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First peek inside Egyptian tomb

By Tanalee Smith, Luxor
THROUGH a partially opened underground door, Egyptian authorities gave a peek yesterday into the first tomb uncovered in the Valley of the Kings since Tutankhamun’s in 1922.

US archaeologists said they discovered the tomb by accident while working on a nearby site.

Still unknown is whose mummies are in the five wooden sarcophagi with painted funeral masks, surrounded by alabaster jars.

The tomb, believed to be 3,000 years old, does not appear to be that of a pharaoh. But it could be for members of a royal court, said Edwin Brock, co-director of the University of Memphis in Tennessee that discovered the site.

Egypt’s antiquities chief Zahi Hawass said: "Maybe they are mummies of kings or queens or nobles, we don’t know. But it’s definitely someone connected to the royal family."

Archaeologists have not entered the tomb, having only opened part of its nearly 5ft-high entrance door last week. But they have peered inside the single chamber to see the sarcophagi, believed to contain mummies surrounded by around 20 pharaonic jars.

Yesterday, Egyptian antiquities authorities allowed journalists a first look into the tomb, located near Tutankhamun’s.

At the bottom of a 33ft deep pit, a narrow shaft leads down another 16ft to the door, made of blocks of stone. A 1ft-wide hole has been cleared from the door.

Inside the chamber, alabaster pots, some broken, are lined up next to the sarcophagi. One coffin has toppled and faces the door, showing its white, painted face. Another is partially open, showing a brown cloth covering the mummy.

The discovery has broken the long-held belief that nothing is left to dig up in the Valley of the Kings, the desert region near the southern city of Luxor used as a burial ground for pharaohs, queens and nobles from 1500BC-1000BC.

The team will finish clearing rubble from the bottom of the shaft, then completely open the door in the coming days to let archaeologists enter. They can then look for any hieroglyphs that identify those buried inside.