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Old Kingdom tombs of dentists found in Saqqara

 
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Rozette
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PostPosted: Mon Oct 23, 2006 10:35 am    Post subject: Old Kingdom tombs of dentists found in Saqqara Reply with quote

Thieves Lead to Discovery of Egypt Tombs
Old Kingdom tombs of dentists found in Saqqara

The arrest of tomb robbers led archaeologists to the graves of three royal dentists, protected by a curse and hidden in the desert sands for thousands of years in the shadow of Egypt's most ancient pyramid, officials announced Sunday.

The thieves launched their own dig one summer night two months ago but were apprehended, Zahi Hawass, chief of Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities, told reporters.

That led archaeologists to the three tombs, one of which included an inscription warning that anyone who violated the sanctity of the grave would be eaten by a crocodile and a snake, Hawass said.

A towering, painted profile of the chief dentist stares down at passers-by from the wall opposite the inscription.

The tombs date back more than 4,000 years to the 5th Dynasty and were meant to honor a chief dentist and two others who treated the pharaohs and their families, Hawass said.

Their location near the Step Pyramid of King Djoser _ believed to be Egypt's oldest pyramid _ indicate the respect accorded dentists by Egypt's ancient kings, who "cared about the treatment of their teeth," Hawass said.

Although their services were in demand by the powerful, the dentists likely did not share in their wealth.

The tombs, which did not contain their mummies, were built of mud-brick and limestone, not the pure limestone preferred by ancient Egypt's upper class.

"The whole point of a tomb was to last forever," said Carol Redmount, associate professor of Egyptian archaeology at the University of California
at Berkeley. "So you wanted to make it out of materials that would last forever. And mud-brick ... didn't last forever."

During a visit to the site, Hawass pointed out two hieroglyphs _ an eye over a tusk _ which appear frequently among the neat rows of symbols decorating the tombs. He said those hieroglyphs identify the men as dentists.

The pictorial letters also spell out the names of the chief dentist _ Iy Mry _ and the other two _ Kem Msw and Sekhem Ka. Hawass said the men were not related but must have been partners or colleagues to have been buried together.

Figures covering the pillars in the doorway of the chief dentist's tomb tell archaeologists much about his life and habits, Hawass said.

They depict the chief dentist and his family immersed in daily rituals _ playing games, slaughtering animals and presenting offerings to the dead, including the standard 1,000 loaves of bread and 1,000 vases of beer.

These would "magically provide food and sustenance for the spirit of the dead person for all eternity," Redmount said.

Just around the corner of the doorway is a false door, its face painstakingly inscribed with miniature hieroglyphics. A shallow basin was placed below it.

"That was sort of the interface where the dead person in the tomb would come up and interact with the living," Redmount said.

The tomb robbers were the first to discover the site two months ago, and began their own dig one summer night, before they were captured and jailed. "We have to thank the thieves," Hawass said.

Although archaeologists have been exploring Egypt's ruins intensively for more than 150 years, Hawass believes only 30 percent of what lies hidden beneath the sands has been uncovered. Excavation continues at Saqqara, he said, and his team expects to find more tombs in the area.

Saqqara, about 12 miles south of Cairo, is one of Egypt's most popular tourist sites and hosts a collection of temples, tombs and funerary complexesThe Step Pyramid is the forerunner of the more familiar straight-sided pyramids in Giza on the outskirts of Cairo, which were believed to have been built about a century later.

http://tinyurl.com/y4frb6 (washingtonpost.com)

Link with pictures thanks to (Aayko Eyma )
http://snipurl.com/103yp (yahoo.com)
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PostPosted: Mon Oct 23, 2006 4:46 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Very Happy Wow, that's very interesting, Rozette. It's nice that there's some pictures as well! Cool

I like the way that they're quick to mention about the curse inscription with the crocodiles and snakes.... Rolling Eyes

It makes it more obvious that the ancient Egyptians cared for their teeth too. Wink

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Chrismackint
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 24, 2006 4:57 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I think i saw this on the german news last night but i didn't catch what was being said ...interesting though to think they had dentists so long ago....
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PostPosted: Sun Oct 29, 2006 6:02 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

This is a very important discovery. Throughout the dynastic period there was extremely scant evidence for dentistry in any meaningful sense, so the discovery of a tomb built for dentists (or in the Egyptian terminology, "worker of the tooth") throws a whole new light on this subject. It reminds me of the tomb of the two hairdressers; their relationship also was unknown but they had to have been very close to have shared a tomb.

And now I must eat a bit of crow, I'm afraid. My folks are in town and just last night my dad told me he thought he had heard about a new tomb that was discovered which had been made for dentists. I hadn't heard about it till Rozette's post so it looks like dear old dad was right, after all.

I'd told him such a thing was unlikely. Laughing
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Nekht-Ankh
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PostPosted: Mon Oct 30, 2006 10:38 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

My understanding was similar to kmt_sesh's that there was no stong evidence for dentistry in Ancient Egypt. I am wondering whether a "worker of the tooth" is genuinely a dentist, and not, for example, an ivory carver.
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PostPosted: Mon Oct 30, 2006 3:35 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Nekht-Ankh wrote:
I am wondering whether a "worker of the tooth" is genuinely a dentist, and not, for example, an ivory carver.

Wouldn't this tomb likely show the men at work in some scenes?? That would possibly differentiate between them being dentists or ivory carvers, wouldn't it?
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PostPosted: Mon Oct 30, 2006 3:47 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

It would be true if Abh (tooth) wouldn't be differently spelled, written and haven't a different determinative of Ab/Abw (ivory).
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Nekht-Ankh
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PostPosted: Mon Oct 30, 2006 5:57 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Robson wrote:
It would be true if Abh (tooth) wouldn't be differently spelled, written and haven't a different determinative of Ab/Abw (ivory).

Except that in the illustrations it's written as an ideogram with just the tusk sign (F18). This sign is used as a determinative in both Abw (tusk or ivory) and jbH (tooth). (The Worterbuch does not have an entry for AbH.)

Admittedly jbH is the most likely reading. However this word is not only used for human teeth. It can be used for animal teeth, including elephant tusks.
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 31, 2006 1:03 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
My understanding was similar to kmt_sesh's that there was no stong evidence for dentistry in Ancient Egypt. I am wondering whether a "worker of the tooth" is genuinely a dentist, and not, for example, an ivory carver.


That's a very good point, especially if the eye glyph and tusk glyph is supposed to mean "worker of the tusk" (i.e., "ivory," as you said). I read about the glyphs in some of the articles and immediately thought, Hmm, interesting, "worker of the tooth." That could've been presumptuous on my part.

Daughter_Of_SETI makes a good point about scenes possibly showing these men at work in their professions, as was common in tomb paintings. This might help us to understand "worker of the tooth/tusk" better.
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