Luxor, the Egyption home of the world-famous Valley of the Kings and Valley of the Queens and a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1979, is now opening its oldest accessible treasure : the Tomb of Meru.
Meru was a high-ranking official in the court of 11th Dynasty King Mentuhotep II, an ancient Theban pharoah credited with reuniting Egypt. They were both buried at the necropolis of North Asasif. Meru’s tomb faces the processional avenue leading to his master Mentuhotep’s temple.
The northern and southern chambers of Amun, on the upper terrace of the Temple of #Hatshepsut in Deir el-Bahari, and the tomb of Meru in the northern El-Asasif necropolis were opened after their restoration. pic.twitter.com/pKFYJ3EjUl— Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities (@TourismandAntiq) February 11, 2023
On Luxor’s West Bank, Meru’s tomb has been in the care of the Polish Centre for Mediterranean Archaeology at the University of Warsaw alongside Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities.
Fathi Yassin, General Director of Antiquities in Upper Egypt described the development in an official statement as “the first site from such an early period in Western Thebes to be made accessible to visitors.”
Hewn from rock, a corridor leads to a chapel where a statue of the deceased would have stood in a niche. Below, accessed by a shaft, a burial chamber and sarcophagus. According to Yassin, the burial chamber is “the only decorated room of the tomb, with an unusual decoration of painting on lime plaster.”
Archaeologists uncovered a “huge cache” of over 20 sealed coffins on two levels of a large tomb in the Al-Asasif necropolis back in 2019, looking “as the ancient Egyptians left them,” according to a press release at the time.
However, Meru’s tomb has been known about since at least the mid-19th century, according to the restoration team, and had undergone work in the past. Its wall paintings were cleaned by Italian conservators in 1996.
In excellent timing for the Egyptian Ministry for Tourism and Antiquities, hoping to boost the country’s economy after the effects of COVID-19, a spate of rich discoveries including an entire 1800-year-old city complete with pigeon towers, have been made between September and January alone.
And as luck would have it, Meru’s grand opening come just ahead of another grand opening: that of the billion dollar Grand Egyptian Museum (GEM), due to welcome its first visitors just outside of Cairo on the Giza plateau later this year.
Under construction since 2005, GEM is just two kilometres from the Pyramids, and replaces the old Tahrir Square museum far away in downtown Cairo. Over 100,000 ancient artefacts will find their home there, not least of which an 83-ton statue of Ramses II rescued from the pollution of the city’s Ramses Square in 2006.