Category Archives: AFRICA

2,400-year-old fruit baskets from Thonis-Heracleion found off the coast of Egypt

2,400-year-old fruit baskets from Thonis-Heracleion found off the coast of Egypt

Wicker baskets filled with fruit that have survived from the 4th century BC and hundreds of ancient ceramic artefacts and bronze treasures have been discovered in the submerged ruins of the near-legendary city of Thonis-Heracleion off the coast of Egypt.

2,400-year-old fruit baskets from Thonis-Heracleion found off the coast of Egypt
A fragment of a basket was brought to the surface by the team.

They have lain untouched since the city disappeared beneath the waves in the second century BC, then sank further in the eighth century AD, following cataclysmic natural disasters, including an earthquake and tidal waves.

Thonis-Heracleion – the city’s Egyptian and Greek names – was for centuries Egypt’s largest port on the Mediterranean before Alexander the Great founded Alexandria in 331BC.

But the vast site in Aboukir Bay near Alexandria has been forgotten until its re-discovery by the French marine archaeologist Franck Goddio two decades ago, in one of the greatest archaeological finds of recent times.

Colossal statues were among treasures from an opulent civilisation frozen in time. Some of the discoveries were shown in a major exhibition at the British Museum in 2016.

Goddio has been taken aback by the latest discoveries. He told the Guardian that the fruit baskets were “incredible”, having been untouched for more than 2,000 years.

They were still filled with doum, the fruit of an African palm tree that was sacred for the ancient Egyptians, as well as grape-seeds.

“Nothing was disturbed,” he said. “It was very striking to see baskets of fruits.”

One explanation for their survival may be that they were placed within an underground room, Goddio said, noting a possible funerary connotation.

It is within an area where Goddio and his team of archaeologists have discovered a sizeable tumulus (a mound raised over graves) – about 60 metres long by 8 metres wide – and sumptuous Greek funerary offerings.

They date from the early fourth century BC when Greek merchants and mercenaries lived in Thonis-Heracleion. The city controlled the entrance to Egypt at the mouth of the Canopic branch of the Nile. The Greeks were allowed to settle there during the late Pharaonic period, constructing their own sanctuaries.

Goddio said of the tumulus: “It is a kind of island surrounded by channels. In those channels, we found an unbelievable amount of deposits made of bronze, including a lot of statuettes of Osiris.

“On that island, something totally different. We found hundreds of deposits made of ceramic. One above the other. These are imported ceramic, red on black figures from Attic.”

The finds are all the more intriguing because there were vast quantities of miniature ceramics – high-quality Ancient Greek examples, including amphorae– under the tumulus. Bronze artefacts were around the tumulus, including mirrors and statuettes.

Goddio also found extensive evidence of burning, suggesting a “spectacular” ceremony that led to people being barred from entering this site again. It appears to have been sealed for hundreds of years as none of the artefacts found was from later than the early fourth century, even though the city lived on for several hundred years.

“There’s something very strange here,” he said. “That site has been used maybe one time, never touched before, never touched after, for a reason that we cannot understand for the time being. It’s a big mystery.”

He hopes to find answers within some of the treasures, which include the well-preserved remains of a wooden sofa for banquets, a large Attic vase and a gold amulet of “exquisite quality”.

About 350 metres away, the archaeologists also found a unique Ptolemaic galley, 25 metres in length. While built in the classical tradition, with mortise-and-tenon joints, it also contains features of ancient Egyptian construction, with a flat-bottomed design that would have been perfect for navigation on the Nile and in the delta.

The European Institute for Underwater Archaeology, led by Goddio, works in close cooperation with Egypt’s ministry of tourism and antiquities and with the support of the Hilti Foundation. The finds will be studied and preserved before being put on display in museums.

The potential for further discoveries is tantalising. Even after conducting repeated excavations over the past two decades, Goddio estimates that only about 3% of the area has been explored so far.

Egypt Reveals “History-Changing” Discovery of 3,000-Year Old Mummies, Temple and Book of the Dead at Saqqara

Egypt Reveals “History-Changing” Discovery of 3,000-Year Old Mummies, Temple and Book of the Dead at Saqqara

As early as January, Egypt has already announced the first major discovery of the year in the ancient treasure throve we know as the Saqqara necropolis.

We all remember October and November last year when more than 150 ancient coffins were discovered in the necropolis. This was the largest discovery of 2020 and in 2021, I believe Saqqara will once again top this archaeological list.

The focal point of this new wave of discoveries has to be the funerary temple of Queen Nearit. Although parts of the temple were already discovered years ago, this can be considered the official reveal as most of the territory has now been excavated.

This massive wooden sarcophagus was put on display during the official reveal of the finds at Saqqara.

Next, the archaeological team unearthed 52 burial shafts that contained more than 50 sarcophagi dating back to the New Kingdom of Egypt, approximately 1570 – 1069 BC.

This marks the first discovery of artefacts from 3000 BC or earlier on the territory of the Saqqara necropolis. In all previous cases, the coffins, sarcophagi, and all other precious artefacts were from around 500 BC.

Among the coffins and the temple, archaeologists found a plethora of other artefacts from the period of the New Kingdom including statues of deities, toys, ancient games, and many others.

Adorned wooden coffins on display, found in the 50+ burial shafts excavated in Saqqara.

Perhaps the most curious item, at least to me, is the 4-meter long papyrus discovered in one of the shafts. What makes it so special and rare is what is written on it. It represents Chapter 17 of the mythical ancient Egyptian Book of the Dead, and unlike most cases, it also came with the owner’s name.

Reference: The Book of the Dead is a collection of ancient Egyptian religious texts and hymns. The ancient Egyptians placed copies of it in tombs because they believed that it would help the deceased find prosperity in the afterlife. Discovering parts of it in a tomb is an incredibly rare find.

According to Dr. Zahi Hawass, the legendary Egyptian archaeologist, these discoveries will rewrite the history of the New Kingdom and especially on life in the region of Saqqara.

A beautifully decorated coffin on display during the official reveal.

Of course, excavations in Saqqara will undoubtedly continue for decades and we can expect countless other major discoveries.

For instance, Dr. Hawass also revealed the discovery of a one-of-a-kind mud-brick shrine that is yet to be excavated. Initial calculations revealed that it is at least 24 meters deep and there should be a burial chamber beneath it. We will surely hear more about it soon enough.

There is no doubt now that in the future, Saqqara will become a major tourist destination in Egypt, given the endless stream of discoveries that are being made. If only we could fast-forward ahead in time instead of waiting for the next big reveal.

In the middle of Egypt’s desert, there is a Valley of Whales which is millions of years old

In the middle of Egypt’s desert, there is a Valley of Whales which is millions of years old

There is an ancient Egyptian desert, once a vast ocean, that guards the secret of one of the most remarkable transformations in the evolution of life on planet Earth. Egypt is known as the land of Pyramids, Pharaohs, and golden sands. Countless jewels have been excavated from beneath Egypt’s sands, revealing a treasure trove of a time long gone. Archaeologists have discovered pyramids, temples, entire cities, and finds whose value is incalculable.

But there’s more to Egypt than the Sphinx, the Pharaohs, and its incredible pyramids, and there is more to this wonderful land than the Valley of Kings. Some 160 kilometres southwest of the Pyramids at the Giza plateau is a treasure trove of history. There aren’t any pyramids, temples, or mummies buried there, but it is a site of great importance. In fact, Wadi El Hitan was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2005.

The reason? Hundreds of fossils of some of the earliest forms of whales, the archaeoceti (a now extinct sub-order of whales), lie buried beneath the desert sand.

The story of Wadi Al Hitan is worthy of the most impressive tales. Some 40 million years ago (give or take a few), massive beasts swam in the vast prehistoric Tethys ocean. It was home to numerous creatures that have long since been forgotten. One of these massive animals, over 50 feet long, had massive jaws and jagged teeth. It looked unlike anything living inside Earth’s oceans today. The creatures eventually died, sinking to the prehistoric ocean seafloor. Tens of thousands of years went by, and a fine protective mantle of sediment eventually built up over the beasts’ bones.

The prehistoric sea receded. The former seabed transformed into a vast desert as powerful winds armed with fine grains of sand began covering the surface little by little, eventually preserving the whales that would remain hidden for time to come. Eventually, it became another one of the many secrets hidden beneath the golden sands of Egypt. Time passed by, and the planet’s geology and geography warped. The planet’s crust smashed India into Asia, giving birth to the breathtaking Himalayas.

Humankind came into existence, and Africa saw the first humans stand straight, evolve, and eventually build a civilization that would forever become imprinted in history. The mighty Kings of Egypt build incredible mastabas, which evolved into massive pyramids. Egypt flourished and fell, and the land of Pharaohs was no more.

Then, more than one hundred years ago, massive fossils of long-gone beasts were revealed by the wind, which delicately preserved and revealed the fossils since time immemorial.

Sunset at Wadi El Hitan. 

The site is so important that scientists argue the site reveals evidence for the history of one of the greatest mysteries in the evolution of whales: the species’ appearance as an ocean-going mammal from a previous life as a land-based animal. Today, the site is a desert covered with geological features that make it even more unique. But in the distant past, Wadi El Hitan was a massive ocean where whales swam, hunted, and reproduced.

As the site is dubbed, the Valley of the Whales is the most important site in the world to demonstrate the above-mentioned evolutionary process. The way of life of these mammals is accurately portrayed during their evolution.  The number, concentration, and quality of fossils are unique to Wadi El Hitan, a time capsule providing evidence of millions of years of coastal marine life and evolution. These remains show these animals losing their hind limbs, hydrodynamic bodies (like those of modern whales) while presenting primitive bone structure aspects. Other fossil materials found at the site allow reconstructing the environment and the ecological conditions of the time.

Among the many fossils, researchers have discovered the remains of whales like the Basilosaurus.

Wadi el Hitan portrays the form and way of life during the transition from land animals to ocean-going mammals.

The Fossilized remains of Whales at Wadi El Hiran

Although the fossils discovered at the site may not be the oldest, their great density in the area and the quality of their preservation is to the degree that even some stomach contents have remained intact.

Thanks to the discovery of fossils of other early animals like sharks, crocodiles, sawfish, turtles, and rays, scientists have been able to reconstruct the environmental and ecological conditions of the site accurately.

Some of the geological formations at the Valley of Whales.

The site and the first fossil skeletons of whales were discovered at the Valley of Whales in 1903. But for more than 80 years, the site was forgotten, mostly due to the difficulty of accessing the site.

However, in the late 1980s, as all-wheel-drive- vehicles become widely available, people started visiting and documenting the site. Eventually, the Valley of Whales would attract scholars, fossil collectors, and even tourists. People would go there and collect fossils without properly documenting or conserving the fossils. This led to the disappearance of many fossils from the site, prompting warnings for the site to be adequately conserved.

One of the most important discoveries at the site was the largest fossil discovered there, with 21 meters in length. The fossil showed clear traces of five-fingered flippers on its forelimbs and an unexpected existence of hind legs, feet, and toes, features that were precisely unknown in an archaeoceti. The site exceeds the values of different similar sites in terms of the number, concentration, quality of its fossils, and their accessibility, found in an attractive and protected landscape.

The site includes an impressive assemblage of fossilized skeletons of Archaeoceti (primitive whales documenting cetacean transition to marine life), sirenians. It also includes well-preserved fossils of reptiles and shark teeth that date back to around 40 million years ago. Scientists have identified the fossils of crocodiles, sea turtles, and the fossilized remains of sea snakes at the site. Many species of bony fish, sharks, and rays are represented at the site, but the largest number of fossils are isolated small teeth, which are often inconspicuous. There are also larger fish fossils, including the rostra and pegs of sawfish. In fact, the site features a sawfish rostrum of 1.8 meters long.

Wadi El Hitan is also home to a wide variety of fossilized shells and disc-shaped nummulite fossils. According to scientists, the strata in Wadi Al Hitan belong to Middle Eocene, and it includes a vast mass of vertebrate fossils within 200 km2 of the desert. While researchers have identified many whale fossils, they have also catalogued and reported sea cows’ fossils, among over one hundred different fossils. Scientists were able to reconstruct their origin and conclude their form was serpentine, and the animals were carnivorous.

The site has been found to feature typical streamlined bodies from modern whales and shows us clear evidence of some of the primitive aspects of skull and tooth structure. In other words, the valley of Whales in Egypt is a unique site not only because of its diverse fossil library but because of the examples of fossils and their respective age.

The hills of Wadi El Hitan.

The site has managed to remain well-protected because not many people access it. In fact, it is believed that between 1500 and 2000, tourists venture out and visit the site, which is accessible through unpaved and unmarked desert roads. The tourists who decide and come to the site are mostly foreigners who then camp in the valley.  Wadi El Hitan lies within the Wadi El Rayan Protected area, but part of the site has been turned into a tourist venue, and there are walkways placed in between the main fossils. Small shelters were also built at the site.

In addition to its vast collection of fossilized remains, Wadi El Hitan is home to more than 15 different species of desert places and 15 different types of mammals, including the red fox and the Egyptian mongoose. The site is mostly frequented by the Gennec Foxes, who tend to visit the campsite at night searching for food.

The six-foot-one Pharaoh who could be the world’s oldest case of Gigantism

The six foot one Pharaoh who could be the world’s oldest case of Gigantism

The supposed remains of Sa-Nakht, a pharaoh of ancient Egypt, maybe the oldest known human giant, a new study finds. Myths abound with stories of giants, from the frost and fire giants of Norse legends to the Titans who warred with the gods in ancient Greek mythology.

The team assessed measurements of the skull from previously published articles and reviewed photographs of the skull to conclude the skeleton’s long bones showed evidence of ‘exuberant growth,’ which are ‘clear signs of gigantism.’

However, giants are more than a just myth; accelerated and excessive growth, a condition known as gigantism, can occur when the body generates too much growth hormone. This usually occurs because of a tumour on the pituitary gland of the brain.

As part of ongoing research into mummies, scientists investigated a skeleton found in 1901 in a tomb near Beit Khallaf in Egypt. Previous research estimated that the bones dated from the Third Dynasty of Egypt, about 2700 B.C.

The giant king: Sanakht was an ancient Egyptian king (pharaoh) of the Third Dynasty during the Old Kingdom, although very little is known about him.

Prior work suggested that the skeleton of the man — who would have stood at up to 6 feet 1.6 inches (1.987 meters) tall — may have belonged to Sa-Nakht, a pharaoh during the Third Dynasty.

Previous research on ancient Egyptian mummies suggested the average height for men around this time was about 5 feet 6 inches (1.7 m), said study co-author Michael Habicht, an Egyptologist at the University of Zurich’s Institute of Evolutionary Medicine.

Ancient Egyptian kings were likely better fed and in better health than commoners of the era, so they could be expected to grow taller than average. Still, the over-6-foot-tall remains the scientists analyzed would have towered over Ramesses II, the tallest recorded ancient Egyptian pharaoh, who lived more than 1,000 years after Sa-Nakht and was only about 5 feet 9 inches (1.75 m) tall, Habicht said.

Ramesses II, the tallest recorded ancient Egyptian pharaoh, who lived more than 1,000 years after Sa-Nakht was only about 5 feet 9 inches (1.75 m) tall.

In the new study, Habicht and his colleagues reanalyzed the alleged skull and bones of Sa-Nakht. The skeleton’s long bones showed evidence of “exuberant growth,” which are “clear signs of gigantism,” Habicht said.

These findings suggest that this ancient Egyptian probably had gigantism, making him the oldest known case of this disorder in the world, the researchers said. No other ancient Egyptian royals were known to be giants.

“Studying the evolutionary development of diseases is of importance for today’s medicine,” Habicht said.

In the early dynasties of Egypt, short statures were apparently preferred, with “many small people in royal service,” Habicht said. “The reasons for this preference are not always certain.”

Still, because the alleged remains of Sa-Nakht were buried in an elite tomb, there may have been no social stigma attached with gigantism at the time, the researchers said.

The scientists detailed their findings in the August issue of the journal The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology.

Stone Age axe dating back 1.3 million years unearthed in Morocco

Stone Age axe dating back 1.3 million years unearthed in Morocco

The find pushes back by hundreds of thousands of years the start date in North Africa of the Acheulian stone tool industry associated with a key human ancestor, Homo erectus, researchers on the team told journalists in Rabat.

Stone Age axe dating back 1.3 million years unearthed in Morocco
These Stone-Age tools belong to the same archaeological period as a hand axe, which was unearthed in Morocco in July 2021 and dates back 1.3 million years.

It was made during excavations at a quarry on the outskirts of the country’s economic capital Casablanca.

This “major discovery … contributes to enriching the debate on the emergence of the Acheulian in Africa,” said Abderrahim Mohib, co-director of the Franco-Moroccan “Prehistory of Casablanca” programme.

Excavation

Before the find, the presence in Morocco of the Acheulian stone tool industry was thought to date back 700,000 years.

New finds at the Thomas Quarry I site, first made famous in 1969 when a human half mandible was discovered in a cave, mean the Acheulian there is almost twice as old.

The 17-strong team behind the discovery comprised Moroccan, French and Italian researchers, and their finding is based on the study of stone tools extracted from the site.

Moroccan archaeologist Abdelouahed Ben Ncer called the news a “chronological rebound”.

He said the beginning of the Acheulian in Morocco is now close to the South and East African start dates of 1.6 million and 1.8 million years ago respectively.

Earlier humans had made do with more primitive pebble tools, known as Oldowan after their East African type site.

Research at the Casablanca site has been carried out for decades, and has “delivered one of the richest Acheulian assemblages in Africa”, Mohib said.

“It is very important because we are talking about prehistoric time, a complex period for which little data exists.”

Mohib said the study also made it possible to attest to “the oldest presence in Morocco of humans” who were “variants of Homo erectus”.

In 2017, the discovery of five fossils at Jebel Irhoud in Morocco, estimated at 300,000 years old, overturned evolutionary science when they were designated Homo sapiens.

The Moroccan fossils were much older than some with similar facial characteristics excavated from Omo Kibish in Ethiopia, dating back around 195,000 years.

Smuggled Old Kingdom Statue Returned to Egypt

Smuggled Old Kingdom Statue Returned to Egypt

According to an Ahram Online report, an Old Kingdom statue depicting the priest Nikau-Ptah has been returned to Egypt from an art gallery in the Netherlands.

The Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities, in collaboration with the Egyptian Embassy in Amsterdam and the concerned authorities in the Netherlands, succeeded in repatriating an ancient Egyptian statue of an Old Kingdom priest Nikaw-Ptah that was stolen and illegally smuggled out of the country of Egypt.

The statue has arrived safely in Egypt and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has handed it over to the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities.

Shaaban Abdel-Gawad, the general supervisor of the Repatriation Antiquities Department, explains that the statue was put on sale at the annual European exhibition of fine arts, Tefaf, in Maastricht, Netherlands.

He added that the statue was illegally excavated and was not from the collection of any museum or archaeological site of the Supreme Council of Antiquities.

He pointed out that the statue is legless and features the priest standing and wearing a short skirt. His name is engraved on his right hand.

Sunken Ship, Ancient Greek Graves Found at Underwater Ruins in Egypt

Sunken Ship, Ancient Greek Graves Found at Underwater Ruins in Egypt

CAIRO (Reuters) – Divers uncovered the unusual remnants of a military vessel in the ancient submerged city of Thônis-Heracleion – once Egypt’s greatest Mediterranean port – as well as a funerary complex indicating the presence of Greek merchants, the country said on Monday.

The city, which controlled the entrance to Egypt at the mouth of a western branch of the Nile, dominated the area for centuries before the foundation of Alexandria nearby by Alexander the Great in 331 BC.

Destroyed and sunk along with a wide area of the Nile delta by several earthquakes and tidal waves, Thônis-Heracleion was rediscovered in 2001 in Abu Qir Bay near Alexandria, now Egypt’s second-largest city.

Sunken Ship, Ancient Greek Graves Found at Underwater Ruins in Egypt
Remains of an ancient military vessel were discovered off the coast of Alexandria.

The military vessel, discovered by an Egyptian-French mission led by the European Institute for Underwater Archaeology (IEASM), sank when the famed temple of Amun it was mooring next to collapsed in the second century BC.

A preliminary study shows the hull of the 25-metre flat-bottomed ship, with oars and a large sail, was built in the classical tradition and also had features of Ancient Egyptian construction, Egypt’s tourism and antiquities ministry said.

In another part of the city, the mission revealed the remains of a large Greek funerary area dating back to the first years of the 4th century BC, it said.

“This discovery beautifully illustrates the presence of the Greek merchants who lived in that city,” the ministry said, adding that the Greeks were allowed to settle there during the late Pharaonic dynasties.

“They built their own sanctuaries close to the huge temple of Amun. Those were destroyed, simultaneously and their remains are found mixed with those of the Egyptian temple.”

The mummified ‘giant finger’ of Egypt: Did giants once really roam on Earth?

The mummified ‘giant finger’ of Egypt: Did giants once really roam on Earth?

A 15-inch long human finger has been found in Egypt and pictures of it are being released for the very first time.  BILD.de broke this story, and it is spreading like fire all over the Internet. 

According to BILD.de, the pictures of this finger were taken by a researcher named Gregor Spörri in Egypt in 1988.  The mummified finger would be considered to be human except for the fact that it is way, way too large to have come from a human hand. 

As mentioned earlier, the giant finger is 15 inches long.  It is projected that the person that this finger came from would have been more than 16 feet tall!  You can see more pictures of this amazing find on BILD.de.

 

Could this be evidence that points towards the existence of giant beings that walked on Earth in the distant past?

As you can tell from the picture above, the fingernail is clearly visible.  This truly is a remarkable specimen.  So is this really a finger of a giant that once lived in Egypt?

Unfortunately, this finger is not housed in a museum in Egypt.  The researcher that took the pictures reportedly had to pay “an old man from a grave robber dynasty” 300 dollars to see it and take pictures of it.

So unfortunately this discovery cannot be independently verified at this time.  Hopefully, all of this publicity will flush this finger back out into the public so that authorities can examine it. 

Certificate of authenticity and X-Ray images of the giant finger

This is potentially an incredibly important part of our history and it would be a shame if these photos are the only evidence we ever get to see of it.

But when it comes to giants, we already know that there is so much other evidence out there.  Recently I wrote about the Nephilim mummy that was found in Peru and about the giant footprints and giant skeletons that have been found all over the world.

But a mummified human finger from a giant in Egypt would be absolutely mind-blowing.  It would be a direct challenge to everything that is commonly accepted about the ancient history of Egypt.

Hopefully, all of this will spur more digs and more research.  The era when the Great Pyramid was constructed in an era that is shrouded in great mystery. 

Humanity is only now developing technology that would allow us to construct a similar structure today.  Nobody really knows for sure who built the Great Pyramid or how it was constructed.

There is just so much about ancient Egypt that we simply do not know.  Hopefully, the floodgates will open and much more evidence will emerge soon.