Washington, Jan 19 : Archaeologists have unsealed the burial chamber of a 4,500 year old tomb of an Egyptian official, thus providing a rare insight into the burial customs prevalent among the middle class in ancient Egypt.
According to a report in National Geographic News, the tomb, belonging to a fifth dynasty priest and politician named Neferinpu, was discovered in 2006 at Abusir - the ancient cemetery of the fifth and 26th dynasties, located near modern-day Cairo.
"He was rich, but he wasn't the uppermost kind of rich. He wasn't like a top priest," said Salima Ikram, a professor of Egyptology at the American University in Cairo, referring to Neferinpu.
The archaeological team found Neferinpu's burial chamber behind a mud-brick wall to the east of an ancient burial shaft.
When the team of archeologists from the Czech Republic opened the tomb's burial chamber, they found a tiny room about 33 feet below ground, packed with offerings and personal effects that had remained undisturbed for nearly 4,500 years.
"It became clear within several hours that we had an unrobbed burial chamber in front of us," said Miroslav Barta, the Czech archaeologist who led the excavation.
According to Barta, it is rare to unearth intact burials of upper-middle class officials such as Neferinpu, whose burial seems a tier below extravagant royal burials, but more elaborate than those of the lower classes.
"There was no gold and no silver, but the wealth of information makes this chamber quite unique within the context," said Barta.
Inside the 6.5-foot by 13-foot space, the team found dozens of ceremonial artifacts, including 10 sealed beer jars, more than 80 miniature limestone vessels, a small perfume jug, and plates and cups for symbolic offerings of food and drink.
Also present were four flat-bottomed vessels known as "canopies," which were used to store internal organs removed during the mummification process.
Beneath the lid of the sarcophagus, the mummy, which was wrapped long before preservation methods were perfected, was badly decomposed.
The body was inlaid with hundreds of Faience beads, and the official's walking stick, about 6.5 feet long and decorated at the tip with small pieces of gold, was buried at his side.
"The sarcophagus also contained a wooden scepter, which Neferinpu would have held in his left hand as sign of his seniority," said Tarek El-Awadi, an official with Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA) and chief inspector at Abusir.
"It gives you nice insight into the strata of Egyptian society," said Salima Ikram. "It gives you a sense of the people who are not a part of uppermost echelons and what was considered customary, proper, or appropriate for someone of that rank," she added.