The story of Neferuptah and her Mysterious Pyramid

In 1936, Labib Habachi, the inspector of the Department of Antiquities at Fayoum at that time, made some soundings in the site near to the Pyramid of Hawara in which are situated the ruins of some building of mud bricks. Owing to the transfer of Labib Habachi to another inspectorate, he could not continue the work.

In 1955, Farag Naguib being the inspector of Antiquities at Fayoum, He observed in the middle of the ruins of mud bricks in this site seven huge limestone blocks well stuck to each other over another building of limestone.
From the comparative study of the construction of the pyramids of the Twelfth Dynasty at Hawara and El-Lahûn, He realised that here was an important discovery of a pyramid belonging to this period. He suspected that the large limestone blocks in the middle of the ruins of the mud-brick building covered the burial chamber of the owner of this pyramid. The fact that the large limestone blocks were still in their original position gave him great hope that the burial chamber was still intact.
On this basis, Farag submitted a report to the Department of Antiquities explaining the above facts and asked to undertake an excavation at this site.

The Ruins of the Pyramid of Neferuptah

The field work on the tomb was shared by Dr. Zaky Iskander, the Director of the Chemical Laboratory, and Farag himself. The result of their work confirmed Farag’s expectation. The limestone blocks proved to cover an intact burial chamber of what is thought to be  Pyramid of Princess Neferuptah of the Twelfth Dynasty.

The apparent part of the tomb chamber covered by six of the blocks in their original
vertical position while the seventh (the northernmost) was put back horizontally
after moving it. Credits: Farag Nagib

This pyramid is situated about two kilometres to the south east of the Hawara Pyramid of her father Amenemhet III, about 13 kilometres to the south east of the Fayûm city. the pyramid lies at the present time about 20 metres to the west of the Bahr Wahbi Canal.
As found now, the ruins of the pyramid form a mound of dark grey mud bricks. This pyramid constituted the superstructure of the tomb. It was composed mainly of mud bricks which were most probably overlaid originally with a casing of limestone blocks. No remains of the casing stones, however, could be found. It seems that the site was used as a quarry in ancient times, and the casing stones were ravaged for stone and lime.

Not only is the casing all removed, but the pavement stones were also all used up. That the pavement originally existed is proved by the marks left over the original bed to the north side of the pyramid on which these stones once existed. The brick work base of the pyramid was found to be about 35 metres long.

Mud bricks

The dimensions of a number of these bricks were measured. The differences in these dimensions from one brick to another were very slight not exceeding 2 mms. The average dimensions are 16 X 24 X 14 cms. The dimensions of the mud bricks constituting the bulk of the Hawara Pyramid were also measured and the same average of dimensions mentioned above was obtained. This supports the historical fact that the two pyramids were almost contemporaneous.

In the center of the area of the base of the pyramid, lies the burial chamber .This was made in the following way : A large rectangular shaft was sunk into the bed-rock of the desert. This shaft was lined with small limestone blocks and covered with seven huge blocks of limestone forming the roof of the chamber.

The burial chamber in her pyramid was found in the centre of the pyramid roofed with seven huge limestone blocks, and had no access or door. Also no passage could be traced in the remaining brickwork of the pyramid to lead from the middle of its north side to the burial chamber. This shows that the princess was already dead before building her pyramid. She was buried in the burial chamber which was then closed with the huge limestone blocks and the pyramid completed without making a passage to the closed burial chamber since the mummy had been already put in it.

Neferuptah Jewellery

parts of Jewellery of Neferwptah collected from the sludgy material found in her sarcophagus show that her set of Jewellery was of the same type as those of most the Middle Kingdom burials found at Dahshûr and Lisht.

The magnificent broad collar (wesekh) that consists of three
rows of blue-green feldspar and three rows of carnelian
cylinder beads, separated by eight rows of small gold ring
beads—all hung vertically. At the bottom is a fifteenth
row of gold drops that are inlaid with carnelian, feldspar,
and glass paste. The ends of the collar are formed by gold
falcon-head terminals (or finials).

The elements of Jewellery which were found and could be restored most probably to their original state consisted of :
1.-a necklace of gold, carnelian and beads
2.-a broad collar
3.-a pair of bracelets and a pair of anklets
4.-a girdle of disc beads with a hawk-pendant
5.-A funerary apron of faience and blue frit beads

Who was Neferuptah and Where is her Mummy?

To answer these questions, Farag Naguib proposed the following: Neferuptah (“Beauty of Ptah”) was a daughter of the Egyptian king Amenemhat III (c. 1860 BC to 1814 BC) of the 12th dynasty. Neferuptah was considered during her life as a princess only and not as a queen since she did not marry a king and was not, accordingly, given the title Hmt Niswt (The Royal Wife).

After her death, however, her name was put in a royal cartouche and perhaps this happened on the occasion of her reburial and was followed in all other later occasions. This might
have been made to honour her especially that she was much beloved by her father, king Amenemhat III The fact that she was given the title which means the sister of the deceased king was explained that she might have been the sister of King Hor-au-ib-re who reigned with his father Amenemhat Ill and died during the life time of his father. It is suggested also that she might have married her brother Hor-au-ib-re and that she died shortly before he reigned as a co regent with his father. She was, therefore, probably given the privilege of having her name put in a royal cartouche, but could not be given the title hmt niswt (wife of the king) since she was not crowned as a queen in the occasion of crowning her husband as a king of Upper and Lower Egypt.

The mummy of princess Neferuptah was most probably transferred to the new burial chamber in her pyramid. It was enclosed inside the anthropoid coffin which was in its turn enclosed in the rectangular wooden coffin. Both coffins and the mummy however, had almost completely perished, partly through disintegration and partly
through decomposition by the action of the infiltration water which entered into the sarcophagus. The disintegration and decomposition products either dissolved or floated on the annually renewed water and escaped mostly out of the sarcophagus from the small space between the body of the granite sarcophagus and its lid. This conclusion is supported by the following facts:
1. Small fragments of the skin could be collected from the debris.
These fragments were analyzed and showed the presence of phosphorous, much ferrieoxide, traces of calcium and much organic matter partly soluble in ethyl alcohol. Microscopic examination of these fragments showed the presence of epithelial cells, linen fibres and resinous matter. It is true that nothing of the bones could be found, but we believe that they disintegrated and escaped out of the sarcophagus. This may be objected to by the fact that the bones are more durable than the skin, and thus how can we explain the complete disappearance of the bones while few remains of the skin were preserved. This may be accounted for by the protective action of the resin of gum resin with which the linen bandages were stuck over the skin of the mummy.
2.-Although the water which entered the sareophagus changed many times during the long existence of the sarcophagus under the sub-water level, by the rise of this level every year during inundation time, the sample of water taken from the sarcophagus after opening it proved to contain slight traces of ammonia and nitrates. This shows that slight putrefaction still took place as a result of the presence of few remains of the nitrogenous organic matter of the body tissues which escaped complete destruction until the date on which the sarcophagus was opened
3.- All the pieces of Jewellery were found in positions which agree with their usual function on the different parts of the body.

Text : The discovery of Neferuptah by FARAG Naguib

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