A team of archeologists led by Miroslav Barta from the Czech Institute of Egyptology have recently discovered a tomb near Cairo that belonged to a previously unknown ancient Egyptian royalty. The tomb likely belonged to a queen who lived 4,500 years ago, during the Fifth Dynasty. The inscribed walls of the tomb revealed it to be the resting place of Khentakawess III, believed to be the wife of Pharaoh Neferefre, also known as Raneferef. The Pharaoh only reigned for a few years before dying in his early 20s.
According to a press release, the researchers believe that the discovery of the apparent queen’s tomb is quite remarkable because it has yielded new information during that part of the Fifth Dynasty.
View of the tomb chapel. Image credit: Martin Frouz, Archive of the Czech Institute of Egyptology
The tomb is believed to belong to the queen due to its location near Pharaoh Neferefre’s tomb. His pyramid was among one of the first built in Egypt, and (likely due to his early demise) the pyramid appears to have been built in a hurry. It contains odd features and has widely been dubbed “the unfinished pyramid.” It hadn’t been previously known whether or not the king had been married or what her identity might have been, but this discovery helps fill in some of those historic gaps.
Another clue that supports Khentakawess III being Neferefre’s queen is that the walls of her tomb are inscribed that she was “Wife of the King” as well as “Mother of the King.” Though Neferefre was succeeded by his brother, it is plausible that he and Khentakawess were the parents of Menkauhor Kaiu, who became pharaoh 24 years after Neferefre’s death. Familial lineage during this time is extremely unclear, though the timeline and her title of being “Mother of the King” does appear to fit.
Travertine funereal vessels found in the tomb of Khentakawess III. Image credit: Martin Frouz, Archive of the Czech Institute of Egyptology
Buried with her highness were small statues, travertine funereal vessels, and copper utensils; about 30 pieces in all. Unfortunately, some of the artifacts in the tomb were lost to grave robbers a long time ago. These pieces may have contained other clues about the nature of the queen’s life, lineage, and death.