Ancient Egypt breakthrough after ‘false door’ into ‘Underworld’ uncovered inside tomb

Kane Khanh | Archeaology
July 7, 2023
Egyptologists stumbled across the “false door” after months of fieldwork and believe it once acted as a portal to the ancient “Underworld”.

Duat is what the ancient Egyptians called their ‘Underworld’, a place beyond the experienced world that people moved to afterlife.

It was a central tenet of life back then and played a vital role in the way people chose to live.

Egyptians believed that after you died your spirit passed through Duat to reach Osiris, the dead king of the Underworld.

One of the most important things people could do to reach this place was to have a proper burial tomb and mummification.

Not only did the location and burial process protect your soul but also important relics, items often buried alongside the dead inside their tombs.

What the archaeologists saw on entering the tomb

The archaeologists were greeted by the perfectly preserved ‘false door’ (Image: Youtube/Smithsonian Channel)

Tutankhamun is perhaps the best example of this. His tomb was found to contain over 5,000 objects, including mummified remains of his prematurely dead daughters.

Each relic and item would have a specific meaning and role to play in the journey to Duat: having his dead daughters with him would, the ancient Egyptians believed, have helped him to fight off evil spirits and demons.

Last year, a team of Egyptologists’ — led by Ahmed Zikry — discovered a “rare” Old Kingdom tomb with an exciting door to what they believed symbolised the Underworld found inside.

It was documented in the Smithsonian Channel’s documentary, ‘Tomb Hunters: Tomb of the pyramid judge’, in a stand-alone clip posted to YouTube titled, ‘Fascinating Structure Inside Ancient Tomb: ‘False Door’ to the Underworld’.

The 'false door' in its entirety

The engravings and artwork adorned the door just as it had 2,000 years ago (Image: Youtube/Smithsonian Channel)

The Old Kingdom was a wide-ranging period of Egyptian history, dating from around 2649 to 2130 BC.

Before the discovery of the tomb, much of the team’s findings had come from later on in Egypt’s history.

Entering the team, they found perfectly preserved inscriptions painted on one of the walls, with one of the researchers noting “how beautiful” the artwork was.

They added: “Look how fresh this is! As if the artist just finished it today. Honestly, this is amazing.”

The inscriptions were positioned at the centre of the tomb — hinting at their significance — and covered a type of panel called a “false door”. As the documentary’s narrator noted: “[It’s] a magical gateway to the afterlife”.

Pinimos, the man believed to be buried in the tomb
The engraving showed someone researchers believed to be called Pinimos (Image: Youtube/Smithsonian Channel)

For the soul, known as Ba, to move on to the afterlife and eventually return, the Egyptians believed a portal was needed. This portal would allow for travel between the two worlds.

Aliaa Ismail, an Egyptologist, told the documentary: “A false door is very important, it was where the Ba could move between the realm. It’s the gate to freedom.”

The high-end decorations of the doors indicated the status and essence of the owner, as Ms Ismail explained: “It would have the person’s titles, name, and image — everything about that person that they could cram in that small space they would.”

After much work, Mr Zikry was able to find the identity of the tomb’s owner. Various images painted on the door — including a portrait of a daughter clinging to her mother’s clothes — showed Pinimos, the name of the man, alongside his wife and children.

One title revealed his status in the Old Kingdom, as he is named as a royal acquaintance.