updated 5/19/2005 9:00:27 PM ET 2005-05-20T01:00:27

Archaeologists uncovered a 5,000-year-old chamber believed to have been used for the burial rituals of Egypt's first major pharaoh — and found a cache of 200 rough ceramic beer and wine jars, Egyptian authorities said Thursday.

The mortuary enclosure of King Hur-Aha, the founder of Egypt's First Dynasty, also included a cultic chapel where the floor and benches are stained with organic material — probably the remains of offerings made during rituals, Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities said.

"It is a very important discovery because it would provide us with new information about the First Dynasty," Zahi Hawass, head of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, told The Associated Press.

The mud-brick mortuary enclosure was discovered by a joint American excavation from Yale University, the Pennsylvania University Museum and New York University at Shunet El-Zebib, part of the pharaonic holy city of Abydos, where many of Egypt's earlier pharaohs are buried, 240 miles (400 kilometers) south of Cairo.

The enclosure in believed to be where the body of King Hur-Aha was kept during burial rituals. His tomb is nearby in Abydos, though it's not known whether he was buried there.

The enclosure also included three rectangular tombs with wooden ceilings covered with reed matting — one with a well-preserved skeleton of a woman and another tomb with remains of human bones. Hawass said experts were trying to identify the remains. The enclosure also had a chamber of pots with hieroglyphs indicating they were made during the reign of Hur-Aha.

Hur-Aha, who ruled around 3100 B.C. — about 500 years before the pyramids were built — is considered the first pharaoh of the First Dynasty, the first royal family to control both Upper and Lower Egypt in a unified kingdom. But little is known of the era.

Later Egyptian dynasties came to identify Abydos as the burial site of the god Osiris.

The beer and wine jars were found in excavations along the walls of the mortuary enclosure of King Khasekhemwy, a Second Dynasty pharoah who ruled around 2700 B.C.

Copyright 2005 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Discuss:

Discussion comments

,

Most active discussions

  1. votes comments
  2. votes comments
  3. votes comments
  4. votes comments