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Found: One door to the afterlife

March 29, 2010 |  4:41 pm
Hatshepsut A couple of days after the Bowers Museum of Cultural Art in Santa Ana opened the exhibition “Secrets of the Silk Road” featuring Chinese mummies dating from as long ago as 1800 BC, there’s news of a newly discovered Egyptian relic that's nearly as ancient.

The 3,500-year-old, nearly 6-foot-tall pink granite slab – a so-called “door to the afterlife” – was unearthed from the Luxor tomb of a high-ranking official associated with Queen Hatshepsut, ancient Egypt’s longest reigning female pharaoh, who ruled between 1479 BC and 1458 BC. 

Hatshepsut was the subject of a 2006 exhibition at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art and a recent Discovery Channel documentary identifying Hatshepsut’s mummy.

In a picture released by Egypt’s antiquities authorities, the false door is adorned with carved religious text, rectangles and squares.  Common in tombs of the era, it was intended as a symbolic threshold for the deceased to enter the afterlife.  This door’s tomb belonged to User, who served as mayor and vizier, overseeing the bureaucracy during Hatshepsut’s reign.

According to Mansour Boraik, who headed the excavation mission, the newly unearthed door was reused as a wall in front of the famous Karnak temple during the Roman era, more than a thousand years after its creation.  The door was rediscovered during routine excavation, said Boraik.

-- Matthew Erickson


Mystery mummies -- another big show at the Bowers

Photo: The 3,500-year-old, nearly 6-foot-tall granite “door to the afterlife” from Luxor. Credit: Supreme Council of Antiquities / Associated Press.