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Intriguing discoveries from million-mummy necropolis in Egypt revealed

Intriguing discoveries from million-mummy necropolis in Egypt revealed


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Known officially as Fag el-Gamous ( Way of the Water Buffalo ), the ‘Million Mummy Necropolis’, is an enormous cemetery that is believed to contain over one million burials of ordinary Egyptian citizens that were naturally mummified by the hot and dry desert sands over 1,500 years ago. Over three decades of excavations by Brigham Young University in Utah have revealed some incredible finds, the latest of which include the remains of giant male over 7 foot tall, an infant child wearing a tunic and jewelry, and unique groupings of burials clustered according to hair coloring, including blond and redheaded mummies.

The Fag el-Gamous necropolis, which lies along the eastern edge of the Fayum depression near Seila in Egypt, dates to the time when the Roman or Byzantine Empire controlled Egypt, from the 1 st to the 7 th century AD.

“The cemetery itself, covering approximately 300 acres (125 hectares), is almost entirely unplundered, though repeated digging for interment of bodies and later subsidence of the burial shafts have left the entire area in a very disturbed condition,” writes C. Wilfred Griggs from the Religious Studies Center at Brigham Young University (BYU). Project Director Kerry Muhlestein, an associate professor in the Department of Ancient Scripture at Brigham Young University, said in a paper he presented at the Society for the Study of Egyptian Antiquities Scholars Colloquium, "We are fairly certain we have over a million burials within this cemetery. It's large, and it's dense."

The burials in the Fag el-Gamous necropolis are extremely dense, leading researchers to conclude that there are over 1 million interments in the 300 acre-cemetery. Credit: Brigham Young University .

Griggs explains that the interments consist of shafts hewn through limestone bedrock, ranging from 1 to 23m in depth, into which shrouded remains in wooden sarcophagi were placed. Rocks were placed over the coffins and gypsum plaster poured on top, sealing the burial in its tomb.

An analysis of the relatively few grave goods that have been uncovered have led archaeologists to conclude that the cemetery was used for ordinary citizens of low status. “The observations that most burials do not have jewelry associated with them, and that the artifacts are made from relatively inexpensive and commonly available materials… lead us to the conclusion that burial jewelry in the excavated portion of the cemetery had a sentimental value for the families associated with burying the deceased, rather than religious or commercial value,” writes Griggs.

Mummified Child

According to a new report published in LiveScience, one of the recent discoveries at Fag el-Gamous includes the preserved remains of an infant found buried with several other mummies. The child had been wrapped in a tunic and wore two bracelets on each arm (see featured image) and a necklace. Since most jewelry in the necropolis has been found in female burials, the researchers believe the infant is a girl.

Archaeologists estimate the infant was 18 months old when she died. "She was buried with great care, as someone who obviously loved her very much did all they could to take care of this little girl in burial," the researchers wrote on the BYU Facebook Page . It's "very sad, but they succeeded. It was a beautiful burial."

A cluster burial with two adults and two children wrapped in fabric. Credit: Brigham Young University

Giant Mummy

One of the more surprising discoveries at the necropolis was the discovery of a mummy belonging to a male that was over 7 feet (2 meters) tall, incredibly unusual considering the poor nutrition of the citizens buried there. Muhlestein told Live Science that the great height may be related to a medical condition that caused an excess of growth hormone, but more research is needed to confirm whether this was the case.

The male was so tall that he did not fit into the burial shaft that had been prepared for him, “so they bent him in half and tossed him in," Muhlestein told the audience at the presentation at the Society for the Study of Egyptian Antiquities Scholars Colloquium in Toronto last month.

Blond and redheaded mummies

Another curious finding at Fag el-Gamous was a large proportion of mummies with blond and red hair, which were each clustered together in the same area. These clusters are interesting because they suggest "perhaps we have family areas or genetic groups [in certain areas], but we're still trying to explore that," Muhlestein said.

Griggs writes in his paper ‘ Excavating a Christian Cemetery Near Selia, in the Fayum Region of Egypt ’ that out of 37 adults analyzed, whose hair was still preserved, researchers found that 4 were redheads, 17 were blondes, 12 with light or medium brown hair, and only 5 with dark brown or black hair. “Of those whose hair was preserved 54% were blondes or redheads, and the percentage grows to 87% when light-brown hair color is added,” writes Griggs. “Such a preponderance of light-colored hair was unexpected, and it will be interesting to see if this trait continues to be exhibited throughout the cemetery.”

Redheaded female found at Fag el-Gamous. Credit: Brigham Young University

Despite over 30 years of research at the cemetery, archaeologists still do not know where more than a million mummies could have come from. The necropolis is fairly remote with only a small village nearby. There is a larger ancient town fairly close that was named Philadelphia after Ptolemy II Philadelphus, but it had a cemetery of its own.

"It's hard to know where all these people were coming from," Muhlestein told Live Science.

It is hoped that further excavations may answer some of the intriguing questions that have been raised by the million-mummy necropolis.

Featured image: The arm and hand of a young infant wearing a bracelet found at Fag el-Gamous. Credit: Brigham Young University .


New discoveries in Saqqara’s ancient tombs are rewriting Egyptian history

In recent months a series of discoveries down shafts in Saqqara, Egypt, has captivated the world of archaeology. Sudarsan Raghavan was able to descend on ropes into one. One mistake and he could have fallen 100ft

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A tourists’ camel rests in front of the Step Pyramid of Djoser

I n the tombs of Saqqara, new discoveries are rewriting ancient Egypt’s history

Seated in a yellow plastic laundry basket attached to two thick ropes, I was lowered into the earth. The light got dimmer, the temperature colder. A musty smell filled the air. The only sound was from the workmen above handling the ropes and yelling, “shweya!” (slowly).

One miscue and I could fall 100ft.

I was inside a burial shaft in Saqqara, the ancient necropolis roughly 19 miles south of Cairo. In recent months, a series of discoveries has captivated the world of archaeology.

The most significant find came in January, when archaeologists found inscriptions showing that the temple they were unearthing belonged to a previously unknown ancient queen, Queen Neit. She was the wife of King Teti, the first pharaoh of the Sixth Dynasty, which ruled more than 4,300 years ago as part of Egypt’s Old Kingdom.

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I was descending into the cemeterial netherworld below her funerary temple.

With every discovery, the government’s hopes rise that more tourists will arrive, bringing much-needed foreign currency and creating new jobs for millions

Midway down the shaft, the walls took on a honeycomb pattern, with large shelves carved into them. Thousands of years ago, they held painted coffins and mummies wrapped in linen and reeds. The shaft narrowed as I passed through a wood frame that supports the walls. Just above the bottom, water glistened on the walls like jewels.

The basket touched the ground.

My eyes adjusted to the dark. On the floor were two limestone coffins. Both damaged, their contents looted, perhaps more than 2,000 years ago. Who had been buried here? How and why were their coffins lowered so far into the earth? And how did the thieves know where to look?

“Our civilisation is full of mysteries,” NeRmeen Aba-Yazeed, a member of the archaeological team, said afterwards. “And we have discovered one of these mysteries.”

Zahi Hawass at the site where he and his team discovered evidence of Queen Neit

Before the inscription was found, King Teti was thought to have had only two wives, Iput and Khuit. But the realisation he had a third, Neit, with her own temple, was prompting a rethink of those ancient days.

“We are rewriting history,” Zahi Hawass, Egypt’s most well-known archaeologist and its former antiquities minister, would say later in the day.

Ancient history is being revealed in many parts of Egypt these days. In early February, archaeologists found 16 human burial chambers at the site of an ancient temple on the outskirts of the northern city of Alexandria. Two of the mummies had golden tongues, which Egyptian Antiquities Ministry officials say was to allow them to “speak in the afterlife”.

That same month, a massive 5,000-year-old brewery – believed to be the world’s oldest – was discovered in the southern city of Sohag. The beer, researchers hypothesise, was used in burial rituals for Egypt’s earliest kings.

One of the archaeologists is winched out of a shaft using a pulley and basket

Last month, ruins of an ancient Christian settlement were discovered in the Bahariya Oasis, nestled in Egypt’s Western desert. The find sheds new light on monastic life in the 5th century AD.

And just last week, archaeologists announced they had unearthed a 3,000-year-old “lost golden city” in the southern city of Luxor, a discovery that could be the biggest since the tomb of the boy king Tutankhamun.

With every discovery, the government’s hopes rise that more tourists will arrive, bringing much-needed foreign currency and creating new jobs for millions. Egypt’s tourism-dependent economy has suffered in the past decade from the political chaos that developed after the 2011 Arab Spring uprising.

The excavated bones of an ancient Egyptian child

The Saqqara necropolis is at once a centre of the country’s aspirations and of its subterranean secrets. It was part of the burial grounds for the ancient capital, Memphis, its ruins now a Unesco World Heritage site.

In Saqqara, 17 kings built pyramids to house their remains and possessions for what they believed was the transition to the afterlife. These pyramids include the world’s oldest, the Step Pyramid of Djoser, built in the 27th century BC. Recent finds have drawn the world’s attention, depicted in the Netflix film Secrets of the Saqqara Tomb and National Geographic’s Kingdom of the Mummies TV series.

In November, for instance, archaeologists dug up more than 100 ornately painted wooden coffins, some with mummies, and dozens of other artefacts, including amulets, funeral statues and masks. Some of the coffins had been found on those shelves I had passed during my descent.

Sarcophagi of ancient Egyptians found by Zahi Hawass’s archaeologists

After I emerged from the burial shaft, Hawass, 73, explained how the discoveries were reshaping the understanding of Pharaonic times.

“Now we are writing a new chapter in the history of the Old Kingdom by adding the name of a new queen of Teti that he never announced before,” he says, standing in the temple’s ruins, wearing his trademark wide-brimmed Indiana Jones hat and a cream-coloured safari jacket over a denim shirt and jeans.

But there was more to consider than just the emergence of a new queen. Could Neit have also been Teti’s daughter? Hawass’s team had found inscriptions that referred to Neit as the daughter of a pharaoh.

The view up the shaft that led to the newly discovered sarcophagi

Incest would not be new for the ancients. In Egyptian lore, the god Osiris had married his sister Isis. Pharaohs were widely believed to have married their sisters and daughters but that was during reigns later than Teti’s Sixth Dynasty.

Hawass asks: “Is she a daughter of a king of the Fifth Dynasty, or is she a daughter of Teti? If she is a daughter of Teti, it would be the first time in Egyptian history to have a king marrying his daughter.”

A short walk across the sand was another burial shaft where even more had been discovered about Teti’s legacy.

I followed Hawass down a ladder, 36ft into the ground. At the bottom, in a space the size of a walk-in closet, were wooden coffins stacked in piles. They were painted in hues of blue and red, some with intricate images of gods and goddesses. They still contained mummies, Hawass says, and the names of the deceased are written on the decaying wood. His team found 54 coffins here.

Archaeologist Zahi Hawass’s dig site at Saqqara where the discovery of a queen has reshaped the understanding of ancient Egyptians

From inscriptions on the coffins, the team has traced the subterranean cemetery to the 18th and 19th dynasties of Egypt’s New Kingdom, from more than 3,000 years ago. The discoveries were shedding light on a little understood period of Saqqara between 1570 and 1069 BC.

Teti, it appears, had been worshiped as a god in the New Kingdom. Many of his followers wanted to be buried around his pyramid, often visiting coffin and mummification workshops in Saqqara, Hawass says.

The poor were placed in simple wooden coffins but the colourful, ornately decorated ones that I was seeing had belonged to Teti’s wealthy followers.

Placed inside the coffins were miniature wooden boats, games, pottery and tiny gold pieces to carry and use in the afterlife. Little statuettes and amulets carry the shapes and names of gods and pharaohs.

Among the artefacts discovered were pieces of a 15ft papyrus that included texts of the Book of the Dead, a collection of spells written by priests to help the deceased pass through the underworld and into the afterlife.

Pottery, some imported, shows the ancient city’s importance as a centre for trade

Inside a store room, Ahmed Tarek and Maysa Rabea are placing the jagged pieces of the papyrus together, like trying to solve a jigsaw puzzle. They are also restoring and studying artifacts to gain more understanding of how Egyptians prepared themselves for the afterlife.

Shards of pottery found in the rubble unveil new details of ancient life. Many were imported, evidence that trade flourished between Egypt and Palestine, Cyprus, Crete and Syria.

Mohamed Mahmoud reassembles pieces of pottery to make them whole. In the tent next door, Asmaa Massoud analyzes skulls and other bones to determine age and cause of death. Next to her, in a small wooden box, is the mummy of a child.

“The excavations and artefacts show how much Saqqara was important in the New Kingdom,” Hawass says. “They tell us more about the beliefs, not only for the rich, but also for the poor.”

Some of the discoveries, however, defy explanation.

In a burial shaft, this one 63 ft deep, a 20-ton sarcophagus the size of a truck and made of granite sits at the bottom. How did it get there? It, too, was looted by thieves. How did they know where to look?

Hawass expects to encounter more mysteries. It will take 20 years to fully uncover the secrets here, he says. “In Saqqara, we have found only 30 per cent of what’s underneath,” he says. “It is a site that if you dig in any place, you’ll find something.”

The Washington Post’s Heba Farouk Mahfouz in Cairo contributed to this report.


2. The Mysterious Tomb of Alexandria

Archaeologists have found A tomb with a large sarcophagus in an ancient site of Sidi Gaber district in the Egyptian coastal province o Alexandria. Researchers first thought it to belong to Alexander the Great. But later findings discarded this assumption. The sarcophagus revealed three skeletons. Studies revealed that these skeletons may belong to soldiers. The evidence of oldest surgical intervention in ancient Egypt has been noticed from one of the three skulls.

alexandria-sarcophagus inside-the-sarcophagus opening-the-sarcophagus skulls-from-the-sarcophagus the-skeletal-remains-inside-the-sarcophagus


Intriguing discoveries from million-mummy necropolis in Egypt revealed - History

Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities A large mummified cat, most likely a young lion. This was one of the many animals found at the Saqqara necropolis.

Egyptian authorities have unveiled a trove of mummified animals and statues in remarkable condition. According to The Guardian, the discovery was made near the remains of a mummified adult lion that was found beneath the Saqqara necropolis in 2004.

The findings include mummified big cats, cobras, and crocodiles. There are dozens of mummified cats, 75 wooden and bronze cat statues, mummified birds, and even a mummified beetle three to four times bigger than usual. Experts say the haul dates back to the seventh century B.C.

Of the five large mummified wildcats, two have been identified as lion cubs. Meanwhile, three of them have yet to be identified. Head of Egypt’s Supreme Council for Antiquities, Mostafa Waziry, isn’t too concerned. He’s one of many who believe this stunning cache of relics will boost tourism to the country.

“If it’s a cheetah, a leopard, a lioness, a panther — whatever, it will be one of its kind,” he said.

Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities The trove reportedly dates back to the seventh century B.C. and boasts an impressive amount of cat statues.

Officials like Khaled El-Enany, Egypt’s antiquities minister, couldn’t agree with Waziry more. El-Enany called this find “wonderful promotion for Egypt.”

To his point, this archaeological find is more than a mere unearthing of ancient relics — it provides insight into the religious, cultural, and social lives of those who routinely mummified animals or made statues of them.

“People would make devotional offerings in the form of animals as mummies,” said Dr. Salima Ikram, an Egyptologist and mummy expert at the American University of Cairo. “This would have more potency as a blood sacrifice, compared to stone or wooden images.”

It’s largely agreed upon in the field of Egyptology that these ancient worshippers either believed these mummified animals were deities themselves, or actively mummified them as ritualistic offerings to the gods.

Ikram leans toward the latter. She called this discovery “one of the most exciting series of finds in the world of animal mummies ever.”

According to IFL Science, officials also found numerous statues depicting Sekhmet, the lioness goddess, as well as Neith, the goddess of war. In terms of animal statues, the rest consisted of bulls, mongooses, ibis, falcons, and the ancient Egyptian god Anubis in animal form.

Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities It’s largely agreed upon that animals were mummified either as offerings to the gods, or because they were worshipped as gods themselves.

It isn’t just the historical appeal that has officials so enthused about the find. Tourism to Egypt has not been what it once was — with 2010 marking 14 million visitors, but the 2011 revolution against Hosni Mubarak plummeting chances of those figures in the years since then.

Now, with the Grand Egyptian Museum near the Saqqara necropolis set to open in 2020, there simply couldn’t be a more fortuitous time to unearth such a trove of globally appealing relics. They will most likely be on display when the time comes.

Although Egypt has been aggressive and harsh toward anti-government protests and their demonstrators — arresting 4,427 people in September — tourism seems to have risen substantially. In 2018, 11.3 million people visited the country.

Naturally, those eager to boost that figure by three million additional people hope that it’s an inherent love of ancient Egyptian culture, relics, and artifacts that will do the job. For now, there are three large mummified wildcats ready to be analyzed.

After learning about the dozens of mummified animals and statues discovered in Egypt, read about a new study that suggests Ancient Egyptians hunted crocodiles specifically so they could mummify them. Then, learn about the 5,600-year-old mummy that revealed the oldest Egyptian embalming recipe ever found.


The discovery of Iufaa tomb

The discovery of the tomb of ancient Egyptian priest Iufaa by a Czech archaeological mission, working at Abusir in 1998, made the headlines in every country.

It is exceedingly rare to find an intact tomb such as this one. The head of the Czech expedition, Miroslav Verner, said he had never thought he would find an intact tomb. “It was a big surprise to me. I could not sleep at all the night before the opening of the sarcophagus”, Verner said. He added “it was a once in a lifetime event for an archaeologist to find an intact tomb”.

The burial chamber of Iufaa’s tomb was dominated by a huge white limestone sarcophagus weighing about 50 tons. It had a rectangular shaped and wide flat lid with lower edges. The chest of the sarcophagus, standing on a platform about 35cm high, was 3.8m long, 3.3m wide, and 1.4m high. The lid, joined to the chest by a thick layer of coarse lime plaster, was about a metre thick.

All four outer faces of the chest of the sarcophagus were completely covered by columns of hieroglyphic inscriptions roughly cut in low relief. The inscriptions on the anthropoid sarcophagus consisted of spells to protect the deceased and seven snakes responsible for protecting him in the afterlife. The uncovered lid had two irregular handles protruding to the East and West, respectively.

According to the inscriptions, the tomb had been built for Iufaa, who was born to a lady called Ankht-es, but the name of the father was not found. Iufaa held the titles of hrp-hwwt, or director of the palaces, and hry hbt, or lector priest.

Due to high levels of natural humidity in the tomb, all the pieces of the original burial equipment were badly decomposed. In spite of immediate treatment by conservators at the conservation department of the Saqqara inspectorate, as the equipment which were made of organic matter (such as papyrus and wood), were found to be badly degraded. Conservator managed to partly rescue the equipment from immediate decomposition.

All the pieces of the original burial equipment found inside the burial chamber, as well as other important finds, were transferred to a storeroom. At the end of the season’s work, the entrance to the burial chamber was officially closed by two blocks and sealed by a committee of the inspectors of antiquities at Saqqara.

In the similar way, the corridors leading to the burial chamber (from two smaller shafts) were filled with clean sand, their mouths covered with concrete slabs. It was interesting to note at the time that all of the four canopic jars found in the tomb were filled with liquid to the top. One, in particular, contained a material which had a strong odour that may have come from the remains of the mummification process. I believe that it consisted of remnants of the hot resin in which each layer of the bondages wrapped around the mummy was drenched.

Finally, the initial opening of this intact tomb was not made public because of fears of tomb robbers in the area. The area was well guarded, and the safety of the contents of the tomb secured.

OPENING THE SARCOPHAGUS

In February 1998, the opening of the sarcophagus in Iufaa’s tomb was carried out very carefully, and all necessary precautions were taken to avoid any miscalculation or accident.

Verner arrived in Egypt with devices to be used in the lifting of the lid. Much preparation had to be done to prepare for the creation of an access to the opening of the burial chamber and the lifting of the 20-ton lid of the sarcophagus.

It is not easy to find the words to describe the courage of the people involved in this project, particularly the workmen. Working in the desert, at the bottom of a huge shaft, was not easy. Every drop of water had to be brought out on the backs of donkeys, along with 30 tons of steel rods (some of them almost 3cm in diameter), cement, wooden beams, and planks. In total about 400 cubic metres of concrete was produced as part of an effort to stabilise the shaft of the tomb and make sure and could be opened under a safe reinforced concrete gable.

The expedition built a new wooden staircase in preparation for visits to the tomb during the opening. But before the staircase could be built, they had to send down a large wooden sledge to be used to open the 20-ton lid. The length of the sledge was about 7.5m and weighed 600kg.

After these preparations, Verner met Gaballah Ali, the then secretary-general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA), and myself to inform us of the opening on 17 February 1998.

I was in Abusir every day before this historic event. An ingenious plan had been drawn up to raise the huge lid of the limestone sarcophagus by a combination of hydraulic and mechanical jacks to the height of about one metre. With the assistance of the workmen, the lid was moved about 2cm so that it could be lifted up to the desired one metre. Four long wooden beams were inserted under the raised lid. Two mechanical jacks were then used to push the lid aside to a new resting place.

We were shocked to find beneath the limestone lid an unbelievable surprise. The removal of the lid revealed a beautiful anthropoid sarcophagus of dark greenish black schist. This anthropoid sarcophagus was firmly embedded in a mould within the limestone chest. The side walls were finely carved. There was fine detail in the face and coloured hieroglyphic inscriptions and scattered vignettes in sunk relief. The opening of the second sarcophagus took place on 25 February 1998.

The ancient Egyptians had put a layer of plaster and mudbrick above the anthropoid coffin to prevent humidity from reaching it. Everyone was afraid that the opening might see a repeat of the empty coffin found in 1954 inside the pyramid of Sekhmet at Saqqara, revealed during a press conference and in front of the then prime minister of Egypt.

I told Verner that we should not open the anthropoid sarcophagus until we had had a press conference on 27 February. The then minister of culture Farouk Hosni, Gaballah, the world press and television crews, and a team from the US magazine National Geographic attended the opening of the lid of the anthropoid sarcophagus. Under the completely rotten lid, which turned into powder by the mere touch of a finger, there was the mummy of Iufaa. We were the first to see him since he had been laid to rest 2,500 years before.

The mummy was firmly bound with linen wrappings and glued together by dark resin. Traces of bright gilding remained on the portion of the face that had not been damaged by humidity. A broad collar known to the ancient Egyptians as wesekh went from the neck to the breast. Over the body lay a fragile net, a shroud of blue faience beads, among which were number of cut-out figures of the goddess Nut of the sky on the chest. There were two figures of the sons of Horus on the thigh and the sister goddesses Isis and Nephtys kneeling at the ankles.

On 1 March, we moved the mummy by police motorcade to Giza for X-ray examination by Eugen Strouhal. He found that Iufaa had died at the age 54, and the mummy was then returned to Abusir.

As I always say, you never know what secrets the sands of Egypt may hide. My friend, the archaeologist Mark Linz, told me later that he would never forget the minute when the sarcophagus was opened, and we smelled the history of 3,000 years around us.

*The writer is an Egyptian archaeologist, Egyptologist and former Minister of Antiquities.


Experts reveal new discovery at Egyptian pyramids

Experts revealed on Sunday new findings at two of Egypt's famed pyramids, boosting efforts to unravel whether the ancient world's iconic monuments contain secret chambers.

For the past three months a team of researchers from Egypt, France, Canada and Japan have been scanning four pyramids with thermal cameras to see if they contain unknown structures or cavities.

Operation Scan Pyramids began on 25 October to search for hidden rooms inside Khufu - also known as the Great Pyramid - and Khafre in Giza and the Bent and Red pyramids in Dahshur, all south of Cairo.

The project is expected to continue until the end of 2016, and applies a mix of infrared thermography, muon radiography imaging and 3D reconstruction - all of which the researchers say are non-invasive and non-destructive techniques.

On Sunday, experts revealed new findings on some of the limestone blocks that make up the western flank of the Red pyramid and northern flank of Khufu.

"There is a clear separation of temperature on the west face of Red pyramid. The bottom is colder than the top," Matthieu Klein of Canada's Laval University told a news conference.

"It's interesting. We have no answers yet. Could it be because of the wind? Maybe, but it's interesting," he said, adding that the difference in temperature was of three to six degrees Celsius.

A video projection of the data recorded by the thermal cameras showed hues of red on the blocks where heat was detected and blue and magenta for the cooler ones.

Klein said two anomalies were also located on the northern flank of Khufu, where experts have previously found similar "points of interest" on the monument's eastern face.

Experts say they will carry out more investigations to include further data analysis of the anomalies detected so far.

"The primary result tells us that we have some news, some good news," Antiquities Minister Mamduh al-Damati said.

"We will have some secrets to solve in the pyramids, but it's very early to say what they are."

At 146 metres (480 feet) tall, Khufu pyramid, named after the son of pharaoh Snefru, is considered one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, built some 4,500 years ago.

It has three known chambers, and like other pyramids in Egypt was intended as a pharaoh's tomb.

The Red pyramid, built by Snefru, is 105 metres tall and located to the north of the Bent pyramid at the Dahshur necropolis.


Amazing mummy discovery: High priest's 2,500-year-old remains uncovered

Archaeologists uncovered the 2,500-year-old remains of a powerful ancient Egyptian high priest in dramatic fashion on Sunday.

The opening of the priest’s stone sarcophagus was broadcast by the Discovery Channel during “Expedition Unknown: Egypt Live,” a two-hour live event. Archaeologists discovered what they describe as an “exquisitely preserved” mummy inside the sealed sarcophagus, covered in gold banding.

The incredible find was made at Al-Ghorifa, a remote site about 165 miles south of Cairo. Located within the inner chambers of the burial site, experts accessed the sarcophagus via a network of ancient tunnels.

Two other mummies were found at the site, one of which appears to be a female, discovered inside a “Family Tomb” alongside objects such as an ancient board game, the remains of a family dog and four jars containing the mummy’s organs.

Archaeologists opened a sealed stone sarcophagus to discover the high priest's mummified remains. (Discovery Channel)

In a statement, Discovery Channel explained that the third mummy discovered was not a high priest or well preserved. Nonetheless, objects in the tomb and inscriptions on the sarcophagus indicate that he was a singer in the temple of Thoth, an ancient Egyptian god.

Archaeologists also discovered an incredible 2,500-year-old wax head, which is thought to be a cast of “Irt Hrw,” one of the high priests.

The necropolis has been largely shrouded in mystery, although another high priest’s sarcophagus was discovered nearby in 1927. The mummy, however, was missing from the tomb.

Archaeologists also discovered a 2,500-year-old wax head, which is thought to be a cast of High Priest “Irt Hrw." (Discovery Channel)

Sunday’s live event kicks off the new season of “Expedition Unknown,” which premieres April 10 on Discovery Channel.

Egypt continues to reveal fresh details of its rich history. The secrets of a mysterious “Tomb of the Warriors,” for example, were recently revealed in a PBS documentary.

Archaeologists have also discovered the wreck of an extremely rare vessel that traveled the Nile around 2,500 years ago, solving an ancient puzzle.

The opening of the high-priest's sarcophagus was broadcast live by Discovery Channel. (Discovery Channel)

In another project, archaeologists recently found a large ram-headed sphinx that is linked to King Tutankhamun’s grandfather. In other projects, a teenage girl’s skeleton was discovered in a mysterious grave near the Meidum pyramid, south of Cairo.

Last month, experts announced the discovery of dozens of mummies in ancient desert burial chambers. Archaeologists also recently explained the strange brown spots on some of the paintings in King Tutankhamun’s tomb.

In January, archaeologists announced the discovery of ancient tombs in the Nile Delta north of Cairo. In a separate project, two ancient tombs dating back to the Roman period were uncovered in Egypt’s Western Desert.

In November 2018, researchers confirmed the discovery of eight limestone sarcophagi containing mummies at a site 25 miles south of Cairo. Last year, researchers also uncovered a "massive" building that was once part of Egypt’s ancient capital city.

In another project, archaeologists discovered a stunning sphinx statue at an ancient temple in southern Egypt.

Last summer, experts unlocked the secrets of a mysterious ancient ‘cursed’ black granite sarcophagus. The massive coffin, which was excavated in the city of Alexandria, was found to contain three skeletons and gold sheets with the remains.

Archaeologists also found the oldest solid cheese in the tomb of Ptahmes, mayor of the ancient city of Memphis.

A mummy buried in southern Egypt more than 5,000 years ago has also revealed its grisly secrets, shedding new light on prehistoric embalming practices.

Fox News’ Chris Ciaccia and The Associated Press contributed to this article. Follow James Rogers on Twitter @jamesjrogers


Archaeologists Discover Teenage Mummy Buried With Trove of Ornate Jewelry

In late April, Egypt’s Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities announced the discovery of a teenage mummy buried alongside an elaborate array of jewelry.

As Laura Geggel reports for Live Science, Egyptian and Spanish archaeologists unearthed the mummy while conducting excavations ahead of construction at the Draa Abul Naga necropolis on Luxor’s West Bank. The girl’s remains date to Egypt’s 17th dynasty, which lasted from 1580 to 1550 B.C. She was only 15 or 16 years old at the time of her death.

The team found the teenager lying on her right side in a painted coffin crafted out of a sycamore tree trunk. She was laid to rest while wearing two spiral earrings that appear to be plated with copper leaf, a bone ring, a ring made of blue glass, and four necklaces linked together by a glazed ceramic—or faience—clip, according to Nevine El-Aref of Ahram Online.

The ornate necklaces feature beads made of amethyst, glazed ceramic, carnelian, amber and quartz. (Courtesy of the Egyptian Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities)

“Particularly ornate,” in the words of the Times’ Magdy Saman, the 24- to 27.5-inch-long necklaces boast blue faience beads of varying hues, as well as amethyst, carnelian, amber and quartz. One of the pendants features a scarab amulet depicting Horus, the falcon-headed god of kingship and the sky.

Near the girl’s coffin, the team found artifacts including a miniature mud coffin containing a wooden ushabti, or funerary figurine, wrapped in linen bandages two mummified cats a set of two leather balls and a pair of red leather sandals, reports Francesca Street for CNN.

“The sandals are in a good state of preservation, despite being 3,600 years old,” says expedition director José Galán in the statement.

The four necklaces are tied together by a glazed ceramic clip. (Courtesy of the Egyptian Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities)

Per Ahram Online, the shoes are adorned with engravings of Bes, the protector god of pregnant women and children, and Taweret, a goddess whose appearance combines aspects of a hippopotamus, a crocodile and a human woman. Other motifs found on the sandals range from a pair of cats to an ibex and a rosette. Galán says the sandals’ size and appearance suggest they belonged to a woman.

The mummy’s remains are in a poor state of conservation, making it difficult for the archaeologists to ascertain the cause of her untimely passing. Given the wealth of artifacts found in the teenager’s grave, the team suspects she was a member of a high-class Egyptian family. According to the Times, the jewelry may be her bridal trousseau.

Mohamed Abdel-Badie, head of the Upper Egypt archaeological department, tells the Times that the researchers plan on studying the girl’s remains further in hopes of gaining a better understanding of the circumstances surrounding her death. Additionally, the team will compare the leather balls found in the tomb with those seen in wall paintings, perhaps shedding light on whether the equipment was used in games or choreographed dances.

These leather balls may have been used in games or choreographed dances. (Courtesy of the Egyptian Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities)


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A BRIEF HISTORY OF EGYPT

Prehistoric Egypt pre–3100 BC

Early Dynastic Period 3100–2686 BC

1st Intermediate Period 2181–2055 BC

Middle Kingdom 2055–1650 BC

2nd Intermediate Period 1650–1550 BC

3rd Intermediate Period 1069–664 BC

Achaemenid Egypt 525–332 BC

Roman & Byzantine Egypt 30 BC–641 AD

French occupation 1798–1801

Egypt under Muhammad Ali 1805–1882

Khedivate of Egypt 1867–1914

British occupation 1882–1953

Sultanate of Egypt 1914–1922

Kingdom of Egypt 1922–1953

*Time period from which tomb KV 40 is believed to originate.

Yet scientists are baffled about where the huge numbers of mummies came from - the remains of a nearby village is too small to warrant such a large cemetery and the nearest town, named Philadelphia after King Ptolemy II Phiadelphus, has its own burial sites.

Archaeologists have also uncovered a bizarre range of mummies, including one man who is more than seven feet (213 cm) tall.

They have also discovered that the mummies appear to be clustered together by hair colour, with those with blond hair in one area and all of those with red hair in another.

Professor Kerry Muhlestein, project director of the excavation at Brigham Young University, in Utah, said: 'The cemetery is densely populated. 'In a square that is 5 x 5 meters across and usually just over 2 meters deep, we will typically find about 40 burials.

'The cemetery is very large, and so far seems to maintain that kind of burial density throughout.

'Thus the maths suggests that there are over a million mummies in the cemetery, though we cannot be certain of this without further exploration and a thorough academic review process.'

Although the Fag el-Gamous necropolis, which is named after a nearby road that translates as 'Way of the Buffalo', was first discovered nearly 30 years ago, archaeologists are still trying to piece together what they have found there.

Annual excavations at the site, on the eastern edge of the Faiyum region, near the city of Silah, regularly unearth mummified remains and Professor Muhlestein presented the latest discoveries at the Scholars Colloquim at the Society for the Study of Egyptian Antiquities last month.

Among the recent discoveries made last year were the mummified remains of a little girl aged around 18 months old, still with two bracelets on each arm.

Unlike royal Egyptian mummies, the people buried at Fag el-Gamous had few goods buried with them and were laid in the ground without coffins.

Their internal organs were also rarely removed, an important part of the mummification process, so it is the arid environment of the desert that is largely thought to have preserved the bodies.

However, with the latest discovery of the little girl, Professor Muhlestein said there appears to have also been some attempt by those who buried her to use the full mummification process.

Writing on the team's Facebook page, which Professor Muhlestein only recently updated in an attempt to keep the discoveries secret, said: 'This mummy was beautifully wrapped in a tunic and with other nice wrappings.

Many bodies were found in clusters, like these wrapped remains of two children and two adults

Bodies tended to be clustered by hair colour, like this one with long blonde hair that is thought to be female

'There was some evidence that they tried much of the full mummification process. The toes and toenails and brain and tongue were amazingly preserved.

'We found a wonderful necklace and two bracelets on each arm. The jewellery makes us think it was a girl, but we cannot tell.

'She was buried with great care as someone who obviously loved her very much did all they could to take care of this little girl in burial. Very sad.

'But they succeeded, it was a beautiful burial. She had been buried with several other mummies, so we are interested in examining them.'

Another woman, with long blonde hair, was found buried among a group of other bodies that all had healthy sets of teeth.

Professor Muhlestein said: 'Quite a few of our mummies had excellent teeth, something that is unusual.

Scientists have already excavated more than 1,700 mummies, preserved by the hot dry desert in the Faiyum region of Egypt about 60 miles (96km) south of Cairo. They believe there are around a million to be found

The mummies were found in deep shafts hacked into the limestone bedrock beneath the surface of the desert

More than 1,700 bodies have been recovered from the 300 acre site since it was discovered 30 years ago

'One wonders if it is genetics that caused a group that may be related to each other to have better teeth than the norm.

'Of course we don't know that they are related just because they are buried near each other, but throughout the history of the world it is common for families to be buried near each other.

'It seems likely, but we cannot assume.'

He added: 'The cemetery is largely a Roman period cemetery, located in the Fayoum area of Egypt.

'The burials are not in tombs, but rather in a field of sand. The people in the cemetery represent the common man.

'They are the average people who are usually hard to learn about because they are not very visible in written sources.

'They were poor, yet they put a tremendous amount of their resources into providing beautiful burials.'

With the cemetery stretching over 300 acres, Professor Muhlestein believes there are many more secrets to be uncovered in its burial shafts.

A small pyramid built nearby to the cemetery more than 4,500 years ago - two millennia before the cemetery was first used - may also hold some more clues as to what these people were doing here.

'It's hard to know where all these people were coming from,' Professor Muhlestein told Live Science.

Many of the best preserved bodies have been wrapped in linen or reeds, which together with the dry desert climate has helped to mummify the remains, although some bodies had also had their organs removed

Researchers conduct annual excavations at the site but believe there could be a million bodies buried there

THE FATTY DIET OF EGYPT'S ANCIENT MUMMIES

While some of the discoveries at Fag el-Gamous show a surprising degree of good health, such as having full sets of teeth, mummies from ancient Egypt have shown that Ancient Egyptians had quite unhealthy lifestyles.

Scans of 4,000-year-old mummies have revealed evidence of hardening of the arteries – a condition which can lead to heart attacks and strokes.

Earlier studies had revealed fatty arteries in a large number of Egyptian mummies but critics had dismissed the find as related to their luxurious, fatty diets.

Much of the discoveries have yet to be properly published as the archaeologists have been reluctant to reveal the exact location of the cementery.

Professor Muhlestein described how one mummy was found folded in half in order to fit him into the burial shaft. He believes that the man, who was over 7ft tall (213cm) may have suffered from a medical condition caused by an excess of growth hormone, but said more research needs to be done to prove this.

He also believes that some of the clusters by hair colour may actually be due to people being buried in family groups and so are related.

He hopes that genetic testing may be possible to help show how some of the mummies were related to each other.

Together with the bodies, archaeologists have also discovered glass beads, linen, jewelry and even colourful children's boots.

'A lot of their wealth, as little as they had, was poured into these burials,' said Professor Muhlestein.

This skeleton was found entombed inside an unusual triangle shaped vault at the bottom of a burial shaft


Cache of mummified cats, lions recently discovered on display at Egyptian pyramid site

A cache of recently discovered mummified cats, cobras, crocodiles, and birds was put on display in Egypt on Saturday as more details were revealed.

Archaeologists discovered the trove last year near the Step Pyramid of Djoser in Saqqara, south of the capital – near where other similar artifacts have been found in vast necropolis.

“We are finding here hundreds of objects,” said Antiquities Minister Khaled el-Anany. “All of them are very interesting from the Egyptological point of view to know better this area.”

Cat statues that were found inside a cache, at the Saqqara area near its necropolis, are pictured in Giza, Egypt, Saturday. (REUTERS/Hayam Adel)

Tests are underway to determine if two of the mummified animals are lion cubs, the BBC reported, adding that the discovery of intact lions is considered rare.

73 bronze statuettes depicting god Osiris are displayed in Saqqara, south Giza, Egypt. Saturday, Nov. 23, 2019. (AP Photo/Hamada Elrasam)

Saqqara is an ancient burial ground that served as the necropolis for Memphis, the capital of ancient Egypt for more than two millennia.

Located around 18 miles south of Cairo, Saqqara was an active burial ground for more than 3,000 years and boasts at least 11 pyramids – including the Step Pyramid. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

A cat statue that was found inside a cache, at the Saqqara area near its necropolis is pictured in Giza, Egypt, Saturday. (REUTERS/Hayam Adel)

Archaeologists frequently find mummified cats but the recovery of a lion is rare. In 2004, the first lion skeleton was found in Saqqara, revealing the sacred status of the animal in ancient times.

Archaeologists also found wooden and bronze cat statues representing the ancient goddess Bastet and a rare large stone scarab, which Mostafa Waziri, secretary-general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, described as “the largest all over the world.”

Wooden and clay mummies masks are displayed in Saqqara, south Giza, Egypt. Saturday, Nov. 23, 2019. The new discovery was displayed at a makeshift exhibition at the famed Step Pyramid of Djoser in Saqqara, south of Cairo, near the mummies and other artifacts were found in a vast necropolis. (AP Photo/Hamada Elrasam)

They also displayed two mummies of ichneumon, or the Egyptian mongoose, wrapped in linen bandages and wooden and tin-glazed statuettes of the goddess Sekhmet, represented as a woman with the head of a lioness. Scholars say Sekhmet (1390-1252 B.C.) was a goddess of war and the destroyer of the enemies of the sun god Re.

The Saqqara discovery is the latest in a series of new finds that Egypt has sought to publicize in an effort to revive its key tourism sector, which was badly hit by the turmoil that followed the 2011 uprising that toppled longtime autocrat Hosni Mubarak.


Watch the video: Eight mummies discovered in ancient tomb near Egypts Luxor (May 2022).

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