Washington, Feb 16 : Archaeologists have discovered a well-preserved burial chamber in a necropolis in Egypt, which may contain the mummy of an ancient warrior.
According to a report in National Geographic News, the tomb was found in Dra Abul Naga, an ancient cemetery on Luxor's west bank.
A team of Spanish archaeologists made this surprise find during routine excavations in a courtyard of the tomb of Djehuty, a high-ranking official under Queen Hatshepsut whose burial site was built on top of graves dating to the Middle Kingdom, 2055 to 1650 B.C.
When the burial shaft was opened, experts found a closed wooden coffin inscribed with the name "Iker," which translates to "excellent one" in ancient Egyptian.
The coffin dates to Egypt's Middle Kingdom era, though the cemetery is better known for its use during the New Kingdom from 1550 to 1070 B.C.
Near the coffin, the team also found five arrows made of reeds, three of them still feathered.
The presence of bows and arrows means that Iker was likely a hired soldier in the service of a king, though the exact details are unclear.
"It means this person was a fighter," said Zahi Hawass, secretary general of Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities. "He was fighting in the army or something like that ... there were many fighters joining the king, and this could be one of them," he added.
Based on the coffin's inscriptions and pottery found near it, experts date the burial to the early reign of the 11th dynasty, which lasted from 2125 to 1985 B.C.
Inside the coffin, the archaeologists found Iker's mummy, lying on its left side next to two bows and three staffs, which would have been used to indicate his high rank.
"Usually the important people carried a staff as a way to be recognized as chiefs of a tribe or family," said Jose Gal n of the Spanish National Research Council.
Soldiers played an important role in society during that time, when Egypt was reunified after years of civil war.
"Because of their prominence in calming things down after the civil war, they probably were wealthier and regarded with more honor than in early periods, and that is why they had nice burials," said Salima Ikram, a professor of Egyptology at the American University in Cairo.
"It's fairly uncommon to find nowadays an 11th-dynasty intact burial. This is really remarkable," said Jose Gal n of the Spanish National Research Council.
According to Ikram, the discovery of burials belonging to soldiers and mercenaries, who had elevated status in the wartime society, are even rarer.
"It shows that there were a lot of warriors that had been in use," said Ikram.
The archaeological team plans to remove the mummy from the coffin to x-ray it and determine more specifics.