Egyptian workers inspect coffins and their contents in the tomb of Userhat, an official from the New Kingdom’s 18th Dynasty. (credit: Stringer/AFP)

All the kings of the nations lie in glory, each in his own tomb. – Isaiah 14:18 (ESV)

Egyptian archaeologists have uncovered a trove of eight mummies, colorful wooden coffins and over 1,000 funerary statues from a tomb near the Valley of the Kings. This find is reminiscent of another larger mummy find in this area that may have provided a clue to unlocking the mystery of the Exodus and other biblical history (more on that below).

As reported recently in the Irish Sun, the latest find was made in the Draa Abul Nagaa necropolis, where the family tomb of an official named Userhat was being excavated. Mostafa el-Waziri, head of the archaeological mission, said: “There are 10 coffins and eight mummies. The excavation is ongoing.”

The coffins were mainly well preserved, though some had begun to deteriorate and brake down. (credit: Ahmed Taranh/EPA)

“It is a T-shaped tomb (which) consists of an open court leading into a rectangular hall, a corridor and an inner chamber,” the antiquities ministry said in a statement. More finds are expected from the all-Egyptian team as they continue uncovering the tomb from the 18th Dynasty, which under conventional dating ran from about 1550 to 1300 BC. They hope these finds will continue to spur tourism, which is beginning to recover after a long period of political unrest in Egypt.

The intricately decorated coffins were mainly well preserved. They were accompanied by white, orange, green, and patterned vessels, along with many other artifacts. A 30-foot shaft inside the tomb held the Ushabti figurines. Ancient Egyptians often placed Ushabti figurines with the deceased in tombs because of the belief that they would help with responsibilities in the afterlife. The shaft contained over 1,000 of them.

More than 1,000 Ushabti figurines were found in the tomb. (credit: Ahmed Taranh/EPA)

The tomb was reopened centuries later, in the 21st Dynasty, to add more mummies. The 21st Dynasty was well known as time when tomb-robbing was common.

This recent announcement has several similarities to another discovery made 146 years earlier, in this same region. The former event was the most significant mummy find of all time; a find that would provide a clue to Egyptologist David Rohl that the standard chronology of ancient Egypt is in error.

As described in the second chapter of Rohl’s book A Test of Time (published as Pharaohs and Kings in the USA), this cache of royal mummies was discovered near Luxor in 1871 by a local tomb-robber named Ahmed Abd er-Rassul. The entrance of a tomb originally belonging to the family of a High Priest of Amun from Egypt’s 21st Dynasty, had been hidden in a limestone ridge above a valley adjacent to the Valley of the Kings. When Ahmed and his brothers shoveled out the entrance, they were greeted by a corridor crammed with coffins. Beyond this initial corridor were passages and chambers filled with dozens of additional mummy cases. They had struck it rich.

The Valley of the Kings near Luxor, where much of Egypt’s archaeological record has been uncovered. (Copyright Patterns of Evidence)

When numerous unique and remarkable royal artifacts began showing up on the Egyptian antiquities market, officials of the Egyptian Antiquities Service were tipped off that a major new illicit discovery had occurred. After an investigation worthy of a Sherlock Holmes mystery, the source was eventually determined. In the summer of 1881, officials set out for Luxor to take custody of the tomb’s contents before further ransacking took place.

The Egyptologists involved in the recovery couldn’t imagine what they were seeing as they examined the interior chambers and passageways – coffins with the cartouche’s of the most famous pharaohs of Egypt’s New Kingdom. The mummies of Ahmose I, Thutmose III, Seti I, Ramesses II, Ramesses III, and many more kings and queens from the 18th through the 21st dynasties had been lying there undisturbed for nearly 3,000 years in the confined space of the dark tomb.

When the coffins and their mummies were later examined, texts were discovered that told the story of how they had arrived at their final resting place. It seems that the priests in the time of the 21st Dynasty had become alarmed after the “Houses of Eternity” belonging to Egypt’s royals were increasingly being violated by tomb-robbers. They devised a daring plan to remove the royal mummies from their respective tombs in the Valley of the Kings and transport them into the tomb of a High Priest of Amun who was about to be buried there. The activity to and from his funeral would help disguise the fact that Egypt’s royal mummies were being cached there at the same time. The plan was successful and the secret remained hidden until the late 19th century.

Now, for the clue that revealed a problem with Egypt’s chronology. The texts found with the mummies clearly state that the mummies were moved in the tenth year of King Siamun, the fifth ruler of Egypt’s 21st Dynasty. In the standard chronology, this is assigned the date of about 969 BC. However, another coffin found deep inside the tomb had the mummy of a relative of the high priest. This mummy was wrapped in linen bandages that contained ink-written labels giving the manufacture date of Years 11 and 12 of Shosenk I of the 22nd Dynasty. In the conventional scheme, the 22nd Dynasty followed the 21st Dynasty, and Shoshenk I’s 12th year is about 34 years after the cache of mummies was sealed. So how could this coffin have been buried long after the sealing of the tomb?

This depiction of the standard view recognizes overlapping dynasties in the Third Intermediate Period (following the New Kingdom). However, David Rohl and others suggest that the evidence points to the idea that the overlapping is much more extensive than typically believed. – Typos are noted in the text of this graphic. (Copyright Patterns of Evidence)

Scholars have postulated that the tomb was apparently reopened 34 years after the main transport to bury the final coffin. This seems highly unlikely, since the coffin was found deep inside the tomb, and reopening it at all would have undermined the entire purpose of the ruse to hide the mummies at the time of the priest’s funeral, so that it would be kept forever secret and forgotten. But no other explanation was considered.

Now, David Rohl’s investigation has shown that the stock interpretation is even more implausible. The dimensions of the coffins stacked in the cramped entrance corridor (the very coffins that record the date of the main transfer of mummies) were so large that it would be impossible to transport the anomalous coffin past them to gain access to the interior of the tomb. Therefore, the anomalous coffin must have been buried before Siamun’s tenth year and before all the royal mummies were transported to the tomb.

The most logical conclusion is that the 21st and 22nd Dynasties were not sequential as the standard view has them, but rather they at least partially overlapped each other, as is already accepted for most other dynasties of the Third Intermediate Period (the dark period after the New Kingdom).

The biblical sequence of events for the Exodus Period (based on a c. 1450 BC Exodus date) is depicted on the middle level, the pattern of evidence that matches the Bible’s account is on the bottom (Egypt) and top (Canaan) levels, as dated in the standard view. Egypt’s Third Intermediate Period (dark period) is depicted on the Egyptian level after the New Kingdom (it would also include the great pylon). If this Egyptian dark age were significantly reduced, it would pull Egypt’s timeline forward, matching the evidence with the expected dates for the biblical events. (Copyright Patterns of Evidence)

Rohl would go on to show several other evidences that demonstrate an enormous amount of overlap, and that Egypt’s Third Intermediate Period has in fact been artificially over-inflated by a factor of centuries. When this period of Egypt’s timeline is corrected and reduced, it shifts Egypt’s timeline (along with the dates it supplies to the archaeological evidence in Egypt and Canaan) and causes it to line up with biblical history (which remains constant) in an entirely different way. This allows evidence matching the Bible to be given new dates and to be recognized for what it is. Look for further exploration of this issue in future Patterns of Evidence productions.