In the eastern field of mastabas, directly in front of the Great Pyramid you have the tombs of Khufu’s powerful brother, Ankhhaf, Khufu’s sons, the crown prince Kawab and Khufukhaf, possibly Khufu’s wife, Henutsen.
But there is also a burial shaft belonging to Khufu’s mother, daughter of Huni and wife of the first king of the 4th dynasty, Sneferu. Her name is Hetepheres I.
Her tomb was discovered next to the Great Pyramid, on its eastern side in 1923 by George Reisner's team, who had spend 23 years excavating, tidying and documenting the Giza Plateau.
On February 19th in front of the Great Pyramud, the tripod of the staff photographer slipped in the limestone bedrock and the reason is because this wasn’t bedrock at all; it was plaster.
The area was cleared and the plaster removed, revealing a deep shaft on the eastern side of the Great Pyramid, marked here. There was no mastaba or pyramid covering the shaft and no foundations to indicate that one ever existed.
After carefully documenting the finds and inscriptions, by April 1925 the tomb was identified as that of Hetepheres, wife of Sneferu. So, Reisner’s team had discovered the resting place of the mother of King Khufu and the news was splashed across front pages across the world.
It took another 2 years until Reisner could open the beautiful alabaster sarcophagus and expectations were high because the small tomb was so well furnished. They had even discovered a small alabaster canopic chest in a niche built into the burial chamber. The chest is one of the oldest examples known with some saying she may have been one of the first Egyptian royals to have her organs preserved.
But on opening the sarcophagus, to everyone’s surprise and disappointment, it was empty. What happened to the remains of Queen Hetepheres I? Was she moved? Was she even buried? Learn more in this brand new video from Ancient Architects.
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