THREE tombs of dentists to the ancient pharaohs were unveiled yesterday at the Saqqara pyramid complex south of Cairo.
"It seems that the ancient Egyptians made a cemetery to the dentist and they are buried in the shadow of the Step Pyramid," Zahi Hawass, chief of Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities, said as he toured the site.
About 4,200 years old, the tombs honour a chief dentist and two other dentists, who served the royal families. They show that the ancient Egyptians "cared about the treatment of their teeth," Dr Hawass said.
He pointed out two hieroglyphs - an eye over a tusk, appearing frequently among the neat rows of symbols decorating the tombs' doors - that he said identify the men as dentists.
Tomb raiders beat the archaeologists to the site of the new tombs, launching their own dig two months ago but they were captured and jailed.
"We have to thank the thieves," Dr Hawass said.
They appear not to have noticed a curse inscription just inside the prominent doorway to the chief dentist's tomb, which showed a crocodile and a snake, designed to ward off invaders.
Dr Hawass said he believes only 30 per cent of what lies beneath Egyptian sands has been uncovered, and more discoveries are expected.
Excavation continues at Saqqara, about 12 miles south of Cairo, which is one of Egypt's most popular tourist sites and hosts a collection of temples, tombs and funerary complexes.