Egypt is one of the most sought after places for budding archaeologists. It’s not just because of its history as a hotbed for archaeological discovery, but also because there is still so much left to discover beneath those expansive desert sands.
Every couple of years, hard-working archaeologists find new evidence of the ancient culture in and around Egypt’s famed “Valley of the Kings”, though it’s not always the tombs of kings they find. Take for instance the find reported earlier this year…
Bones in the Earth
The ancient cities of Egypt still exist, buried beneath the desert sands. Every day, diligent archaeologists work hard to reclaim secrets from one of the most inhospitable climates on earth. Most of the time, they come up empty-handed, or lugging bits of broken pottery, but every so often, a new discovery will arise.
The Ancient Egyptians buried their dead in large swaths of land decked out with immense tombs and temples. They called these places, necropolises, or cities of the dead. At the very beginning of 2018, a group of modern archaeologists announced the exciting discovery of a previously unknown necropolis, untouched for millennia…
Though the discovery happened a few years back and full-scale excavation began late last year, the bulk of the information about the necropolis has only recently come to light. The excavation is being led by Dr. Mostafa Waziri, who is the Secretary General of the Supreme Council of Antiquities in Egypt. Dr. Waziri has been an expert in the field for decades.
Dr. Waziri’s team had been searching for the uncovered section of the cemetery of the 15th division of ancient Upper Egypt, when they came upon this new 2,000-year-old cemetery. The necropolis dates back to the Ptolemaic dynasty but also the Pharaonic Late Period. What’s most remarkable is that it contains not one, or two, but at least 8 tombs, each with multiple sarcophagi inside…
A Few Miles Off
The “new” necropolis was found just south of Cairo in the Minya Governorate. This particular series of tombs make up an underground tomb complex that lies a mere 3.8 miles from the Khmun necropolis Tuna el-Gebel.
The complex itself is not unlike others of its type that have been found over the years, though it contains an unusual number of burial shafts. Within these burial shafts are a number of family grave plots filled with human remains. All of these will give scientists plenty to study in the coming years…
Plenty of Folks
One of these tombs contained a total of 13 burials, or at least that’s how many they’ve discovered in there so far. There are a number of other bodies in the other family plots and a total of 8 complete tombs within the site. All in all, the team unearthed a total of 40 sarcophagi.
What’s interesting about one of the tombs is that it belongs to a man who, in his day, served as a high priest of Thoth, an Egyptian god. Thoth, who is depicted with the head of an ibis, is the ancient Egyptian god of wisdom, arbitration, writing, science, magic, and the judgement of the dead. This makes this place significant even in the days of the pharaohs…
Dr. Waziri and his team weren’t immediately sure that the priest, who was also given the title “One of the Great Five”, was as important as he was, until they began deciphering the hieroglyphics on the canopic jars in his tomb. The priest, known as Djehuty-Irdy-Es, served as one the most senior priests of Thoth.
Thoth’s significance in this context is because of the region itself. You see, before this new necropolis was uncovered, archaeologists had discovered thousands of mummified baboons and ibises, both species of animals sacred to Thoth, buried in the area. At the time they didn’t know why, now it is all becoming more clear…
Four of these canopic jars were carved from alabaster and lidded with the heads of the four sons of the god Horus. All of them were in good conditions and contained the preserved organs of Djehuty-Irdy-Es. Normally, these canopic jars are the first things stolen by tomb robbers and those that remain are broken, these were in remarkable shape.
In addition, the team found at least 1,000 ushabti figurines within the necropolis. These tiny, earthenware figures were placed in tombs to serve as servants to the deceased. They would follow the dead into the afterlife and perform manual labor for them or act as minions if they needed it. They also found mummies in the tombs as well…
One of the mummies was adorned with a bronze collar which depicted the goddess Nut, spreading her wings for protection in the afterlife. It was inlaid with blue and red beads of precious stone, bronze gilded sheets, two bronze eyes decorated with ivory and crystal, and four amulets of semi-precious stones as well.
Much to Find
There is much more to be found within the tomb, but the find has already made headlines for being unique amongst those in the area. Of course this comes with it’s own problems as well. Excavations of this kind can take many years and though that means many jobs, it means cataloguing the finds and distributing them will prove costly…
“We will need at least five years to work on the necropolis,” explained Antiquities Minister Kaled el-Enany. “This is only the beginning of a new discovery.” The minister also hopes that discoveries like these will help boost Egypt’s tourism. “We are very soon going to add a new archaeological attraction to Middle Egypt,” he explained.
The new necropolis isn’t the only recent find by Dr. Waziri’s band of archeological A-listers. A few years back, Fathi Yassin, Director-General of the West Bank Antiquities in Luxor, released information about an excavation that began on the Luxor site in 1998, which finally bore some fruit…
Years Since it Began
Archaeologists working under Fathi Yassin discovered about 287 statues of the goddess “Sekhmet”, whose names mean the Great Woman, Ptah’s beloved, eyes Ra, the lady of war and the lady of the two lands. She has the body of a female human woman and the head of a lioness.
Statues of Sekhmet
A collection of 27 fragmented statues of Sekhmet were uncovered as part of an Egyptian-European Archaeological Mission at the Colossi of Memnon area, while the team was working on a project meant to conserve the temple of King Amenhotep III and had been found quite by accident…
Dr. Mostafa Waziri came in to discuss the statues after the fact, explaining that most of them were carved in black granite and had a maximum height of about 2 meters. Some of Sekhmet’s representations see her sitting on a throne, holding the symbol of life in her left hand, or standing and holding a papyrus sceptre.
The head on Sekhmet, like most depictions of her, is crowned by a sundisk and the uraeus, a sacred Egyptian symbol, adorns her forehead. Dr. Hourig Sourouzian, who actually headed the mission, explained that the statues are in different states of preservation but he anticipates that they are clues to the area’s importance in Ancient Egyptian culture.