Slab fragments found in the tomb of Sobekhotep I (via

Slab fragments found in the tomb of Sobekhotep I (image via

Archaeologists from the University of Pennsylvania have discovered the tomb of an Egyptian pharaoh, Sobekhotep I, the first king of the 13th Dynasty. The tomb was found in Abydos, once a sacred city of Ancient Egypt and now an important archaeological site.

The discovery is quite extensive: it includes the limestone tomb (originally topped by a pyrmaid), a burial chamber of red quartzite, a 60-ton quartzite sarcophagus, a stele that bears Sobekhotep I’s name, an image of him on a throne, parts of canopic jars that were used to hold internal organs, and other funerary objects. “Since new royal tombs are rarely discovered, and as only ten from the 13th Dynasty are known — all at Dahshur, just south of Cairo — this is an important find,” the Art Newspaper explains.

The Turin King List, an Ancient Egyptian papyrus dating from the reign of Rameses II, includes Sobekhotep I (image via

Sobekhotep I is, according to Antiquities Minister Mohamed Ibrahim, believed to have been the first king of Ancient Egypt’s 13th Dynasty, a period whose chronology and history scholars are still debating. He seems to have ruled for three or four years, but even that isn’t clear. The History Blog elaborates:

This is a highly significant find because the history of the 13th Dynasty rulers is nebulous. Historians aren’t even sure of when the dynasty began — 1803 B.C. and 1781 B.C. are the leading contenders — never mind who ruled when. Antiquities Minister Mohamed Ibrahim said in a statement that Sobekhotep I “is likely the first who ruled Egypt at the start of the 13th dynasty during the second intermediate period” but there is no consensus on that point among Egyptologists. According to the Turin King List, a papyrus written during the reign of Ramesses II (1279–1213 B.C.) that lists all the kings of Egypt up until that time, grouping them together in vaguely dynastic clusters and noting the dates of their reigns, puts Sobekhotep somewhere in the 13th Dynasty but it’s unclear where it begins and the 12th ends. There’s also some confusion about whether the Turin list is Sobekhotep I or Sobekhotep II, another pharaoh of the 13th Dynasty of the same name who may or may not be the same person as Sobekhotep I.

According to Agence France-Presse, archaeologists actually found the tomb a year ago, but they had been unable to identify it until last week, when they discovered the slab fragments with his name and image on them.

Door jamb bearing Sobekhotep I’s name from a previous excavation at Abydos, now on display at the Louvre (image via Wikipedia)

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Jillian Steinhauer

Jillian Steinhauer is a former senior editor of Hyperallergic. She writes largely about the intersection of art...