Ohio art professor has part in Egyptian tomb discovery

AKRON, Ohio - An Egyptologist from Ohio is among those helping unearth a tomb that's thousands of years old and the first discovered in eight decades in Egypt's Valley of the Kings.

Earl Ertman, 73, of Tallmadge, is an associate director on the project.

The retired University of Akron art professor has the job of identifying objects the researchers uncover.

"I'm dead tired," he said last week. "I haven't had any time off for a while."

But after so many years of searching, Ertman said, the hard work is a "welcome problem."

"It is a dream," he said.

The Valley of the Kings is a desert region near the city of Luxor that was used as a burial ground for pharaohs, queens and nobles in the 1500 B.C. to 1000 B.C. New Kingdom.

Authorities announced the discovery on Feb. 10. It holds five mummies -- possibly members of a pharaoh's court.

Ertman is part of the team of American archaeologists that discovered the chamber while working on the neighboring tomb of Amenmeses, a late 19th Dynasty pharaoh. The project is affiliated with the University of Memphis.

The single-chamber tomb, about 12-feet-by-15-feet, is believed to be about 3,000 years old and date to the 18th Dynasty.

The last burial site discovered in the valley was Tutankhamun's tomb on Nov. 4, 1922, by the British archaeologist Howard Carter. The newly discovered tomb is about 15 feet away.

"There is the most precious piece of real estate in Egypt," said Patricia Podzorski, curator at the Institute of Egyptian Art and Archaeology at the University of Memphis in Tennessee. "The value of any objects in the new tomb is priceless."

From the tomb's door, Ertman could see five mummies, one with a sarcophagus featuring the funeral mask of a woman with long black hair, thin eyebrows and a golden collar. With them are about 20 jars that likely were stocked with food to sustain the dead in the afterlife.

"We don't know the names, titles or dates of anything yet. We haven't seen any inscriptions yet," Ertman said. "That is the mystery. Who are the people in these coffins? What is their rank? What king do they live under?"

Researchers will clean, photograph and catalog items inside the tomb and preservationists will work on ways to retain the sarcophagi and reassemble broken pottery pieces.

Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities will determine where the finds are to be placed. Podzorski said they will likely go to the Egyptian Museum in Cairo.

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