Unknown Egyptian pharaoh unearthed after more than 3,600 years
The skeleton of the previously unknown pharaoh Woseribre Senebkay lays on a table. The king's body was originally mummified, but robbers ripped the body apart. (Photo: Jennifer Wegner, Penn Museum)
Published Wednesday, January 22, 2014 11:10AM EST
Last Updated Wednesday, January 22, 2014 11:46AM EST
Archeologists in Egypt have unearthed the remains of a previously unknown Egyptian pharaoh, a royal ruler whose identity has remained a mystery for more than 3,600 years.
The discovery of King Woseribre Senebkay’s tomb is the first material proof of the previously unknown Abydos Dynasty, which ruled the central region of ancient Egypt around 1650 BC.
Archeologists from the University of Pennsylvania unearthed Senebkay’s tomb earlier this week and were startled to find the remains of king who had been all but erased from history.
Senebkay’s tomb had been badly damaged by ancient tomb robbers who had ripped apart his mummy and stripped the tomb of many of its gold-covered artifacts.
Archeologists from the Penn Museum were able to recover Senebkay’s remains among debris from his coffin and deciphered his name from a section of hieroglyphs inside his tomb.
Researchers were baffled since Senebkay’s name had never appeared on records before.
They worked to piece together his remains and with the help of skeletal analysis, have estimated that the long-lost Egyptian king was about 5-feet-10-inches tall and died in his mid- to late- 40s.
"It's exciting to find not just the tomb of one previously unknown pharaoh, but the necropolis of an entire forgotten dynasty," said Dr. Josef Wegner, lead archeologist of project, in a statement on Penn Museum’s website.
“Continued work in the royal tombs of the Abydos Dynasty promises to shed new light on the political history and society of an important but poorly understood era of Ancient Egypt."
Senebkay’s four-chamber limestone tomb was decorated with images of ancient Egyptian goddesses and the names of Horus and his sons.
The pharaoh’s remains were found in a modest tomb believed to have been reused from an earlier Egyptian king. Researchers say that the reuse of objects such as sarcophagus chambers suggests that the Abydos Dynasty survived on limited resources and was far less wealthy than other, more extravagant Egyptian dynasties.
The existence of the Abydos Dynasty was first hypothesized by Egyptologist K. Ryholt in 1997 but historians had no evidence to support his claims.
Senebkay appears to be one of the earliest kings of the Abydos Dynasty and researchers say they have also found 16 additional royal tombs spanning between 1650-1600 BC.
Archeologists believe the Abydos Dynasty was nestled between the larger kingdoms of Thebes and Hyksos but its legacy was largely forgotten to history and its catacombs a mystery to researchers until now.