A Real Game of Thrones
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Egyptian pyramidsAncient Egypt is among the most studied ancient societies, so it can seem as if there’s not much more to discover. Archeologists continue to prove us wrong, though. Just a year ago they unearthed a dynasty that historians had only speculated existed.

They found the mummy of a pharaoh from the Abydos Dynasty during Egypt’s second intermediate period from 1640 to 1550 BCE. The tomb is south of Cairo and contains a sixteen ton sarcophagus made of red quartzite. What’s interesting is that the sarcophagus was taken from the tomb of an earlier dynasty. This and other reuse of materials in the tomb suggests the Abydos Dynasty had limited resources and faced pressures from two larger kingdoms: the Thebes Dynasty to the north and the Hyksos Dynasty to the south.

The mummy turns out to be Pharaoh Senebkay and a forensic analysis revealed a surprising detail. The muscle attachments in his femur suggest years spent on a horse. Another king’s body discovered nearby also shows evidence of horse riding.

Using horses in combat wasn’t popular until much later, so this tells us that Egyptians of this period were mastering something quite new. Scientists theorize Senebkay was mounted on horseback when he was killed in battle. His skeleton revealed eighteen wounds that penetrated the bone. He was most likely on his horse when attackers slashed at his feet, legs and back. When he was down they killed him with axe blows to the head.

The Abydos Dynasty was short lived during a time when Egypt’s central authority collapsed, dividing the nation into many smaller kingdoms. No doubt we’ll hear more about it. Descriptions from Senebkay’s tomb have led archeologists to at least seven other tombs.