous wealth and power.
It’s not just gold or silver in Psusennes 1 tomb but Lapis Lazuli and in huge quantities far more than Tutankhamen’s tomb, this is material that had to be imported from Afghanistan 3000 miles away so incredibly prized and valuable.
The treasures were stamped with the pharaohs distinctive cartouche. Their value wasn’t simply in the quantity of precious metal but the quality of the craftsmanship.