Queen of the Old Kingdom

Digs & Discoveries January/February 2018

(© Mission Archéologique Franco-Suisse de Saqqara)

Queen Ankhnespepy II was among the most powerful female leaders of Egypt’s Old Kingdom. She was married to two kings of the Sixth Dynasty—Pepy I and Merenre—and served as regent when her son Pepy II became king at the age of six. New discoveries by the Swiss-French archaeological mission at the Saqqara necropolis are providing further evidence of her importance. The team has found what appear to be the top portions of the two obelisks that would have stood at the entrance to the queen’s funerary temple. Both measure 3.5 feet on a side, and the larger is around eight feet tall, making it the largest Old Kingdom obelisk fragment yet discovered and indicating that the full obelisk would have stood more than 16 feet tall. Notably, the obelisks were made of granite, which was usually reserved for kings.

The team, led by Philippe Collombert of the University of Geneva, also found a wooden statue head whose stylistic features—thin cheeks, large circular earrings—suggest it dates to the New Kingdom, though there are no wealthy graves from that period in the area. There is a very slight chance the head could represent Queen Ankhnespepy II, says Collombert. Radiocarbon dating will, he hopes, help find the answer.

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