An ancient Egyptian tablet, dating back around 2,400 years, was found under a private residence in Upper Egypt during unlicensed excavations, according to the Antiquities Ministry.
“Due to poverty, there are many Egyptians who are seeking to get rich quickly through such illegal excavations, or the smuggling of artifacts,” tour guide and resident of Abydos, Osama Rashad, told Mada Masr. “Illegal excavations are widespread in places like Abydos and Luxor, as they are rich in undiscovered artifacts,” he added.
Several prominent Egyptologists have speculated that around 70 percent of ancient Egyptian artifacts have not yet been discovered or excavated.
The tablet, which is inscribed with the name of Pharaoh Nectanebo II (who reigned circa 360-342 BC, the last native ruler of Ancient Egypt before the Persian invasion by King Artaxerxes III in 343 BC), was discovered in groundwater under an old house near the ancient archaeological site of Abydos in Sohag, and is believed to have either been part of his royal shrine or a nearby temple wall that he built, according to a statement issued by the Antiquities Ministry on Wednesday.
Abydos is one of the oldest continually inhabited areas in Egypt, dating back more than 5,000 years. The archaeological site includes some of the oldest temples in the country, from the first dynasty (circa 3,100-2,900 BC) and second dynasty (circa 2890-2686 BC).
“Kings were anxious to build temples and have artifacts created for them in this area, as the god Osiris is believed to have been buried there,” Rashad explained.
Hundreds of royal figures and noblemen were buried at the nearby archaeological site of Om al-Qaab, a vast necropolis near Abydos.
Another plaque bearing the image of Sekhmet — the lioness-headed goddess of war, conquest and healing and believed to date back to Nectanebo II’s reign — was returned to Egypt from France earlier this month, along with 44 other artifacts.
In July 2016, France repatriated another tablet from this period that was found at a Paris auction house, where it was due to be sold. According to the Ministry of Antiquities, this tablet was originally part of a temple relief that had been cut from the Saqqara Necropolis — most likely during the 1990s — and smuggled overseas.