A rock-cut tomb dating back to the late Pharaonic Graeco-Roman period has been discovered by Egyptian-Italian archeological mission working in the Aga Khan Mausoleum area in Aswan.
Mostafa Waziri, the general secretary of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, explains that the mission found inside the tomb parts of a painted wooden coffin.
Also discovered were fragments of another coffin adorned with a complete text that includes the name of the owner, identified as Tjt, and an invocation to the gods of the First Cataract; Khnum, Satet and Anuket, as well as Hapy, the Nile god.
Ayman Ashmawy, the head of the antiquities ministry’s ancient Egypt department, told Ahram Online that the tomb consists of a stairway partly flanked by sculpted blocks leading to the funerary chambers.
The entrance was sealed by a stone wall found in its original place over the stairway.
Patrizia Piacentini, the head of the mission, said that the mission also found many amphorae and offering vases, as well as a funerary structure containing 4 mummies and food vessels.
Also found were 2 mummies, likely of a mother and her child, still covered by painted cartonnage.
A round-topped coffin was excavated from the rock floor. In the main room were around 30 mummies, including young children who were deposited in a long lateral niche.“
Leaning against the north wall of the room was an amazing intact stretcher made of palm wood and linen strips, used by the people who deposited the mummies in the tomb,” Piacentini told Ahram Online .
At the entrance of the room were vessels containing bitumen for mummification, white cartonnage ready to be painted and a lamp.
On the right and left sides of the door, many beautiful colored and gilded cartonnages, fragments of funerary masks painted with gold and a well preserved statuette of the Ba-bird, representing the soul of the deceased, still presenting all the details of the decoration have been found.
The mission has mapped around 300 tombs dating from the 6th century BC to the 4th century AD, located in the area surrounding the Mausoleum of the Aga Khan, on the west bank of the Nile in Aswan.
Burials of Africans slaves found at the old rubbish dump in Portugal
Portuguese explorers such as Henry the Navigator started sailing to Africa in the early 15th century, bringing both goods and enslaved people back.
A new archeological study of more than 150 skeletons dumped in Lagos, Portugal, reveals that there were no proper burials given to many of the enslaved Africans and that several of them may even have been tied to death.
The skeletons come from the site of Valle da Gafaria, which was located outside the Medieval walls of the port city of Lagos along the southwest coast of Portugal. Used between the Fifteenth and Seventeenth centuries as a dumping ground, the site also offered up remains of imported ceramics, butchered animal bones, and a few African style ornaments.
When the human skeletons were first analyzed, their shape and unique dental style suggested that they might have been of African origin, and subsequently, genetic analysis confirmed ancestry with Bantu – speaking populations of South Africa. Due to the archaeological and historical information, it is likely that all of these people were enslaved.
In a new research article published in the International Journal of Osteoarchaeology, Maria Teresa Ferreira, Catarina Coelho, and Sofia Wasterlain of the University of Coimbra dug further into the bone data in order to understand how the 158 enslaved Africans came to be buried in a trash pit in Lagos.
Specifically, they investigated the position of each burial, whether or not the burial was made with care, and whether they could identify any evidence that the person’s body had been bound.
The Medieval Catholic concern with burial meant that the church was important in handling deaths in Portugal. A body would be ferried to the church in a funeral procession, and a grave would be chosen as close to a religious building as possible.
Elites and nobles were usually buried in an area protected by walls, while more marginal people were located outside. Those people who were further stigmatized by disease, condemned, or otherwise considered not to be deserving of care would be placed far outside sacred spaces.
Enslaved occupants of Medieval Portugal would not necessarily have been prevented from a proper burial. Many were baptized on arrival to Portugal and therefore had a right to a Christian funeral if the slave owner decided to do so.
However, due to the poor conditions aboard the ships, many people arrived so weakened that they died without being baptized. “In such cases,” Ferreira and colleagues explain, “as their humanity was not recognized, the corpses were treated as animal remains: summarily buried in any free field or dumped in the garbage.”
More than half of the people “seemed to have been buried without care,” Ferreira and colleagues note. “Moreover, six individuals showed evidence of having been tied when inhumed.” This suggests that several people had been tied up has intrigued other scholars, although it is unclear from the published research whether the bound limbs were related to the people’s enslaved status or to a more functional method of disposing of bodies.
Biological anthropologist Tim Thompson at Teesside University praised the “sound research” but also told me that “it is difficult to truly assess the examples of tied individuals because there are so few, and no figures are presented.” He suggests that comparing “the anatomical positioning with examples from modern mass graves would allow for deeper analysis. There are many examples of binding and blindfolding in these modern mass violence settings, along with disrespectful deposition of bodies.”
Ellen Chapman, a bioarchaeologist and cultural resources specialist at Cultural Heritage Partners, also told me that she looks forward to further work on this site and this collection of skeletons because “this site is an incredibly disturbing one, and one that clearly illustrates the pervasive mistreatment of enslaved people by the architects of the trans-Atlantic slave trade.”
In particular, Chapman notes that “this skeletal collection is indicative of the high mortality associated with slave ships and the Middle Passage.” Thompson adds that “this work has the potential to contribute to our understanding of both ancient and modern forced slavery contexts.”
In the end, Ferreira and colleagues conclude that “Valle da Gafaria’s osteological collection is extremely important for slavery studies. Not only are there few cemeteries of enslaved people in the world, but also, Lagos is the oldest sample to be discovered and studied in the world.”
4000 Years Ago in Egypt, Dozens of Men Who Died Of Terrible Wounds Were Mummified and Entombed Together in the Cliffs Near Luxor
In Egypt more than 4,000 years ago, in the cliffs near Luxor, dozens of men who died of terrible wounds were mummified and buried together.
Mass burials were exceptionally rare in ancient Egypt — so why did all these mummies end up in the same place? Recently, archaeologists visited the mysterious Tomb of the Warriors in Deir el Bahari, Egypt; the tomb had been sealed after its discovery in 1923.
After analyzing evidence from the tomb and other sites in Egypt, they pieced together the story of a desperate and bloody chapter in Egypt’s history at the close of the Old Kingdom, around 2150 B.C.
Their findings, presented in the PBS documentary “Secrets of the Dead: Egypt’s Darkest Hour,” paint a grim picture of civil unrest that sparked bloody battles between regional governors about 4,200 years ago.
One of those skirmishes may have ended the lives of 60 men whose bodies were mummified in the mass burial, PBS representatives said in a statement.
Archaeologist Salima Ikram, a professor of Egyptology at the American University in Cairo, investigated the mummies with a camera crew in late September 2018, with the cooperation of the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities and the assistance of local experts, Davina Bristow, documentary producer, and the director.
From the tomb’s entrance, a maze of tunnels branched out about 200 feet (61 meters) into the cliff; chambers were filled with mummified body parts and piles of bandages that had once been wrapped around the corpses but had come unraveled, Ikram discovered. The bodies all seemed to belong to men, and many showed signs of severe trauma.
Skulls were broken or pierced — probably the result of projectiles or weapons — and arrows were embedded in many of the bodies, suggesting the men were soldiers who died in battle. One of the mummies was even wearing a protective gauntlet on its arm, such as those worn by archers, according to Ikram.
These people have died bloody, fearsome deaths,” Ikram said. And evidence from elsewhere in Egypt suggests that they died during a period of extreme social upheaval.
A kingdom’s collapse some of those clues lay in the tomb of the pharaoh Pepi II, whose 90-year reign had just ended, Philippe Collombert, an Egyptologist at the University of Geneva in Switzerland, told archaeology-world in an email.
Pepi II’s burial tomb in Saqqara, Egypt, was ornate and spectacular; it was built during his youth, which suggests that the kingdom at that time was secure with no signs of civil collapse, Collombert said.
However, Pepi II’s tomb was looted soon after he was buried. Such a profoundly sacrilegious act could only have taken place if Egyptians had already begun to reject the godlike stature of the pharaoh, and if the central government was no longer in control, Collombert explained.
As Pepi II’s influence waned toward the end of his rule and local governors became more and more powerful, their burial chambers became bigger and more lavish.
One governor’s tomb, built in the Qubbet el Hawa necropolis after Pepi II’s death, contained inscriptions that hinted at the conflict emerging between political factions, describing social disruption, civil war and lack of control by a single administration, Antonio Morales, an Egyptologist at the University of Alcalá in Madrid, Spain, said in the documentary. And famine caused by drought may have accelerated this social collapse, according to Morales.
Another inscription in the governor’s tomb noted that “the southern country is dying of hunger so every man was eating his own children” and “the whole country has become like a starving locust,” Morales said.
Together, starvation and unrest could have laid the groundwork for a frenzied battle that left 60 men dead on the ground — and then mummified in the same tomb, Ikram said.”Secrets of the Dead: Egypt’s Darkest Hour” aired last night (April 3) on PBS and is now available to stream on the PBS website and on PBS apps.
Two Ancient Egyptian Kingdom Tombs Opened in Luxor, Egypt
Two tombs of unidentified officials dated to Egypt’s New Kingdom era have been opened at Luxor’s Draa Abul-Naglaa necropolis years after they were initially discovered by German archaeologist Frederica Kampp in the 1990s.
The opening of the tombs was announced at an international conference attended by the governor of Luxor, the minister of social solidarity, the director-general of the International Monetary Fund, members of the international media, foreign ambassadors, members of parliament, and Minister of Antiquities Khaled El-Enany.
“It is a very important discovery because both tombs contain very rich funerary collections, and one of them has a very distinguished painted statue of a lady in the Osirian shape,” with this most recent discovery being the third Draa Abul-Naga alone.
“It seems that our ancient Egyptian ancestors are bestowing their blessing on Egypt’s economy as these discoveries are good promotion for the country and its tourism industry,” El-Enany told Ahram Online.
Mostafa Waziri, the secretary-general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities and head of the Egyptian excavation mission, explains that both tombs were given special numbers by German archaeologist Frederica Kampp in the 1990s.
The first tomb, named “Kampp 161,” was never excavated, while excavation work on the second, “Kampp 150,” was undertaken by archaeologist Kampp short of entering the tomb itself.
The tombs had been left untouched until excavation started during the recent archaeological season.
Most of the items discovered in Kampala 161 are fragments of wooden coffins.
The most notable discoveries are a large wooden mask that was originally a part of a coffin, a small painted wooden mask, a fragment of a gilded wooden mask in poor condition, four legs of wooden chairs that were among the deceased’s funerary equipment, as well as the lower part of a wooden Osirian shaped coffin decorated with a scene of goddess Isis lifting up her hands.
“The owner of Kampp 150 is not yet known, but there are two possible candidates,” Waziri told Ahram Online.
He said that the first possibility is that the tomb belongs to a person named Djehuty Mes, as this name is engraved on one of the walls.
The second possibility is that the owner could be the scribe “Maati,” as his name and the name of his wife “Mehi” are inscribed on 50 funerary cones found in the tomb’s rectangular chamber.
The tomb has only one inscription on one of its northern pillars. It shows a scene with a seated man offering food to four oxen, with the first kneeling in front of the man, who is giving it herbs. The scene also depicts five people making funerary furniture.
The entrance of the long hall is inscribed with hieroglyphic text with the name of “Djehuty Mes.” The ceiling of the chamber is inscribed with hieroglyphic inscriptions and the cartouche of King Thutmose I.
The objects uncovered inside include 100 funerary cones, painted wooden masks, a collection of 450 statues carved in different materials such as clay, wood and faience, and a small box in the shape of a wooden coffin with a lid.
The box was probably used for storing an Ushabti figurine 17 cm tall and 6 cm large. Also found was a collection of clay vessels of different shapes and sizes, as well as a mummy wrapped in linen with its hands on its chest in the Osirian formStudies, suggest that the mummy, which was found inside the long chamber, could be of a top official or another powerful person.
The surprising truth about the construction of the Great Pyramids
“It’s not my day job,” Michel Barsoum begins as he recounts his foray into the mysteries of Egypt’s Great Pyramids.
As a well – respected ceramic researcher, Barsoum never expected his career to take him down a path of history, archeology, and “political” science with mixed – in materials research.
As a distinguished professor in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at Drexel University, his daily routine consists mainly of teaching students about ceramics, or performing research on a new class of materials, the so-called MAX Phases, that he and his colleagues discovered in the 1990s.
These modern ceramics are machinable, thermal-shock resistant, and are better conductors of heat and electricity than many metals — making them potential candidates for use in nuclear power plants, the automotive industry, jet engines, and a range of other high-demand systems.
Then Barsoum received an unexpected phone call from Michael Carrell, a friend of a retired colleague of Barsoum, who called to chat with the Egyptian-born Barsoum about how much he knew of the mysteries surrounding the building of the Great Pyramids of Giza, the only remaining of the 7 wonders of the ancient world.
The widely accepted theory — that the pyramids were made of carved – out giant calcareous blocks that workers carried up ramps — was not only not embraced by everyone, but as important had quite a number of holes.
Burst out laughing
According to the caller, the mysteries had actually been solved by Joseph Davidovits, Director of the Geopolymer Institute in St. Quentin, France, more than 2 decades ago.
Davidovits claimed that the stones of the pyramids were actually made of a very early form of concrete created using a mixture of limestone, clay, lime, and water.
“It was at this point in the conversation that I burst out laughing,” Barsoum said. If the pyramids were indeed cast, he said, someone should have proven it beyond a doubt by now, in this day and age, with just a few hours of electron microscopy.
It turned out that nobody had completely proven the theory … yet.”What started as a 2-hour project turned into a 5-year odyssey that I undertook with one of my graduate students, Adrish Ganguly, and a colleague in France, Gilles Hug,” Barsoum said.
A year and a half later, after extensive scanning electron microscope observations and another testing, Barsoum and his research group finally began to draw some conclusions about the pyramids.
They found that the tiniest structures within the inner and outer casing stones were indeed consistent with a reconstituted limestone. The cement binding the limestone aggregate was either silicon dioxide (the building block of quartz) or a calcium and magnesium-rich silicate mineral.
The stones also had a high water content — unusual for the normally dry, natural limestone found on the Giza plateau — and the cementing phases, in both the inner and outer casing stones, were amorphous, in other words, their atoms were not arranged in a regular and periodic array. Sedimentary rocks such as limestone are seldom, if ever, amorphous.
The sample chemistries the researchers found do not exist anywhere in nature.
“Therefore,” Barsoum said, “it’s very improbable that the outer and inner casing stones that we examined were chiseled from a natural limestone block.”More startlingly, Barsoum and another of his graduate students, Aaron Sakulich, recently discovered the presence of silicon dioxide nanoscale spheres (with diameters only billionths of a meter across) in one of the samples. This discovery further confirms that these blocks are not natural limestone.
At the end of their most recent paper reporting these findings, the researchers reflect that it is “ironic, sublime and truly humbling” that this 4,500-year-old limestone is so true to the original that it has misled generations of Egyptologists and geologists and, “because the ancient Egyptians were the original — albeit unknowing — nanotechnologists.”As if the scientific evidence isn’t enough, Barsoum has pointed out a number of common sense reasons why the pyramids were not likely constructed entirely of chiseled limestone blocks.
Egyptologists are consistently confronted by unanswered questions: How is it possible that some of the blocks are so perfectly matched that not even a human hair can be inserted between them? Why, despite the existence of millions of tons of stone, carved presumably with copper chisels, has not one copper chisel ever been found on the Giza Plateau?
Although Barsoum’s research has not answered all of these questions, his work provides insight into some of the key questions. For example, it is now more likely than not that the tops of the pyramids are cast, as it would have been increasingly difficult to drag the stones to the summit.
Also, casting would explain why some of the stones fit so closely together. Still, as with all great mysteries, not every aspect of the pyramids can be explained. How the Egyptians hoisted 70-ton granite slabs halfway up the great pyramid remains as mysterious as ever.
Why do the results of Barsoum’s research matter most today? Two words: earth cement.”How energy intensive and/or complicated can a 4,500-year-old technology really be? The answer to both questions is not very,” Barsoum explains.
“The basic raw materials used for this early form of concrete — limestone, lime, and diatomaceous earth — can be found virtually anywhere in the world,” he adds.
“Replicating this method of construction would be cost-effective, long-lasting, and much more environmentally friendly than the current building material of choice: Portland cement that alone pumps roughly 6 billion tons of CO2 annually into the atmosphere when it’s manufactured.
“Ironically,” Barsoum said, “this study of 4,500-year-old rocks is not about the past, but about the future.”
Six skeletons with signs of cancer found in an ancient Egyptian cemetery
Bones with cancer signs found in an ancient Egyptian cemetery reveal that the frequently devastating disease is now much more prevalent than it was in people living near the Dakhleh Oasis.
Of the 1,087 skeletons buried between 1,500 and 3,000 years ago, only six were found with cancer — two younger women with cervical cancer, and a man with testicular cancer, all of which were associated with HPV ; and an older mummified man with colorectal cancer, an older woman with metastatic carcinoma, and a leukaemic infant.
That’s a rate of 5 cases in 1,000 – compared to today, where the cancer rate in Western societies approaches 500 per 1,000 people – a lifetime cancer risk 100 times greater than what it was in the ancient Dakhleh in Egypt’s Western Desert.
Because soft tissue doesn’t often survive millennia, the researchers looked for the traces cancer leaves on bone.Lesions found on the skeletons were consistent with carcinoma, and, although it’s difficult to diagnose based simply on bones, the researchers were able to determine the most likely types based on the distribution and types of legion, as well as the age and sex of the person.Three of them – two women and a man – fell outside the normal age range, dying in their 20s and 30s.
“When the Dakhleh cases were first presented at professional meetings a common comment against accepting the diagnosis of cancer was that ‘their ages were too young’!” the researchers, anthropologist El Molto of The University of Western Ontario and Ontario physician Peter Sheldrick, wrote in their paper.
But the 25-30-year-old male was likely afflicted with testicular cancer, since that age is the highest risk group, and the two young women were most likely afflicted by cervical cancer.
Both of these types of cancer are linked with HPV, recent research has found (although its implication in testicular cancer is rare) – and HPV has been around for a very long time, much longer than the age of the bones.And all strains of the virus evolved in Africa.
“The two female and the male burials from Dakhleh, all young adults, could have respectively developed cancer of the uterine cervix and testicular cancer,” Molto and Sheldrick wrote.
“We know from current cancer epidemiology research that both types of cancers peak in the young adult cohorts and the HPV risk factor would have likely been present the paleoecology of ancient Dakhleh.
“Interestingly, the older male mummy had soft tissue preserved, including a tumour. This meant that a full autopsy and tissue analysis could be performed, positively identifying rectal adenocarcinoma.The older woman most likely had ovarian, breast, or colorectal cancer; and the child, in whom almost every single bone showed signs of a systemic disease, probably had acute leukaemia, given its prevalence among that age group.
There are some caveats guiding estimates of the prevalence of cancer in ancient Egypt.
Firstly, the average lifespan was shorter – only 7.7 percent of the ancient Dakhlans were estimated to be over 60 years of age, the researchers said.Given that a quarter of new cancer cases are diagnosed between the ages of 65 and 74, according to the US National Cancer Council, this shorter lifespan could impact lifetime cancer risk.
Another factor that could affect results is the relative lack of soft tissue. Cancer doesn’t always leave a mark on bones, so there could have been some cases among the 1,087 skeletons that the researchers missed.
Even accounting for these caveats, however, Molto and Sheldrick believe that the prevalence of cancer was still at least 50 times lower in ancient Dakhleh.
“In our opinion, it is doubtful that even if the ancient Dakhlans had the same life expectancy as modern western societies the rate of cancer would have been equivalent,” they wrote in their paper.
“The carcinogenic load in their past environments would have been considerably less carcinogenic than modern western societies.”
Ancient Egyptian Inscriptions Found at Amethyst Mining Site
Archaeologists have uncovered more than 100 ancient inscriptions carved into the rock at Wadi el-Hudi, where the ancient Egyptians mined amethyst.
In addition to the carved-rock inscription, the researchers also found 14 steles (inscriptions carved on a stone slab or pillar) and 45 ostraca (inscriptions written on pieces of pottery).
Analysis of the newfound inscriptions is underway. So far, archaeologists can tell that many of the inscriptions date back around 3,900 years, to a time that modern-day archaeologists call the “Middle Kingdom.”
Many of the ostraca date back around 2,000 years, to around the time that Rome took over Egypt.
Amethyst became widely popular in Egypt during the Middle Kingdom, a time when the pharaohs of Egypt learned that Wadi el-Hudi is a good source for the material.
“Once the [pharaohs] found it, they kind of went bonkers to go get it,” Kate Liszka, the director of the Wadi el-Hudi expedition, told Live Science.
During the Middle Kingdom, “they were bringing it back and making it into jewelry and doling it out to their elite and their princesses.
“Though Wadi el-Hudi was surveyed in the past by other scholars, little excavation has been done and the surveys missed many inscriptions.
“The site is just so full of inscriptions behind every boulder and around every wall that they missed a lot of them” Liszka said.
The team is using 3D modeling, reflectance transformation imaging (RTI) and photogrammetry, among other techniques, to help find new inscriptions, map archaeological remains and reanalyze inscriptions discovered by scholars who surveyed Wadi el-Hudi in the past.
This work has taken on greater urgency as modern-day gold mines have opened in the area, causing damage to archaeological remains
The team is hoping that the inscriptions, along with other discoveries made during the excavations, will shed light on the many mysteries surrounding Wadi el-Hudi.
For instance, it’s not clear if the miners were working at the site of their own free will. “I don’t know if I’m excavating a legitimate settlement where people were treated well or if I’m excavating a prison camp,” Liszka said.
Some of the inscriptions say that the miners were proud of their work, suggesting that they may have been there of their own free will. Also, so far, no bodies have been found, suggesting that anyone who died was brought back to the Nile Valley for burial rather than left out in the desert, researchers said.
The inscriptions also show that there are places where groups of soldiers were looking down at the mines, leading researchers to wonder if these soldiers were protecting the miners or making sure the miners kept working.
One inscription shows two soldiers wrestling each other while passing time. Another mystery: How did the ancient Egyptian government get water to the miners? The nearest possible well is 1.9 miles (3 kilometers) away from Wadi el-Hudi, and it’s possible that it wasn’t in use long ago.
“Best-case scenario, they were carrying water for 1,000 to 1,500 people a minimum of 3 km, but possibly in from the Nile [River],” which is about 18.6 miles (30 km) away, Liszka said.
During the excavation, the team found a mysterious, 3,400-year-old stela written in the name of a senior official named Usersatet, who was viceroy of Kush, a region to the south of Egypt.
It dates to a time when there was no mining activity at Wadi el-Hudi and the site had been abandoned. This leaves archaeologists with the question of why someone bothered to drag the stela 18. 6 miles into the eastern desert and leave it at Wadi el-Hudi.