Louvre Expedition

Supported by: Musée du Louvre, Paris, and French Ministry of Culture

Director: Christiane Ziegler

Area: South-east of the Step Pyramid, along the Unas causeway

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In 1903 the Louvre acquired a decorated mastaba chapel inscribed for a certain Akhethotep. It was sold by the Egyptian antiquities service which had dismantled it somewhere to the south-east of the Step Pyramid of Saqqara. In 1991 Christiane Ziegler began a search for the position of the original mastaba, which was finally identified in 1996 under nearly 10 m of debris containing remains of Coptic and Late Period date. The former consisted of domestic structures associated with the Monastery of Apa Jeremias, situated on the opposite side of the Unas causeway. The Late Period remains were part of an extensive cemetery of poor wooden and mud coffins. The mastaba of Akhethotep was found underneath and proved to be 32 m long and 6 m high. The crater from which the Louvre chapel had been removed could be clearly seen. The 21 m deep shaft led to a burial-chamber which still contained a limestone sarcophagus and other remains of Akhethotep's funerary equipment. Around the mastaba there are other Old Kingdom tombs and shafts. Currently the work is concentrated on a vast subterranean complex full of well-preserved mummies, coffins, gilt masks and cartonnages, canopic chests and other finds dating to Dynasty 30. Several mummies could be X-rayed and one was taken to the Cairo Museum in order to be scanned.