Ancient Egyptian Stone Chest Containing Sacrificial Goose May Help Archaeologists Find Long-Lost Tomb of Pharaoh

Egyptologists have found a stone chest containing a sacrificial goose and ceramic box, thought to be a little under 3,500 years old, in the heart of a royal cemetery in Deir el-Bahari.

One of the artifacts is inscribed with the name of the Pharaoh Thutmose II—husband (and step-brother) to the "queen who would be king," Hatshepsut. Egyptologists believe the find could lead them to a not-yet-discovered royal tomb.

The discovery, first reported by the Polish Press Agency (PAP), consisted of two parts. The first, a stone chest, roughly 16 inches long and slightly less tall. Egyptologists say it was well-camouflaged and "looked like a regular stone block," but contained a number of packages wrapped in a linen canvas.

"It was only after closer inspection that it turned out to be a box," Andrzej Niwiński, a professor at the Institute of Archeology of the University of Warsaw, told PAP.

One of the packages consisted of the skeleton of a goose that had been sacrificed. Another had a goose egg and the third a wooden crate that contained another egg wrapped in cloth. Egyptologists say the egg is likely that of an ibis.

The second part was a bundle, found stuffed in a crack. The bundle contained a glazed ceramic ware (faience) box enclosed in a wooden box wrapped in four layers of linen canvas.

The ceramic box contains a clue to the owner of the "royal deposit"—inscribed in hieroglyphs is one of Thutmose II's many names.

Mortuary temple of Queen Hatshepsut
Mortuary temple of Queen Hatshepsut, Dayr al-Bahri, Egypt, c1457 BC. Archaeologists announced the discovery of a stone chest and a bundle in Dayr al-Bahri that could lead to the discovery of a royal temple Ann Ronan Pictures/Print Collector/Getty

Thutmose II ruled for just three years (circa 1482 to 1479 BCE) during ancient Egypt's Eighteenth Dynasty, dying in his teens. The young pharaoh was overshadowed by his second wife and step-sister, Hatshepsut, who went on to become the first female pharaoh to rule with the full powers the position entailed.

According to the Met Museum, Hatshepsut took over as regent for her stepson and nephew Thutmose III (born to Thutmose II's first wife) after her husband's death. Within a few years, she had upgraded her status to senior co-ruler and was calling herself king—and ruled as pharaoh for around two decades (circa 1473–1458 CE) before her own death.

The royal deposit was discovered last year in Deir el-Bahari, a complex of mortuary temples in central Egypt, near Luxor. The box and the bundle were found in a heap of rock rubble near Hatshepsut's temple, one of the three temples that make up the complex, according to the Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum. The other two belong to Thutmose III, Hatshepsut's co-ruler and successor, and Mentuhotep II, who reigned during the Eleventh Dynasty, circa 2,040 to 1991 BCE.

"Finding this deposit indicates that we are in the process of discovering the tomb," said Niwiński.