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Last Updated: Monday, 23 October 2006, 10:24 GMT 11:24 UK
Thieves find pharaohs' dentists
The dentists' tombs are made of mud brick and limestone

Grave robbers in Egypt have unwittingly helped archaeologists discover the tombs of three royal dentists.

The thieves were arrested after they began digging by the Step Pyramid at Saqqara, near Cairo, believed to be Egypt's oldest pyramid.

Their excavations led archaeologists to the 4,200-year-old tombs, one of which has an inscription warning of a curse.

Two hieroglyphs - showing an eye over a tusk - identified the men as dentists to the pharaohs, experts said.

Zahi Hawass, Egypt's chief of antiquities, said the location of the men's burial near the Step Pyramid indicated the respect accorded dentists by the ancient Egyptian kings.

However, the fact the tombs were made of mud brick as well as more expensive limestone suggested they were not wealthy men.

Daily scenes

The grave of the chief dentist, whose name is spelled out as Iy Mry, was protected by a curse written by the entrance, Mr Hawass said.

"The man put an inscription to say: 'Anyone who enters my tomb will be eaten by a crocodile and a snake.'"

Beautiful figures painted on the walls and pillars of the tomb also tell much about the chief dentist's daily life, he said.

They depict him and his family carrying out rituals such as slaughtering animals, presenting offerings to the dead and playing games.

The other two dentists, whose names were spelled out as Kem Msw and Sekhem Ka, must have been partners or colleagues to have been buried with Iy Mry, Dr Hawass added.

The tombs believed to have been home to Royal dentists

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