We witnessed some fascinating Egyptian discoveries in January 2022 - a tomb with dozens of mummies (on the image), sphinx statues, and so much more. Credit: University of Milan

Archaeological Discoveries Unveil Sphinx Statues, Mummies and More in Egypt

Egypt will never cease to amaze us with its history. You will need years to visit all the incredible places that have been uncovered to date and that is but a small part of what remains to be unearthed in the future. Only in January, there were several significant discoveries in various Egyptian sites - mummies, statues, ancient buildings, and more.

advertisement

Dozens of mummies were discovered in the ancient Egyptian city of Aswan

Entrance to the new tomb. Credit: University of Milan
Entrance to the new tomb. Credit: University of Milan

In 2017, archaeologists from Egypt and Italy launched a joint research project aimed at protecting the area around the mausoleum of the Aga Khan III in the city of Aswan.

Due to the threats of illegal excavations, scientists began security and rescue work, as a result of which they managed to discover more than 300 ancient tombs on an area of ​​​​about 25 thousand square meters, the construction of which was carried out from the middle of the 1st millennium BC to the first half of the 1st millennium AD.

advertisement
One of the discovered Egyptian mummies. Credit: University of Milan
One of the discovered Egyptian mummies. Credit: University of Milan

One of the most significant finds of the Egyptian-Italian mission was made in 2019 when archaeologists discovered a tomb that had been used many times over many centuries – from the Ptolemaic era (3rd-2nd century BC) to the Roman period (1st-2nd century AD). ).

Like many burial structures found in the area, it turned out to be looted, but scientists found 35 mummies, as well as valuable artifacts – vessels, palm wood stretchers, figurines, and cardboard.

Archaeologists from the Egyptian-Italian mission explored the territory to the west of the city of Aswan in the vicinity of the mausoleum of Aga Khan III, which was built in 1956 on the site of an ancient necropolis of the 6th century BC – 4th century AD.

An incredible colorful cartonnage discovered inside a coffin. Credit: University of Milan
An incredible colorful cartonnage discovered inside a coffin. Credit: University of Milan

Scientists managed to find a large tomb, which was plundered in antiquity. However, 20 well-preserved mummies dating back to the Greco-Roman period still rested in it. Among them, archaeologists singled out the mummy of a child, which, along with the cartonnage, was in a terracotta sarcophagus.

advertisement

The tomb itself consists of four burial chambers carved into the rock, the entrance to which was equipped with sandstone blocks and adobe bricks. According to researchers from the University of Milan, members of the same family were buried in this burial structure.

A barbotine bowl. Credit: University of Milan
A barbotine bowl. Credit: University of Milan

In addition to the Egyptian mummies themselves, archaeologists managed to find valuable artifacts of that era – a sacrificial table, a copper necklace, stone slabs with inscriptions, and wooden figurines depicting the mythical Ba bird.

Archaeologists discovered the remains of important Egyptian headquarters in Sinai

After the crisis of the First Intermediate Period and the beginning of the Middle Kingdom, which marked the new heyday of the country, the activity of the Egyptians spread to many areas of South Sinai. Its most important center was the Serabit el-Khadim region, where during the XII dynasty (in the XX-XVIII centuries BC), the rock temple of Hathor was built.

The sacred stone of this goddess was considered to be turquoise. In Serabit el-Khadim, there were more than 20 mines, in which work was carried out in the era of the New Kingdom. In addition, this area is famous for the finds of Proto-Sinaitic inscriptions from the 17th-16th centuries BC.

Very close to Serabit el-Khadim, six kilometers to the west is a site rich in copper ores (malachite and azurite) – Wadi al-Nasab. Huge accumulations of slag (up to 100 thousand tons) were found here, as well as inscriptions from the times of the Middle and New Kingdoms and, again, Proto-Sinaitic texts. In them, the leaders of mining expeditions in the South Sinai are mentioned as high-status officials.

Aerial view of the discovered building. Credit: Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities / Facebook
Aerial view of the discovered building. Credit: Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities / Facebook

During the excavations conducted in Wadi al-Nasab by the Egyptian mission led by Dr. Mustafa Nur ed-Din, archaeologists discovered the remains of a two-story building made of large blocks of sandstone. Rectangular in plan, the building occupied an area of ​​about 225 square meters. The second floor was not preserved, only a staircase inside the building that led upstairs remained.

advertisement

On the first floor, scientists cleared two halls, two rooms (possibly serving as living quarters), a kitchen, and a lavatory. The floors were laid with stone slabs, and in the center of the most extensive rooms, there were traces of the installation of columns that supported the ceiling.

The secretary-general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities of Egypt, Dr. Mostafa Waziri, commented on the find, saying that this separate building in the valley was surrounded on different sides by turquoise and especially copper mining areas.

Archaeologists suggest that here was the residence of a local leader who was in charge of all mining operations and the search for new deposits in the territory of Wadi al-Nasab.

The study of the layers cleared by archaeologists revealed a number of stages in the history of this structure. It was built during the Middle Kingdom. Two inscriptions with the name of Pharaoh Amenemhat III were found nearby, and this indicates that in the second half of the 19th century BC, ore mining was very active here.

A wider view of the archaeological site. Credit: Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities / Facebook
A wider view of the archaeological site. Credit: Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities / Facebook

In the Second Intermediate Period, when Egypt was going through a deep crisis and the collapse of a single state, and the Hyksos dominated in the northern part of the country, the building was abandoned. At this time, the Egyptians did not conduct any work in the Sinai.

After the revival of Egypt in the era of the New Kingdom, the building again became the headquarters of the Egyptian chief of local mining. Another inscription found nearby mentions Pharaoh Merneptah, son of Ramesses II, who ruled at the end of the 13th century BC.

advertisement

After the collapse of the New Kingdom in the 11th century BC, the building was not used, apparently for a very long time. Only in the Roman period was active activity resumed here, and the stone structure was rebuilt.

A new entrance appeared in it, dividing walls between the halls, and some rooms were equipped as workshops for copper smelting. In the upper layers of cultural deposits inside them, archaeologists found copper-smelting furnaces and four copper ingots weighing from 1200 to 1300 grams. In another room, a turquoise processing workshop was set up.

Determining the periods of use of the building and the long periods of time when it was abandoned is very important for Egyptologists. It allows you to establish in which eras the mines of Wadi al-Nasab were developed most intensively, as well as to judge the duration of periods of a kind of timelessness in which mining fell into decline.

The scientists will be able to compare the data obtained with the history of other Egyptian mining centers in Sinai and clarify the role of Wadi al-Nasab in supplying Egypt with valuable copper.

Researchers found fragments of Sphinx statues in Luxor

An international team of archaeologists working on the Colossi of Memnon and the Temple of Amenhotep III project in Luxor reported the discovery of fragments of statues, as well as columns and remnants of walls, which depict scenes of celebration or rituals.

The temple of Amenhotep III has been studied for almost a hundred years. The fact is that, despite the general good preservation of the monuments of Ancient Egypt, this particular building was not lucky.

advertisement

Judging by the descriptions, the temple occupied a huge area – up to 35 hectares – and was divided by pylons into four courtyards and surrounded by a common wall.

Around 1200 BC there was a terrible earthquake, which destroyed most of the building. The Egyptians were in no hurry to restore the memorial complex of the one who was once revered as a god. On the contrary, the stones of the temple were used to build the monumental tomb of Merneptah, the pharaoh of the 19th dynasty.

As a result, two 18-meter gate statues of Amenhotep III, known by the erroneous name Colossi of Memnon, have come down to us relatively intact.

The temple suffered not only from earthquakes and greedy successor pharaohs. Built on the banks of the Nile, it was regularly flooded. Now some parts of the complex are permanently underwater. It was in the water that new finds were made: two large sphinxes (about eight meters high) were almost completely immersed in it near the third pylon.

Sphinx statue with the head of the pharaoh Amenhotep III. Credit: Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities
Sphinx statue with the head of the pharaoh Amenhotep III. Credit: Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities

Apparently, they depicted the pharaoh himself: human heads are equipped with a royal beard and a nemes – a striped headdress (a scarf tied in a special way), which only pharaohs could wear. On the necks of the sphinxes, the sculptors depicted wide collars – also a distinctive feature of the ritual royal attire.

On the fragment, which, most likely, was once part of the chest of the sphinx, after clearing, the inscriptions became visible. One of them mentions the “beloved Amon-Ra” – this is how the name of Amenhotep is deciphered. Other pieces of the body and paws were also safely removed from the water, and work is underway to preserve them.

advertisement
Statue of Sekhmet. Credit: Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities
Statue of Sekhmet. Credit: Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities

Archaeologists also discovered three busts and three lower parts of the statues of Sekhmet, the goddess of war and revenge, which is traditionally depicted with the head of a lioness. In addition, the researchers cleared the walls and found fragments of sandstone bas-reliefs depicting scenes of Heb-sed – the “tail festival”.

This was the name of the celebration, arranged on the day when the pharaoh turned 30 years old, and then on his birthday every three years. They celebrated widely, often in a palace specially built for the celebration. It is the scenes of the “tail festival” of Amenhotep III that are depicted on the walls of his temple – he noted three Heb-seds, and all of them are described in sufficient detail.

Scientists found out more about the ‘Mysterious Lady’ – one of the most unique Egyptian mummies

Last year, Polish scientists unveiled a truly sensational discovery – the first ancient Egyptian mummy of a pregnant woman was discovered. In ancient Egypt, in the vast majority of cases, during the process of mummification, the brain and internal organs were removed from the body of the deceased. However, in this case, the fetus was preserved in the body, and the degree of its preservation turned out to be quite high.

Early X-ray and CT scans of the pregnant mummy showing the fetus. Credit: Ejsmond et al., J. Archaeol. Sci., 2021
Early X-ray and CT scans of the pregnant mummy showing the fetus. Credit: Ejsmond et al., J. Archaeol. Sci., 2021

The identity of the Egyptian mummy remains a mystery to scientists, which is why they named her the “Mysterious Lady”. It is not known who she was and for what reason she died a little over 2000 years ago. Until recently, the secret was also how the fetus managed to survive.

According to a new study from the Warsaw Mummy Project, the embryo was preserved by the oxidation of the woman’s body as it was mummified, meaning it was a natural preservation process.

Images of the mummy, cartonnage, and coffin. Credit: National Museum in Warsaw / Warsaw Mummy Project
Images of the mummy, cartonnage, and coffin. Credit: National Museum in Warsaw / Warsaw Mummy Project

The materials that were used in the mummification of the body also played a role. In particular, a natron salt mixture was used, which was collected from the bottom of a dry lake. When embalming the body, it limited the access of air to the internal organs, that is, oxygen. As a result, the fetus was almost completely sealed.

advertisement

At the same time, he was affected by internal oxidative processes that should have occurred inside the body of the “Mysterious Lady” over time. They demineralized the tender bones of the fetus, so they could not be found in the pictures taken when scanning the mummy. This prevented scientists from identifying the sex of the baby.

Interpretation of the CT data of the fetus. Credit: Ejsmond et al., J. Archaeol. Sci., 2022
Interpretation of the CT data of the fetus. Credit: Ejsmond et al., J. Archaeol. Sci., 2022

In general, as the researchers note, the process they studied resembles the natural process that occurs in peat bogs, where a very acidic environment “pickles” soft tissues, but demineralizes bones.


Join the discussion and participate in awesome giveaways in our mobile Telegram group. Join Curiosmos on Telegram Today. t.me/Curiosmos


Sources:

Ejsmond, W., Ożarek-Szilke, M. A., Jaworski, M., Szilke, S., & Jaroszewska, K. (2021, December 30). Further evidence to confirm the ‘pregnant mummy’: A reply to Saleem (2021). Journal of Archaeological Science.
Ejsmond, W., Ożarek-Szilke, M., Jaworski, M., & Szilke, S. (2021, April 28). A pregnant ancient Egyptian mummy from the 1st century BC. Journal of Archaeological Science.
Geggel, L. (2022, January 24). 2 giant sphinxes depicting king tut’s grandfather found at ancient Egyptian temple. LiveScience.
Geggel, L. (n.d.). Two colossal sphinx statues discovered inside Ancient Egyptian temple. ScienceAlert.
HeritageDaily. (2022, January 11). Headquarters of Ancient Egyptian Mining Mission found in sinai.
Saplakoglu, Y. (2022, January 25). 30 mummies discovered inside an ancient fire-scorched sacrificial structure. LiveScience.
Starr, M. (n.d.). A fetus was preserved within an Egyptian mummy because it ‘pickled’, scientists say. ScienceAlert.
Starr, M. (n.d.). A pregnant ancient Egyptian mummy has been discovered in a shocking world first. ScienceAlert.

advertisement

Written by Vladislav Tchakarov

Hello, my name is Vladislav and I am glad to have you here on Curiosmos. As a history student, I have a strong passion for history and science, and the opportunity to research and write in this field on a daily basis is a dream come true.

Write for us

We’re always looking for new guest authors and we welcome individual bloggers to contribute high-quality guest posts.

Get In Touch
advertisement