Archaeologists have discovered a 4,000-year-old funerary garden, first of its kind, on the Dra Abu el-Naga hill in Luxor, Egypt. The original discovery made in the 16th year of archaeological excavations was sponsored this year by Técnicas Reunidas and Indra to shed light on a key epoch.
It gives credence for the first time that Thebes (now Luxor) became the capital of the unified kingdom of Upper and Lower Egypt about 4,000 years ago. Taken up under the Djehuty Project, the new discovery of funeral garden was made by research professor, José Manuel Galán, from the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC).
The possible existence of these gardens was known from many illustrations. The newly-found garden consisted of a small rectangular area, raised half a meter off the ground and divided into 30 cm2 beds and next to the garden, two trees were planted.
This is the first time that a physical garden has ever been found, and archaeologists were able to confirm what had been deduced from iconography. It also provides information about both the botany and the environmental conditions of ancient Thebes, of Luxor 4,000 years ago.
“The plants grown there would have had a symbolic meaning and may have played a role in funerary rituals. Therefore, the garden will also provide information about religious beliefs and practices as well as the culture and society at the time of the 12th Dynasty when Thebes became the capital of the unified kingdom of Upper and Lower Egypt for the first time,” explained Jose Galan.
The palm, sycamore and Persea trees were associated with the deceased’s power of resurrection and plants such as the lettuce had connotations with fertility and therefore a return to life, he said and added, “Now we must wait to see what plants we can identify by analyzing the seeds we have collected. It is a spectacular and quite unique find which opens up multiple avenues of research”.
In addition, a small mud-brick chapel (46cm high x 70cm wide x 55cm deep) with three stelae, or stone tombstones, in its interior was also uncovered. These are dated later than the tomb and the garden, coming from the 13th Dynasty, around the year 1800 BCE.
One of them belongs to Renef-seneb, and the other to a soldier “Khememi, the son of the lady of the house, Satidenu.” On each, reference is made to Montu, a local god from ancient Thebes, and to the funerary gods Ptah, Sokar and Osiris.
“These finds highlight the importance of the area around the Dra Abu el-Naga hill as a sacred centre for a wide range of worship activities during the Middle Kingdom,” said Galan.