saqqara pyramid 298.88.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Thieves led an Egyptian archaeological team to discover three tombs of dentists to the ancient kings, unveiled Sunday at the Saqqara pyramid complex south of Cairo.
"It seems for the first time that the ancient Egyptians made a cemetery to the dentist and they are buried in the shadow of the Step Pyramid," Zahi Hawass, chief of Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities, said as he toured the site.
About 4,200 years old, the tombs honor a chief dentist and two other dentists, who served the royal families. They show that the ancient Egyptians "cared about the treatment of their teeth," Hawass said.
He pointed out two hieroglyphs - an eye over a tusk, appearing frequently among the neat rows of symbols decorating the tombs' doors - that he said identify the men as dentists.
Thieves beat the archaeologists to the site of the new tombs, launching their own dig one summer night two months ago, before they were captured and jailed. "We have to thank the thieves," Hawass said.
They likely didn't notice a curse inscription just inside the prominent doorway to the chief dentist's tomb, which showed a crocodile and a snake, designed to ward off invaders.
Hawass said he believes only 30 percent of what lies beneath Egyptian sands has been uncovered. Excavation continues at Saqqara, he said, and his team expects to find more tombs in the area.
Saqqara, about 20 kilometers (12 miles) south of Cairo, is one of Egypt's most popular tourist sites and hosts a collection of temples, tombs and funerary complexes.
The Step Pyramid, Egypt's oldest and the precursor to the more familiar straight-sided pyramids, such as those at Giza, was designed by famed architect Imhotep for a third dynasty pharaoh, King Djoser.