View of the tomb of Kaires from the pyramid of Neferirkare 📷 Czech Institute of Egyptology, Faculty of Arts, Charles University.

Archaeologists have found the remains of a tomb complex belonging to the ‘sole friend’ of an Egyptian pharaoh near a pyramid at Abusir in Egypt.

It’s lonely at the top – or so the popular saying goes, and this new discovery might just give us a glimpse into the heady mix of friendship and responsibility that went into being a priest in the highest echelons of ancient Egyptian society.

A team of archaeologists with the Czech Institute of Egyptology have spent a few weeks investigating a unique burial complex, which appears to belong to a priest and royal confidant called Kaires.

But he was no ordinary priest, and no ordinary confidant. Judging by the architecture of his tomb, and by some of the inscriptions found on a statue inside, this guy was exceptional.

Lower part of statue of Kaires 📷 Czech Institute of Egyptology, Faculty of Arts, Charles University

According to a statement from the investigating archaeologists, the inscriptions describe Kaires as ‘sole friend of the king’. And that’s not all.

They also call him ‘overseer of all the king’s works’, ‘keeper of the secret of the Morning House’ (a building where the pharaohs got dressed and ate breakfast), ‘foremost of the House of Life’ (an institution where Egyptians stored papyrus scrolls containing their knowledge and religious-philosophical treatises – like a library), ‘inspector of the priests serving in the pyramid complexes of kings Sahure and Neferirkare’, ‘priest of the goddess Hathor’, and ‘custodian of the two thrones (i.e. of southern and northern Egypt)’, and several other titles besides.

Burial chamber 📷 Czech Institute of Egyptology, Faculty of Arts, Charles University

Together, all these titles place Kaires at the level of a vizier (prime minister). But even so, say the investigating archaeologists, the architecture of his tomb still completely exceeds the contemporary customs even for someone of Kaires’ political status.