Understanding the news: the Pharaonic period

Understanding the news: the Pharaonic period
Late last year an interesting new feature was discovered at Qubbet el-Hawa قبة الهوا in Aswan, by a group of archaeologists from different organisations directed by Dr Martin Bommas of the University of Birmingham.

The interesting new discovery was a retaining wall, which might have been part of the infrastructure of a previously undiscovered cemetery. The site at Qubbet el-Hawa is important, it lies on Egypt's southern border and has many significant archaeological sites that contribute to our understanding of Egypt's history.

Some news sites have misreported this discovery, claiming it is the location for the tomb of a 'lost pharaoh' - this would be truly jaw-dropping if it were true. However, this seems to be a misunderstanding of the term pharaonic.

"[T]he 'pharaonic period', from c.3100BC to 332BC, has been divided into a number of periods known as 'dynasties', each consisting of a sequence of rulers, usually united by such factors as kinship or the location of their principal royal residence." (Shaw 2002, p.1)

Archaeologists expect to find tombs/burials from the pharaonic period in the vicinity of the wall. This basically means tombs from the period in which ancient Egypt had kings. (Pharaoh is a New Kingdom term which is best discussed in a post of its own later).

It seems some in the media have interpreted the term pharaonic to mean 'belonging to an actual pharaoh' rather than being a description of an era. While this might get sites a lot of clicks, it doesn't really help people understand Egyptology or what has actually been found.

This site may hold more tombs of very important people, governors of the area, similar to those that have already been found such as that of Harkhuf, but it is not likely a king would have chosen to be buried here, so far from the traditional royal sites of Sakkara سقارة, Abydos أبيدوس and Thebes الأقصر.

Shaw. I, (Ed) 2002 "The Oxford History of Ancient Egypt" GB: OUP
Edit: link updated for Blogger

New discoveries around Aswan

Yesterday our colleagues at the Ministry of Antiquities announced the discovery of an ancient encroachment wall at the site of Qubbet el-Hawa and we are delighted to share the news with you here. Without the ongoing support of the Ministry and our members, work like this would not be possible.


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