April 30, 2014 - The charred remains of least 50 mummified Egyptians have been found in a plundered tomb in Cairo.
It is thought most of the bodies were members of the ancient Egyptian elite, and inscriptions suggest the tomb contains a prince and princess, related to two pharaohs who ruled during the 14th century BC.
But excavation wasn't easy because the tomb is covered in soot - from a fire started by grave robbers in the late 19th century.
The find was made during excavations by Egyptologists from the University of Basel
Kings' Valley Project close to the royal tombs in the Valley of the Kings, about 310 miles (500 kilometres) south of Cairo.
Experts identified the burial place of several children as well as other family members of two pharaohs.
The team have been working on tomb KV 40 - where the find was made - close to the city of Luxor for three years.
From the outside, only a depression in the ground indicated the presence of a subterranean tomb.
Up to now, nothing was known about the layout of tomb KV 40, nor for whom it was built and who was buried there.
The Egyptologists assumed it was a non-royal tomb dating back to the 18th dynasty (1543 - 1292 BC).
They first cleared the 20ft (six metre) deep shaft which gives access to five subterranean chambers before recovering the countless remains and fragments of funerary equipment.
The scientists discovered mummified remains of at least 50 people in the centre chamber and in three side chambers.
Based on inscriptions on storage jars, Egyptologists were able to identify and name over 30 people.
Titles such as 'Prince' and 'Princess' distinguish the buried as members of the families of the two pharaohs Thutmosis IV and Amenhotep III who are also buried in the Valley of Kings.
Both pharaohs belonged to the 18th dynasty and ruled in the 14th century BC.
The analysis of the hieratic inscriptions, related to hieroglyphics, revealed that tomb KV 40 contains the mummified remains of at least eight hitherto unknown royal daughters, four princes and several foreign ladies.
While most of them were adults, mummified children were also found.
'We discovered a remarkable number of carefully mummified newborns and infants that would have normally been buried much simpler,' explains Egyptologist Professor Susanne Bickel.
'We believe that the family members of the royal court were buried in this tomb for a period of several decades.'
The identification of people buried in the proximity of the royal tombs gave the team of researchers important insight into who had the privilege to spend eternal life close to the pharaoh.
'Roughly two thirds of the tombs in the Kings' Valley are non-royal,' continued Bickel.
'Because the tombs do not have inscriptions and have been heavily plundered we so far have only been able to speculate on who lies buried in them.'
The tomb was found in the Valley of the Kings, a valley
in egypt where pharoahs and nobles from the 18th, 19th and 20th dynasties (known as the 'New Kingdom') in Ancient Egypt
were buried from the 16th to 11th century BC. Amongst other tombs, the valley is famous for containing that of Tutankhamun Tomb
KV 40 containing the newly discovered remains was found about 20ft (six metres) underground with a corridor, a central room and three side rooms. Most of the walls and ceilings are black from heavy fire, believed to have been caused by regular plunderers in ancient times but also as recently as the 19th century
This is a panorama view over the area in the Valley of Kings investigated by the University of Basel
Kings' Valley Project. Tomb KV 40 is located directly next to tomb KV 64 and was first discovered by the Basel Egyptologists in 2012, but it has only recently been excavated and studied
Even though the tomb was looted in ancient times as well as at the end of the 19th century, the researchers found countless fragments of burial equipment, such as fragments of coffins and textiles.
'The remains and the walls have been heavily affected by a fire that was most likely ignited by the torches of the tomb raiders,' suspects Bickel.
The fragments of various wooden and cartonnage, layers of linen or papyrus covered with plaster, coffins indicate that tomb KV 40 was used a second time as a burial ground by members of priestly families in the 9th century BC.
Anthropological analysis, as well as further examination on the burial goods, will deliver important insight into the composition of the pharaonic court of the 18th dynasty as well as the conditions of life and the burial customs of its members.