Here Are 4 of the Most Mysterious Discoveries From Ancient Egypt

Egypt's golden sands have a story to tell.

The land of Pharaohs. The land of Pyramids. The land of a thousand secrets buried beneath the golden sands. Egypt is a treasure trove of history. A time capsule that tells the rise and fall of a people that created some of the most impressive constructions on the surface of the planet. Egypt is a pandora box of history.

From the heights of these pyramids, forty centuries look down on us. –Napoleon Bonaparte.

And already to people like Napoleon, and even travelers and rulers before him, ancient Egypt was a land beyond fascinating. It was already then, hundreds of years ago, a land of mysteries, secrets, and wonders.

We have explored the remnants of ancient Egypt hidden beneath its golden sands, but we have not understood its history which is more complicated and fascinating than what we are willing to acknowledge.

Egypt has much to offer, and its not just its wonderous pyramids, scattered across the country. It has more to offer than its mind-boggling temples, paying tribute to the gods and Pharaohs throughout history.

It is more than amazing and prosperous cities, some of which have not stood the test of time, as they became covered in Egypt’s fine sands; sands that have protected and cared for the most precious artifacts and monuments the ancient people that developed near the Nile built since time immemorial.

Egypt’s golden sands have a story to tell.

The very same sands that witnessed the rise of the first settlements of ancient Egypt also saw the civilization develop into a mighty, and imposing force. The same sands that saw the very first pyramids being built, saw them deteriorate and crumble to nature. The very same sands that saw the Sphinx being carved and painted in lush colors eventually would cover it protecting it for time to come.

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The very golden sands of Egypt that saw Pharaohs rise to power, saw pharaohs become gods, as the people of Egypt worshiped and defied their rulers. Egypt’s golden sands saw mighty Pharaohs rise to power, saw them change history, and then pass on their rule to kings that would become deified as the golden sands stood guard.

The sands of Egypt saw it all. The ancient civilization may long be gone, but evidence of their greatness is written in stone, and hidden beneath the surface.

Ancient Egyptian wood painted sarcophagus. Shutterstock.
Shutterstock.

We’ve dug out massive temples, evidence of pyramids that succumbed to time, and great cities that were lost to history. We saw underwater experts discover what were once prosperous cities, and saw them bring to light massive boats that were used to transport stones for the pyramids.

But the more we explore ancient Egypt, the more we understand the treasures it has to offer.

And while many discoveries that have been made offer unprecedented insight into parts of the ancient Egyptian history, we previously were unaware of, there are other discoveries that not only teach us new things but shroud everything we thought we knew about the ancient Egyptian civilization in a mysterious aura.

Egypt is more than just pyramids, pharaohs and mummies. Egypt has more to offer than incredible tales of mighty pharaohs building pyramids, temples and cities in the desert.

Ancient Egypt is an endless supply of historical treasures. After all, beneath its sands lay the remnants of a civilization unlike any other.

The Ancient Sphinx Workshop

One of the most famous pharaohs to rule over ancient Egypt was Tutankhamun. When his grandfather Amenhotep III ruler over Egypt, the Sphinx was already an established symbol. Evidence of that was discovered when archeologists were excavating an archaeological site called Gebel el-Silsila, where they discovered a treasure beneath the sand.

After excavating through the rubble, they came across a workshop of Sphinxes that dates back to the 18th Dynasty of ancient Egypt.

Inside this unique workshop, researchers discovered a plethora of unfinished statues. But one of them stood out from the rest.

Image Credit: Gebel el-Silsila archaeological project.
Image Credit: Gebel el-Silsila archaeological project.

It was a ram-headed Sphinx, chiseled from stone thousands of years ago. It was never finished. The ram-headed sphinx was left inside the workshop which was eventually forgotten. Nonetheless, its discovery tells us important things. Experts believe that the ram-headed Sphinx statue was commissioned by Amenhotep III and remained protected by Egypt’s golden sands for more than 3,000 years when archeologists finally revealed its secrets. During the reign of Amenhotep III, ancient Egypt went through a period of unprecedented prosperity and artistic splendor, and the country reached the peak of its artistic and international power. Amenhotep III was succeeded by his son who initially ruled as Amenhotep IV but then changed his own royal name to Akhenaten.

It is incredible to find that the ancient Egyptians had actually a workshop that was tasked with carving Sphinx statues. It means that the Sphinx remained an important symbol throughout ancient Egyptian history.

A 2,000-year-old Glider?

One of the strangest, most controversial discoveries made in Egypt was an artifact dating back to around 2,200 BC. It was a small wooden bird, with a wingspan that measures 180 mm (7.1 in). Dubbed the Saqqara bird, the intricately carved bird weighs no more than 39.12 g (1.380 oz).

Its unique not only because of its curious design but because it is the only such artifact that has ever been discovered from beneath Egypt’s golden sands. Its unique. Its precious, and it remained hidden for thousands of years.

A photograph of the Saqqara bird. Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons / Public domain.
A photograph of the Saqqara bird. Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons / Public domain.

Although the Saqqara bird may not look like much, its characteristics have raised a heated debate; the Saqqara bird displays aerodynamical characteristics that allow it to fly. And one of the first scientists to throw out the theory that the Saqqara bird may have been a device capable of flight was Egyptologist Khalil Messiha. In the Egyptologists published a paper titled African Experimental Aeronautics: A 2,000-Year-Old Model Glider in which he explained the following:

“The wing is made of one piece of wood, and its span is exactly 18 centimeters. The part of the body is the thickest—8 millimeters. Then it tapers in thickness towards the tips. One can note also that there is a Dihedral angle which is slightly unequal on both sides due to a slight distortion of the wood, caused by the passage of time.”

The artifact has given rise to numerous theories about its origin and meaning. There are those in favor of it being an early example of “devices capable of flight”, while others say it’s no more than a ancient Egyptian toy, or even a ceremonial item. Learn more about it here.

Great Pyramid and its Electromagnetic properties

The Great Pyramid of Giza has fascinated mankind for thousands of years. Believed to have been constructed around 4,500 BC, the behemoth structure caused admiration and fascination for thousands of years. The pyramid is so old that it was already ancient to the ancient Egyptians that lived under the rule of Tutankhamun or Akhenaten.

The only standing ancient wonder of the world, the Great Pyramid of Giza is a structure that has stood the test of time.

Egypt’s golden sands watched the structure being built, topped with a capstone that is now lost to history, and covered in beautifully polished white limestone. The sands of Egypt watched carefully as the pyramid lost its beauty, its capstone, and casings, and observed how people treated the structures for thousands of years. Some people worshiped the pyramid, others took advantage of the intricate stones used in its construction, and decided to remove some of its blocks.

Artists rendering of a Pyramid and a glowing top. Shutterstock.
Shutterstock.

But the pyramid has endured for thousands of years.

Despite being studied for centuries, we’ve still not been able to solve all the mysteries surrounding it.

Was it truly built 4,500 years ago? Was it actually commissioned by Khufu? If so, was it built as the Pharaoh’s tomb as mainstream scholars suggest? If so where’s the mummy of the Pharaoh? How was the Great Pyramid built? And how long did it take to complete? Many questions remain an enigma, while some remain partially explained.

But the most surprising discovery about the Great Pyramid of Giza is perhaps a property embedded deep inside the structure itself.

The Great Pyramid of Giza can focus electromagnetic energy.

In a surprising revelation, scientists concluded in 2018 that the Great Pyramid of Giza–assumed to have been built as the tomb for Pharaoh Khufu around 4,500 years ago–is able to concentrate electromagnetic energy inside its chambers but also well beneath its base, where an unfinished chamber is located.

This was concluded by researchers from ITMO University (Russia) and the Laser Zentrum Hannover (Germany) after numerical modeling as well as analytical methods of physics.

The scientists calculated the extinction cross-section and were then able to estimate how the energy is scattered or absorbed by the Great Pyramid.

Pyramids that were not Tombs

It is usually assumed within the Egyptological community that the ancient Egyptians built pyramids as tombs for their pharaohs.

The first pyramid in Egypt, the Step Pyramid of Djoser, is believed to have been the first monumental stone structure of ancient Egypt, and the tomb of Pharaoh Djoser. Designed by his royal vizier and architect Imhotep, the pyramid of Djoser kickstarted a pyramid-building phenomenon that would last more than 1,700 years.

And when speaking about Egyptian pyramids, people usually say they were tombs. Despite this claim, there has been scarce evidence to support this idea.

Take for an example the most famous ancient Egyptian pyramids; the Pyramids at Giza.

Built by Khufu, Khafre, and Menkaure respectively, all three pyramids are said to have been built to serve as the royal tombs for the pharaohs. However, never has a mummy been recovered inside the pyramids. In fact, all three mummies from Khufu, Khafre, and Menkaure remain missing.

Strangely, Djoser’s mummy is also missing.

But although the above-mentioned pyramids are considered tombs according to archeologists and historians, there are pyramids built before the Great Pyramid of Giza that were definitely not tombs.

Located at Edfu, some 800 kilometers south of Cairo, stands the Pyramid of Edfu. This monument thought to have been built by Pharaoh Huni some 4,600 years ago is a pyramid that does not have a burial chamber inside it.

The best part is, its not the only pyramid. In fact, the pyramid of Edfu is one of seven provincial pyramids that were built some 4,600 years ago and were not used as tombs.

Remind me, why do we think Egyptian pyramids were tombs?