This week was very fruitful for ancient Egyptian history as archaeologists were kept busy excavating three sites in Luxor and Saqqara and the basement of the Egyptian Museum in Tahrir Square with a view to revealing more secrets.
Two discoveries were unveiled on the eastern and western banks of the Nile in Luxor. Adjacent to the Luxor Temple where the Yassa Andraos Palace once stood an Egyptian archaeological mission has unearthed the remains of a Roman residential city.
“It is the oldest and most important city to be discovered on the eastern bank of Nile at Luxor,” said Secretary-General of the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA) Mustafa Waziri, adding that it might have been an extension of ancient Thebes and dates back to between the first and second centuries CE.
It includes residential buildings and a group of workshops for melting copper and iron filled with a collection of clay vessels, grinding pots, water containers, lamps and bronze and copper coins. There are also the remains of two pigeon towers that were used for pigeons carrying news to different parts of the then Roman Empire.
On the west bank of the Nile at the Draa Abul-Naga Necropolis, an Egyptian mission uncovered a 13th-Dynasty familial burial site where more than 30 burial shafts of similar architectural design were found.
One of them belonged to the vizier Ankhu who lived during the reign of king Sobek-Hetep II. The shaft has a complete ten-ton red granite sarcophagus in it inscribed with the name of the deceased and his different titles. A relief depicts the vizier’s assistant presenting offerings to king Sobek-Hetep II.
“We have discovered more than a thousand burial sites in Luxor, but this is the first time we have found one from the 13th Dynasty,” Fathy Yassin, Director of the Antiquities of Upper Egypt, told the Weekly, explaining that the burial is more than 50 m wide and 70 m long.
During the excavations the mission found a mudbrick building that was used in ancient times for accepting offerings. Inside it were some Ushabti figurines (small statuettes) carved in wood and painted white and engraved with a hieratic text in black. A collection of faience amulets, scarabs of different shapes, and a large collection of beads have also been unearthed.
Meanwhile, in the Gisr Al-Mudir area of the Saqqara Necropolis outside Cairo, a group of Old Kingdom tombs and a collection of 12 beautifully carved statues were uncovered.
During excavation work carried out by an Egyptian archaeological mission headed by Egyptologist Zahi Hawass, a group of Fifth and Sixth Dynasty tombs from the Old Kingdom was discovered, indicating that the site comprises a large ancient Egyptian cemetery.
Hawass said that the most important tomb belongs to Khnumdjedef, a supervisor of nobles, and priest in the Pyramid Complex of Unas, the last king of the Fifth Dynasty. The tomb is decorated with scenes of daily life.
The second-largest tomb belonged to Meri, who held many important titles such as keeper of secrets.
A tomb of a priest and a group of nine beautiful statues were also found. One represents a man and his wife, several are of servants, and others represent individuals.
“Unfortunately, the expedition did not find inscriptions that might identify the owners of these statues,” Hawass told the Weekly. However, several months after the original discovery, the mission had found a false door near the site where the statues were discovered, he said.
The owner of the false door was named Messi, who might be the owner of the nine statues. The mission has also found a beautiful statue of a standing man with his wife holding his right leg and his daughter on the other side holding a goose.
“The 15-metre shaft is the most important discovery on the site because a large rectangular limestone sarcophagus was found at the bottom,” Hawass said, explaining that inscriptions carved on top of the sarcophagus reveal the identity of the owner as Hekashepes.
Examination of the sarcophagus has revealed that it was completely sealed with mortar, just as the ancient Egyptians left it 4,300 years ago.
When the lid was raised, the mummy of a man was found covered with gold leaf. “This mummy may be the oldest and most complete mummy found in Egypt to date,” Hawass said, adding that many stone vessels were also found around the sarcophagus.
The mission also found a 10-metre shaft filled with a group of beautiful wooden statues. In addition, three stone statues representing a person named Fetek were found beside an offering table and a stone sarcophagus that contained his mummy.
The mission said the group dated to the Old Kingdom. Many statues have been found at Saqqara over the past century, but this is the largest group of such objects found in recent years. The mission has also found amulets, stone vessels, tools for daily life, and statues of Ptah-Sokar.
GOLDEN MUMMY: In the basement of the Egyptian Museum in Cairo’s Tahrir Square another discovery was made this week as Computer tomography CT scans revealed the secrets of a golden mummy stored in the Museum since more than a century ago.
(CT) scans and three-dimensional printing revealed the secrets of the 2,300-year-old golden boy’s mummy, which has now been moved from the Museum’s basement to the exhibition area.
The golden mummy had been kept in the basement for more than a century before being revealed in a scientific study published today in the journal Frontiers in Medicine by Sahar Saleem, a professor of radiology at Cairo University.
The mummy was discovered completely wrapped in a tomb from the Ptolemaic period in Edfu near Aswan in 1916 and was moved to the Egyptian Museum’s basement in Cairo.
The mummy had been stored unexamined for over a century until it was studied for the first time in 2015 by radiologist Sahar Saleem, in collaboration with Sabah Abdel-Razek and Mahmound Al-Halwagy, former directors of the Egyptian Museum, using a computer tomography machine in the gardens of the Museum.
Saleem said that the studies had revealed that the mummy belongs to a 15-year-old boy and was mummified at a very high level and the mummy’s body was extensively decorated with 49 different shape amulets in three columns between the folds of the wrappings and inside the mummy’s body cavity. A group of 30 of the amulets were made of gold, while the others were made of stone or faience.
A gold amulet in the shape of a tongue was placed inside the mummy’s mouth so that he could speak in the afterlife. A two-finger amulet was placed below the trunk to protect the embalming incision.
A large gold amulet of the heart scarab inside the mummy’s chest cavity was replicated using three-dimensional printing.
The studies shed light on social life in ancient Egypt thousands of years ago.
* A version of this article appears in print in the 2 February, 2023 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly