- A SCOTTISH archaeologist has discovered what he believes
is the final resting place of a 5000-year-old lost mummy - widely regarded
as the holy grail of Egypt.
- Egyptologist Ian Mathieson (right) , from Lauder in Berwickshire,
has found two vast tombs under the desert sands that could hold the remains
of Imhotep, the architect of the Step Pyramid and one of the most important
figures in ancient history.
- Imhotep, who became revered as a god after his death,
was the builder, sculptor and architect of King Djoser of the Third Dynasty
(2649-2575 BC). Archaeologists have long searched in vain for his tomb
in the Saqqara burial ground.
- This highly sensitive area, now engulfed in desert sand,
was once the great necropolis of Memphis -Egypt's main city for 2500 years
-and is believed to hold untold riches, which prompted Napoleon to send
an expedition in 1798.
- Scanning technology
- Ian, director of The Saqqara Geophysical Survey Project,
has led surveys in the region since 1990 using unobtrusive scanning technology
and now believes he's within touching distance of the most coveted treasure
- He revealed, "Most of the archaeologists working
in Saqqara have been looking for Imhotep.
- "We've now found two large tombs that fall right
within the area where we think he could be. The largest tomb is immense
- around 90 metres long by 50 wide, with walls more than five metres thick.
- "Right next door is a second tomb, around 70 by
50 metres with very thick walls and a complicated internal structure which
could point to a courtyard or temple.
- "They dwarf everything in the area - Imhotep may
have designed his own tomb to compare with the Step Pyramid he built. A
person of his standing could command the artisans and labour needed to
build such imposing structures.
- "All the information points to this being the most
probable place he could be."
- Although Ian's find was made last year he hasn't released
the information until now because he's had to publish his findings and
present them to the Supreme Council of Antiquities - the regulatory body
for any archaeological work in Egypt.
- Since 1990 Ian (80) has uncovered a host of mesmerising
discoveries in the Saqqara area.
- The work of the project, now sponsored by Glasgow Museums,
has revealed a large number of previously unidentified structures under
the sand. Two years ago Ian used scanning equipment to locate a two-kilometre
section of the main ancient Egyptian ceremonial route know as the Serapeum
Way that was lost beneath the sands.
- But this latest discovery could be the jewel in the crown
of an illustrious career.
- Imhotep is the next best thing to the great discovery
of Tutankhamun by Howard Carter in 1922, which sparked a worldwide media
frenzy and ignited interest in ancient Egypt.
- Ian says the next step should be an excavation to look
for the lost mummy but that could take some time.
- "The official line is that there's an excavation
ban in the area for the next five years, primarily because it is so sensitive.
Also, as soon as work begins on a major discovery like this treasure hunters
pour into the area to pillage the sites.
- "At the moment the Egyptian authorities say they
simply don't have enough guards to look after these sites. But who knows?
These revelations could change their minds."