On the first day of the Egyptian uprisings in late January of 2011, a team of Swiss and Egyptian archaeologists discovered a new tomb in the Valley of the Kings, only the second tomb found in the area since Tutankhamun's in 1922. They quickly covered the opening with a piece of iron, fearing that their find would be ransacked in the chaos following the revolution (a wise decision, since widespread looting of ancient sites took place and the Egyptian National Museum was robbed). After returning to the site yesterday, the researchers reported a surprising discovery.
Susanne Bickel and Elina Pauline-Grothe of the University of Basel announced that the tomb contains the mummy of a woman named Nehmes Bastet who was a temple singer during Egypt's 22nd dynasty (which ran from 945 to 712 BC). Antiquities ministry official Mansour Boraiq told the Associated Press that the discovery is the first tomb of a woman who was not of Egyptian royalty to be found in the Valley of the Kings. This twist is significant because it shows that the Valley was "also used for the burial of ordinary individuals and priests of the 22nd dynasty," Egyptian antiquities minister Mohammed Ibrahim told Agence-France Presse.
Pauline-Grothe explained that the tomb was not originally intended for Nehmes Bastet — it was actually constructed four hundred years earlier and then re-used for the singer's burial. According to inscriptions, Nehmes Bastet was the daughter of the high priest of the creator god Amun, and she sang at the massive Karnak temple complex, located not far from Luxor. Her name refers to the Egyptian cat goddess Bastet, indicating that she was especially devoted to the deity.
According to the Egyptian news site Ahram, the singer's wooden sarcophagus was painted black and covered with hieroglyphs. The coffin will be opened later this week.