Whereas Mentuhotpe’s remains weren’t discovered till modern times, many of the New Kingdom royal tombs were despoiled soon after their burial in the Valley of the Kings. Towards the end of the XXI Dynasty, priests hid forty mummies in a secret cache in a hollow to the south above Mentuhotpe’s temple, which the villagers of Gurna found in 1875 and quietly sold off for years until rumbled by the authorities, who forced them to reveal the cache’s location. Amongst the mummies recovered were Amenhotep I, Tuthmosis II and III, Seti I and Ramses II and III. As the steamer bore them downriver to Cairo, villagers lined the banks, wailing in sorrow or firing rifles in homage – a haunting scene in Shady Abdel Salem’s film The Mummy, a classic of Egyptian cinema (1975). The royal cache is not open to visitors.

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