Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

The Guardian Snake | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Cairo, Asharq Al-Awsat- One of the most exciting and thrilling moments in the life of an archeologist is the moment of making a new archeological discovery, such as when your eyes fall upon an ancient relic that has been buried beneath the sands for thousands of years, for when you uncover this relic with your bare hands for the first time [you know that] you have added a new page to the history books.

We [recently] discovered two tombs hidden under the sands of Saqqara for thousands of years not far from the world world-famous Giza pyramids. On the day that we announced this discovery, I woke up before dawn, after experiencing a number of strange dreams, which is something that I normally experience before exploring any newly discovered archeological tomb.

This new discovery reminded me of something that happened a few years ago…when I discovered the tomb of the Bahariya Oasis Governor [Djedkhonsu]. This is a tomb that dates back to the 26th dynasty, known historically as the Saite Period. The location of this tomb remained unknown for thousands of years before it was discovered in the Bahariya Oasis area of Al Bawiti.

Famed Egyptian archeologist Ahmed Fakhry [1905-1973] was the only archeologist interested in researching and exploring the Bahariya Oasis. He worked at the Bahariya Oasis and made a considerable number of archeological discoveries, such as the discovery of the tomb of Zed-Amun-efankh who lived during the reign of Ahmose II (570 – 526 BC). Ahmed Fakhri continued to search for the cemetery of the Bahariya Oasis Governor for many years, and his excavations ended only a few meters from [Djedkhonsu’s] tomb.

When I first entered the tomb, I discovered a small hole in the tomb’s [closed] doorway looking into the burial chamber. I shone a light through this hole and looked into the burial chamber where I saw the most wonderful sarcophagus I have ever seen. I recalled the moment when Howard Carter discovered Tutankhamen’s tomb on 4 November 1922, and I recalled the famous words that he uttered when Lord Carnarvon asked him what he saw [through the hole in the wall], and Carter replied “Wonderful things.” Together with my assistant, I entered the burial camber and saw the sarcophagus which was covered with images of the Ancient Egyptian Goddesses Isis and Nephthys, and a fascinating depiction of Anubis, the Ancient Egyptian God of Death. The lid of the sarcophagus was made of limestone and weighed more than 10 tons. Foreman Talal al-Keriti, and his brother Ahmed, had travelled with me to the Bahariya Oasis. The al-Keriti family is a Saqqara family that specializes in dealing with heavy stones, and prying open ancient sarcophaguses, [and so with the expertise on site] I decided to open the sarcophagus of Bahariya Oasis Governor [Djedkhonsu].

Something strange happened here, for only a few minutes after Talal and Ahmed al-Keriti arrived at the Bahariya Oasis and I sat with them to explain what we would be doing, they received a telegram informing them that their brother had died, and they had to leave for Cairo immediately. The two brothers returned one week later, and some people began to say that this was the curse of the Oasis Governor’s sarcophagus.

The night before we were scheduled to open the sarcophagus, I went to bed early and I dreamt of the sarcophagus. I saw that the burial chamber was full of thick yellow smoke, and a huge snake was guarding the entrance, preventing me from going inside. This snake was growing larger and larger, it was the largest snake I’ve ever seen; its tail was smashing the floor and it was breathing fire from its mouth.

I woke up terrified and could not get back to sleep. The next day, we all headed to the tomb before dawn, and each of us helped in the removal of the sarcophagus’ cover, whilst workers sang traditional [Egyptian] work songs that included the words “peace and prayers be upon the Prophet.” After hours of exhausting labor, the cover of the sarcophagus was finally lifted and we discovered a second alabaster sarcophagus within. We opened this second sarcophagus to discover the remains of [Djedkhonsu] the Governor of the Bahariya Oasis within, he was covered with amulets made from gold and precious gems…but we failed to find any snake!