Washington, Feb 26 : Archaeologists have unearthed three false doors that served as portals for communicating with the dead among other ancient burial remains in a vast Egyptian graveyard.
In addition to the false doors, the Spanish team found two funerary offering tables and a new tomb in the former ancient capital of Herakleopolis-today referred to by its Arabic name "Ihnasya el-Medina" - about 60 miles (96 kilometers) south of Cairo.
The newly discovered false doors were found a few meters from their original locations, probably cast aside during the burial ground's destruction.
"The sandstone doors are inscribed with religious texts and the names and titles of those buried in the tombs they once belonged to," said excavation leader Perez De.
They were painted blue and red and depicted a recessed series of doorways, which was a common design for false doors. They also bore the formula for religious offerings.
"At least one of the false doors was inscribed with the name "Khety" - the same name of the 9th and 10th dynasty kings - because officials often assumed the royal name as a sign of loyalty," said De.
According to a report in National Geographic News, the discoveries date back to the "First Intermediate Period" - a turbulent period in Egypt's history from 2160 to 2055 B.C.
This period is traditionally thought to have been a chaotic era of bloodshed and power struggles, but little is known based on archaeological evidence.
The latest finds, along with the team's new studies of the site's charred remains, could offer a fresh look at this poorly understood period.
"There's really not much known about the period at all," said Emily Teeter, a research associate at the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago.
Discoveries like the three newfound false doors therefore offer some of the best hope for Egyptologists scouting for information about the period's artwork and culture.
According to Salima Ikram, a professor of Egyptology at the American University in Cairo, "Such symbolic passageways were common features of most ancient Egyptian tombs of consequence."
The rectangular portals, which did not actually open, were meant to allow the deceased to come back from the afterworld and consume gifts placed on nearby offering tables.
"A false door is a place where you have an interaction between the living and the dead. It is really a doorway for the soul to go in and out of the afterworld," said Ikram.
With the new discovery, the Spanish team also hopes to shed some light on the fall of Herakleopolis by studying clues in the burned remains of the necropolis.