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Early Western Civilization

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Early Western Civilization

Egyptologists had lost interest in the site of tomb 5, which had been

explored and looted decades ago. Therefore, they wanted to give way to

a parking lot. However, no one would have ever known the treasure that

lay only 200 ft. from King Tut's resting place which was beyond a few

rubble strewn rooms that previous excavators had used to hold their


Dr. Kent Weeks, an Egyptologist with the American University in Cairo,

wanted to be sure the new parking facility wouldn't destroy anything

important. Thus, Dr. weeks embarked in 1988 on one final exploration of

the old dumping ground. Eventually he was able to pry open a door

blocked for thousands of years, and announced the discovery of a life

time. "We found ourselves in a corridor," he remembers. "On each side

were 10 doors and at end there was a statue of Osiris, the god of the


The tomb is mostly unexcavated and the chambers are choked with debris,

Weeks is convinced that there are more rooms on a lower level, bringing

the total number to more than 100. That would make tomb 5 the biggest

and most complex tomb ever found in Egypt, and quite conceivable the

resting place of up to 50 sons of Ramesses II, perhaps the best known of

all the pharaohs, the ruler believed to have been Moses'nemesis in the

book of Exodus.

The Valley of the Kings, in which Tomb 5 is located, is just across

the Nile River from Luxor, Egypt. It is never exactly been off the

beaten track. Tourism has been brisk in the valley for millenniums:

graffiti scrawled on tomb walls proves that Greek and Roman travelers

stopped here to gaze at the wall paintings and hieroglyphics that were

already old long before the birth of Christ. Archaeologists have been

coming for centuries too. Napoleon brought his own team of excavators

when he invaded in 1798, and a series of expeditions in 19th and early

20th centuries uncovered one tomb after another. A total of 61 burial

spots had been found by the time the British explorer Howard Carter

opened the treasure-laden tomb of King Tutankhamun in 1922.

Britain's James Burton had burrowed into the site of Tomb 5 in 1820,

and decided that there was nothing inside. A dismissive Carter used its

entryway as a place to dump the debris he was hauling out of Tut's tomb.

In the late 1980s, came the proposed parking area and Weeks' concern.

His 1988 foray made it clear that the tomb wasn't dull as Burton said.

Elaborate carvings covered walls and referred to Ramesses II, whose

own tomb was just 100 ft. away. The wall inscriptions on the companion

crypt mentioned two of Ramesses'52 known sons, implying some of the

royal offspring might have been buried within. Then, came last month's

astonishing announcement.

For treasure, the tomb probably won't come to close to Tut's because

robbers apparently plundered the chamber long time ago. No gold or fine

jewelry has been found so far, and Weeks does not expect to find any

riches to speak of. The carvings and inscriptions Weeks and his friends

have seen, along with thousands of artifacts such as beads, fragments of

jars that were used to store the organs of the deceased, and mummified

body parts which tell historians a great amount about ancient Egypt

during the reign of its most important king. "Egyptians do not call him

Ramesses II," Sabry Abd El Aziz, director of antiquities for the Qurna

region said. " We call him Ramesses al-Akbar which means Ramesses the


During his 67 years on the throne stretching from 1279 B.C. to 1212 B.

C., Ramesses could have filled an ancient edition of the Guinness Book

of Records all by himself: he built more temples, obelisks and

monuments; took more wives(eight, not counting concubines) and claimed

to have sired more children (as many as 162, by some accounts) than any

other pharaoh in history. He presided over an empire that stretched

from present-day Libya to Iraq in the east, as far north as Turkey and

southward into the Sudan.

Today, historians know a great deal about Ramesses and the customs of

his day. However, the newly explored tomb suddenly presents scholars

with all sort of puzzles to ponder. For one thing, many of the tombs in

the Valley of the Kings are syringe-like, plunging straight as a needle

into the steep hillsides. For reasons nobody yet knows, says Weeks,

this one "is more like an octopus, with a body surrounded by tentacles."

The body in this case is an enormous square room, at least 50 ft. on a

side and divided by 16 massive columns. In Ramesses 'day the room would

have seemed positively cavernous; now it is filled nearly to the top

with rubble washed in over the centuries by infrequent flash floods.

Anyone who wants to traverse the chamber has to crawl through a tight

passage, lighted by ...

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