Category Archives: EGYPT

3,000 Years old Buhen: The Sunken fortress under the Nile

3,000 Years old Buhen: The Sunken fortress under the Nile

During the Middle Kingdom era, King Senusret III established castles and fortresses to protect Egypt from the south, such as the Buhen fortress that sunk in the Nile as a result of a flood.

Buhen was a massive fortress located on the west bank of the Nile in Lower Nubia (northern Sudan). The walls of the fortress were made of brick and stone walls, approximately 5 meters (16 ft) thick and about 10 meters (33 ft) high, covering an area of about 13,000 square meters (140,000 sq ft) and extending more than 150 meters (490 ft).

It was constructed during the reigns of King Senusret III in the Middle Kingdom era (12th dynasty) to protect Egypt and the commercial ships from rebel Nubians in the south, according to “Ancient Egypt” by David P. Silverman.

Photo for Buhen fortress from Nubia museum – Walaa Ali
Buhen fortress

The massive fortress was built in 1860 BC. It had about 1,000 soldiers, 300 archers, and their families. Queen Hatshepsut ordered a Horus temple to be built inside the Buhen fortress for worship and prayer, and also for traders to take a break while transporting their goods. Interestingly, during that time, Egypt imported and exported many products, such as oils, ivory, pottery, and tiger, and elephant skins.

The Middle Kingdom era saw many other fortresses besides Buhen, such as Mirgissa, Shalfak, Uronarti, Askut, Dabenarti, and ending with the paired fortresses of Semna and Kumma, located on opposite sides of the Nile River. Each fortress was in visual contact with the immediately adjacent forts.

Ahmed Saleh, director of antiquities in Aswan, told Egypt online portal that the Buhen fortress no longer exists because it was submerged under the waters of Lake Nasser in 1964 due to the flood; the Buhen fortress is now located 300 meters from the High Dam. He added that the Ministry of Antiquities did not search for it because it was certainly destroyed, like several other Egyptian antiquities. Among the most important ancient monuments lost under Lake Nasser are Nubian fortresses.

“But if the Ministry planned to look for antiquities under the waters of Lake Nasser, they could find nothing other than bones, noting that the level of water was higher than the level of the ground.

Therefore, the Egyptian government built the High Dam, but it, unfortunately, swept away several pharaonic artifacts; still, the Ministry of Antiquities saved many artifacts, in cooperation with more than 22 foreign research teams, such as the UNESCO Campaign to Save the Monuments of Nubia, which began in the 1960s.

 Fortress in the Middle and the New Kingdom( about 1200 BC)

The site was entirely submerged beneath the reservoir waters and rendered inaccessible. However, the campaign saved many temples, including the Hatshepsut and Philae temples, which were rescued and moved to places nearby,” Saleh added.

History of Egypt in the Middle Kingdom

The Middle Kingdom era is called the era of economic prosperity because of many economic projects, such as irrigation, trade, industry, and agriculture. Among the most famous kings of the Middle Kingdom were King Mentuhotep II, who restored the unity of the country and spread security after the chaos that plagued Egypt in the era of the Old Kingdom, and King Senusret III, who was one of the greatest kings of Egypt.

Senusret III took care of the army to protect Egypt and led many campaigns to secure its borders. He also ordered the digging of the Sesostris Canal to link the Red Sea and the Nile, as well as building a dam to protect the land in Fayoum from the flood.

Head of King Senusret III in Gulbenkian Museum.

The Sesostris Canal was the source of the idea to build the Suez Canal to connect the Mediterranean Sea and the Red Sea, which became the most important navigational channel in the world and an important source of income for Egypt.

King Amenemhat III ruled from c. 1860 BCE to c. 1814 BCE. He was interested in agriculture and irrigation, and he ordered the building of the first pyramid at Dahshur, the so-called “Black Pyramid”, near Fayoum.

Around the 15th year of his reign, the king decided to build a new pyramid at Hawara, as well as a huge temple called “Labyrinth,” named so due to a large number of rooms, roads, and corners inside it, making it difficult for any visitor to exit.

Unfortunately, as a result of the kings’ weaknesses and greed, chaos spread in the country, which allowed the Hyksos, who came from Asia, to occupy Northern Egypt. The Hyksos abused the Egyptians very much and destroyed many temples and several ancient antiquities.

The Egyptians were determined to fight and expel the Hyksos from their country. The struggle started from Upper Egypt, led by Seqenenre Tao, who was martyred in the war with the Hyksos, but his wife Ahhotep encouraged the Egyptians to continue the struggle.

She urged her eldest son, Kamose, to continue the struggle, but he was also martyred in one of the battles. Then, the army was taken over by the younger son of Seqenenre Tao, Ahmose I, who continued to fight the Hyksos until they were expelled from Egypt. He then ruled the country.

One of the greatest civilizations throughout history is the ancient Egyptian civilization, which has stunned the entire world for ages. During the Middle Kingdom era, when Egypt was at the highest degree of culture and development, and kings were interested in projects of benefit to the people, handicrafts were developed and literature and art flourished.

14 Fully Intact and Sealed Coffins Discovered after 2,500 Years in Egypt’s Saqqara

14 Fully Intact and Sealed Coffins Discovered after 2,500 Years in Egypt’s Saqqara

Archaeologists in Egypt have discovered almost 30 sarcophagi believed to have been buried for around 2,500 years, according to the country’s Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities.

The cache of closed coffins was unearthed from an 11-meter-deep (36 feet) burial shaft in Saqqara, a vast necropolis about 32 kilometers (20 miles) south of Cairo.

Having announced the discovery of over a dozen sarcophagi at the site earlier this month, the ministry revealed via Facebook on Sunday that it had unearthed a further 14, raising the total number found in the shaft to 27.

The sarcophagi were discovered in an 11-meter (36 feet) shaft in Saqqara.

Despite staying underground for millennia, the coffins have retained some of their original colors. Archaeologists also uncovered a collection of smaller artifacts at the site, according to a ministry statement.

Prior to Sunday’s announcement, Egypt’s Tourism and Antiquities Minister Khaled El-Enany had already described discoveries at the site as being “the largest number of coffins in one burial since the discovery of the Al-Asasif cachette,” referring to the 2019 discovery of 30 coffins, with mummies inside, that authorities then called Egypt’s largest find in over a century.

In a press statement, El-Enany also thanked the excavation workers for operating in difficult conditions while adhering to new coronavirus-related safety measures. “(It’s a) very exciting discovery,” he said in a video released by the ministry. “I think it’s only the beginning.”

Totally sealed

All 27 of the sarcophagi unearthed from Saqqara appear to be completely sealed, with initial studies suggesting that they haven’t been opened since they were first buried, the ministry said. Authorities also suggested that more coffins and artifacts were likely buried in the same location.

14 Fully Intact and Sealed Coffins Discovered after 2,500 Years in Egypt’s Saqqara
A sarcophagus from the Saqqara archaeological mission.

It is unclear how many more sarcophagi may be found in the shaft, or whose remains they contain, though archaeologists hope to provide further answers during the excavation process, said Mustafa Waziri, the secretary-general of Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities.

The discovery follows a number of other significant finds at the Saqqara necropolis site in recent months. In April, archaeologists discovered five limestone sarcophagi and four wooden coffins containing human mummies.

That burial shaft, which stretched 9 meters (30 feet) below ground, was found to contain an array of small artifacts, including figurines that were typically buried in Egyptian graves to aid the deceased in the afterlife.

Also found in the tomb was a small wooden obelisk, about 40 centimeters tall, that had been painted with depictions of the Egyptian goddesses Isis and Nephthys, and the god Horus, one of the most renowned ancient Egyptian deities.

In December 2018, archaeologists found a private tomb belonging to a royal purification priest that dates back more than 4,000 years, according to the Ministry of Antiquities. A month before that, archaeologists found a mass cat cemetery and a collection of rare mummified scarab beetles.

Cleopatra’s final resting place: Mummies of two high-status Egyptians discovered

Cleopatra’s final resting place: Mummies of two high-status Egyptians discovered.

The mystery behind Egyptian queen Cleopatra’s tomb is immense because nobody appears to know where she was buried. However, archaeologists in Egypt are in all probability, close to cracking the code with respect to Cleopatra’s burial after two mummies of high-status individuals, who lived in her era, have been discovered at Taposiris Magna – a temple on the Nile delta.

A discovery that it is being described as “sensational” because it shows the importance of a necropolis that is being linked to her by the latest finds.

Although the burial chamber had been undisturbed for 2,000 years, the mummies are in a poor state of preservation because water had seeped through.

Cleopatra's final resting place: Mummies of two high-status Egyptians discovered.
The two mummies found inside a sealed tomb at Taposiris Magna, that would originally have been completely covered with gold leaf.

But crucial evidence reveals they were originally completely covered with gold leaf, a luxury afforded only to those from the top tiers of society. Perhaps these two individuals had interacted with Cleopatra herself, archaeologists suggest.

The opening of the first-ever intact tomb found at Taposiris Magna was witnessed by cameras for a new Channel 5 documentary, The Hunt for Cleopatra’s Tomb, to be screened.

The temple is located near Alexandria, the capital of ancient Egypt and where Cleopatra killed herself in 30 BC

It is presented by Dr Glenn Godenho, a senior lecturer in Egyptology at Liverpool University, who described the discovery as phenomenal.

“Although now covered in dust from 2,000 years underground, at the time these mummies would have been spectacular. To be covered in gold leaf shows they … would have been … important members of society,” he said.

The mummies have been X-rayed, establishing that they are male and female. One suggestion is they were priests who played a key role in maintaining the pharaohs’ power. One bears an image of a scarab, symbolising rebirth, painted in gold leaf.

Cleopatra was the last of a ruthless dynasty that ruled the Ptolemaic kingdom in Egypt for almost three centuries. Yet not a single Ptolemaic pharaoh’s tomb has been found.

Excavations at Taposiris Magna are headed by Dr Kathleen Martínez, who, after working there for over 14 years, is more convinced than ever Cleopatra’s tomb will be found there. Only a tiny percentage of the vast site has been explored.

Dr Glenn Godenho and Dr Kathleen Martinez inside Taposiris Magna temple near Alexandria in Egypt

In the show, cameras film her as the burial chamber with two mummies is opened up for the first time. After an initial limestone slab is removed with a chisel and hammer, she peers through a small hole, exclaiming: “Oh my god, there are two mummies … See this wonder.”

Osteoarchaeologist, Dr Linda Chapon, working to conserve the two mummies found inside a sealed tomb at Taposiris Magna

Her previous discoveries include a headless statue of a pharaoh, believed to be King Ptolemy IV, Cleopatra’s ancestor, and a foundation plate with an inscription showing that the temple was dedicated to the goddess Isis. Cleopatra saw herself as the “human incarnation of Isis”, Martínez said.

At the site of the temple altar, where priests would have made offerings to the gods, 200 coins bearing Cleopatra’s name and her face have been discovered.

This “incredible find” not only links Cleopatra directly to Taposiris Magna but also reveals a striking image of the queen, Godenho says in the documentary.

While its prominent nose and double chin may not suggest the classical beauty immortalised by Hollywood and Elizabeth Taylor, it is how she would have wanted to be seen as the coins would have been pressed using her direct instructions.

Egypt dig unearths ‘early image of Jesus’ in a mysterious underground tomb

Egypt dig unearths ‘early image of Jesus’ in a mysterious underground tomb

Jesus image has been replicated countless times in churches and artwork, but a team of Spanish archaeologists believe they have found one of the earliest images of Jesus.

A mysterious underground room dating from between the sixth and seventh century AD holds an image of a young man with curly hair, who appears to be giving a blessing among other Coptic images.

The Catalan experts who discovered the site in the ancient Egyptian city of Oxyrhynchus think it was the final resting place for a writer and a number of priests.

A miraculous discovery! An underground room dating from the sixth century holds an image of a young man with curly hair, who appears to be giving a blessing (pictured) and one expert thinks it could be one of the earliest paintings of Jesus Christ. The image, which is seen here, has been protected from the sun with a thin layer of material

A miraculous discovery! An underground room dating from the sixth century holds an image of a young man with curly hair, who appears to be giving a blessing (pictured) and one expert thinks it could be one of the earliest paintings of Jesus Christ. The image, which is seen here, has been protected from the sun with a thin layer of material

THE UNDERGROUND ROOM

The structure dates from between the sixth and seventh century AD in the Coptic period and holds what could be an image of Jesus. It shows a young man with curly hair, dressed in a short tunic and with his hand raised as if giving a blessing

The room is thought to be a tomb for a writer and several priests, based upon artefacts found inside it, including a metallic ink well. It lies in what was the ancient city of Oxyrhynchus on a processional route between the Nile and a temple dedicated to Osiris – the ancient Egyptian god of the underworld

There is another mysterious structure closeby, linked with a flight of well-worn steps, which experts think might be another temple.

The find has been heralded as ‘exceptional’ by Josep Padró who is leading the exhibition and said the figure accompanies symbols and images of plants that are thought to date from the Coptic period of the first Christians.

Dr Padró, Emeritus Professor at the University of Barcelona, told La Vanguardia newspaper that the figure is that of ‘a young man with curly hair, dressed in a short tunic and with his hand raised as if giving a blessing.’

‘We could be dealing with a very early image of Jesus Christ.’

Archaeologists are now working to translate inscriptions surrounding the figure in the painting on the wall of the rectangular crypt in a bid to ascertain the man’s identity. The underground structure measures around eight metres long and four metres deep.

Experts from the University of Barcelona, the Catalan Egyptology Society and the University of Montpellier are also unsure of what the function of structure originally was, but said that the underground stone structure is ‘excellent’ quality.

Ancient centre: The Catalan experts who discovered the site in the ancient Egyptian city of Oxyrhynchus (marked on the map) think it was the final resting place for a writer and a number of priests
Tools of the trade: The team of archaeologists also found working tools of a scribe that were buried in the tomb. They include a metallic inkpot which is still full of ink and two new pens for the pens (pictured) for the deceased to write during the eternal life

They also found working tools of a scribe that was buried in the tomb. They include a metallic inkpot which is still full of ink and two new pens for the deceased to write during the eternal life.

Dr Padró said: ‘The archaeological site of Oxyrhynchus is known for the thousands of papyri found there, but any scribe was found to date.’

While there were no inscriptions hinting at the identity of the deceased, the remains show that the scribe was probably around 17 year’s old and lived during the Coptic Roman period.

Archaeologists and engineers had to move around 45tonnes of rock to get to the hidden artwork and another unidentified structure close by, which is connected to the tombs by a set of very worn steps is currently being investigated.

Gateway to the afterlife? The underground structure is situated in the middle of what was a processional route joining the Nile with the Osireion - the temple dedicated to Osiris - which is one of the greatest findings of Oxyrhynchus. The god is pictured in this painting in theTomb of Pashedu in Luxor, Egypt alongside - Orus, the hawk god protector of Osiris
Gateway to the afterlife? The underground structure is situated in the middle of what was a processional route joining the Nile with the Osireion – the temple dedicated to Osiris – which is one of the greatest findings of Oxyrhynchus. The god is pictured in this painting in the tomb of Pashedu in Luxor, Egypt alongside – Orus, the hawk god protector of Osiris

No-one is sure of what lies inside it, but experts from the University of Barcelona think it might be a temple, perhaps dedicated to god Serapis – the Hellenistic form of Osiris who is the ancient Egyptian god of the afterlife.

The structures are situated in the middle of what was a processional route joining the Nile with the Osireion, the temple dedicated to Osiris, which is one of the greatest findings of Oxyrhynchus.

Egypt’s Minister of Antiquities, Mohamed Ibrahim, has become personally involved with the excavation, The Local reported. The Egyptian ministry will develop the archaeological site to preserve early Christian artwork.

Passport of 3,000-year-old Mummy of Pharaoh Ramesses II Issued for Travelling to France for the necessary repair

Passport of 3,000-year-old Mummy of Pharaoh Ramesses II Issued for Travelling to France for the necessary repair

Pharoah Ramesses was one of the strongest leaders in ancient Egypt and even when he had died, he was an absolute king. Ramesses, sometimes also known as Ramses, was the greatest and the most famous ruler of the New Kingdom, and ruling the dynasty of Egypt over 66 years.

Born in 1303 BC, Ramesses was named after Ra, the ruler of the sun and ‘Ramesses’ translates to ‘Ra is the one who bore him.’ He fought multiple battles and led several military expeditions. He got hold of the throne when he was only in his teens.

His father, Ramesses I, came from a non-Royal family and was given the crown after the demise of Akhenaten, a pharaoh who tried to convert Egyptians to a newly-introduced monotheistic religion. He made his son a military general when he was merely 10 years old. Egyptians referred to Ramesses II as ‘Ramesses the great.’ He was deeply loved by his masses.

Archaeologists have found numerous Paintings, murals, engravings, and tombs in honor of Ramesses II, praising him. While the exact age is not known, it is believed that Ramesses died when he was about 90 years old.

He had several dental problems and was suffering from arthritis. He outlived many of his wives and even children and took his empire to a new height.

Ramesses II as a child at Cairo Museum

He was buried in the Valley of Kings, originally, but due to the constant threat of being looted, the priests took him out, re-wrapped him, and then placed him in the tomb of queen Ahmose Inhapy only to remove him again and move to Pinedjem’s tomb, a high priest. The linen which covers his body has hieroglyphics depicting the same.

His mummy was first discovered in 1881 and the people who discovered it were shocked to see what they found. Even after hundreds of years, Ramesses’ body was still intact, hair still on his head and his skin was in pristine condition.

The mummy was 5’7 in height, had a strong jaw and an aquiline nose structure. Gaston Maspero, who first unwrapped the mummy, revealed fascinating details about it.

In Egypt, a statue of Ramses II

“On the temples, there are a few sparse hairs, but at the poll the hair is quite thick, forming smooth, straight locks about five centimeters in length. White at the time of death, and possibly auburn during life, they have been dyed a light red by the spices (henna) used in embalming… the mustache and beard are thin…

The hairs are white, like those of the head and eyebrows…the skin is of earthy brown, splotched with black… the face of the mummy gives a fair idea of the face of the living king,” he noted.

But, when a group of Egyptologists visited his tomb in 1974, they found that the body of the legendary king was deteriorating rapidly and was in a grave need of repairs.

It was found that bacteria due to humidity had infested the body of the pharaoh, causing it to fall apart. To repair and preserve such an ancient body, experts were needed and at that time, such experts were only found in France.

So, in order to take the mummy to Paris, the authorities issued Ramesses II a valid Egyptian passport, 3,000 years after his death. A picture of his mummy was his passport picture (and you thought you look ugly in your passport id) and his profession was listed as ‘King (Deceased).’

The mummy flew to Paris after formalities and was received with military honors, like a king. After he was repaired, he flew back to Cairo and now resides there in the Egyptian Museum.

The legendary king was issued a valid Egyptian passport so he could fly to Paris for necessary repairs.

Egypt: Hidden City found beneath Alexandria – Archaeology World

Egypt: Hidden City found beneath Alexandria – Archaeology World

Alexander the Great founded the legendary city of Alexandria as he swept through Egypt to conquer the world. Now scientists have discovered hidden underwater traces of a city that existed at Alexandria at least seven centuries before Alexander the Great arrived, findings hinted at in Homer’s Odyssey and that could shed light on the ancient world.

In Egypt on the Mediterranean shore, Alexandria was founded in 332 B.C, to immortalize Alexander the Great. The city was renowned for its library, once the largest in the world, as well as its lighthouse at the island of Pharos, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.

Alexandria was known to have developed from a settlement known as Rhakotis, or Râ-Kedet, vaguely alluded to as a modest fishing village of little significance by some historians.

Detail from the Alexander mosaic. From the House of the Faun, Pompeii, c. 80 B.C.

Seven rod-shaped samples of dirt gathered from the seafloor of Alexandria’s harbor now suggest there may have been a flourishing urban center there as far back at 1000 B.C.

Coastal geoarchaeologist Jean-Daniel Stanley of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History and his colleagues used vibrating hollow tubes to gently extract three-inch-wide rods of sediment 6 to 18 feet long (2 to 5.5 meters) from up to 20 feet (6.5 meters) underwater.

Collecting these samples underwater proved challenging. “Alexandria now is home to as many as 4 million people, and we were in the unfortunate position of having to deal with their discharge—human waste, municipal waste, industrial waste—which got released into the harbor,” Stanley said. “It’s not funny, but you have to sort of laugh.”

Ceramic shards, high levels of lead that were likely used in construction, building stones imported from elsewhere in Egypt, and organic material likely coming from sewage were detected in the sediment.

These all suggest the presence of a significant settlement well before Alexander the Great came. The results are detailed in the August issue of the journal GSA Today.

“Alexandria was built on top of an existing, and perhaps quite important, settlement, maybe one that was minimized in importance because we can’t see it now,” Stanley told LiveScience. “Nothing really concrete about Rhakotis has been discovered until now.”

Alexander the Great likely chose this area for Alexandria since it had a bay to protect a harbor against fierce winter storms in the Mediterranean.

“There are very few places in the Egyptian Mediterranean coast where the coastline is not smooth,” Stanley said. “This would have been the best place to establish a harbor.”

Stanley added this bay was even noted in Homer’s epic Odyssey: “Now in the surging sea an island lies, Pharos they call it. By it, there lies a bay with a good anchorage, from which they send the trim ships off to sea.”

This area might have been a haven throughout ancient times for the Greeks, Minoans, Phoenicians, and others. Future research could shed light on the life of mariners at this settlement before Alexander came. “Virtually nothing is known of the people who would have lived there,” Stanley said.

Older than Giza: 4,600-year-old pyramid uncovered in Egypt

Older than Giza: 4,600-year-old pyramid uncovered in Egypt

Researchers working near the 4,600-year-old pyramid uncovered at Tell Edfu in Egypt. Archaeologists working near Edfu, a city in southern Egypt, fought back the rolling tide of modern development to preserve a rare archaeological site. And the effort has paid off: Beneath this heap of sand, at a site called Tell Edfu, researchers have uncovered a 4,600-year-old step pyramid — one of the earliest pyramids yet found.

Archaeologists working near the ancient settlement of Edfu in southern Egypt have uncovered a step pyramid that dates back about 4,600 years.

The step pyramid, which once stood as high as 43 feet (13 meters), is one of seven so-called “provincial” pyramids built by either the pharaoh Huni (reign ca. 2635-2610 B.C.) or Snefru (reign ca. 2610-2590 B.C.). Over time, the step pyramid’s stone blocks were pillaged, and the monument was exposed to weathering, so today, it’s only about 16 feet (5 m) tall.

Scattered throughout central and southern Egypt, the provincial pyramids are located near major settlements, have no internal chambers and were not intended for burial. Six of the seven pyramids have almost identical dimensions, including the newly uncovered one at Edfu, which is about 60 x 61 feet (18.4 x 18.6 m). 

The purpose of these seven pyramids is a mystery. They may have been used as symbolic monuments dedicated to the royal cult that affirmed the power of the king in the southern provinces.

“The similarities from one pyramid to the other are really amazing, and there is definitely a common plan,” said Gregory Marouard, a research associate at the University of Chicago’s Oriental Institute who led the work at the Edfu pyramid. On the east side of the newly uncovered pyramid, his team found the remains of an installation where food offerings appear to have been made — a discovery that is important for understanding this kind of pyramid since it provides clues as to what they were used for.

The team also found hieroglyphic graffiti incised on the outer faces of the pyramid. The inscriptions are located beside the remains of babies and children who were buried at the foot of the pyramid. The researchers think the inscriptions and burials date to long after the pyramid was built and that the structure was not originally intended as a burial place. Initial results of the excavation were presented at a symposium held in Toronto recently by the Society for the Study of Egyptian Antiquities.

Uncovering the pyramid

Though scholars knew of the existence of the pyramid at Edfu, the structure had never been excavated before Marouard’s team started work in 2010, he said in the study. His team found that the pyramid was covered by a thick layer of sand, modern waste, and remains from the pillaging of its blocks.

It didn’t look like a pyramid he said, and people in a nearby village even thought the structure was the tomb of a sheikh, a local Muslim saint. As the team went to work cleaning the monument, the ancient pyramid was revealed. 

Built of sandstone blocks and clay mortar, it had been constructed in the form of a three-step pyramid. A core of blocks rises up vertically, with two layers of blocks beside it, on top of each other. This made the pyramid look like it had three steps. The style is similar to that of a step pyramid built by Djoser (reign ca. 2670-2640 B.C.), the pharaoh who constructed Egypt’s first pyramid at the beginning of the third ancient Egyptian dynasty. The technique is close to that used at the Meidum pyramid, which was built by either Snefru or Huni and started out as a step pyramid before being turned into a true pyramid.

“The construction itself reflects a certain care and a real expertise in the mastery of stone construction, especially for the adjustment of the most important blocks,” said Marouard in his paper. Marouard also noted that the pyramid was built directly on the bedrock and was constructed entirely with local raw materials. The quarry where the sandstone was extracted was discovered in 2011, and is located only about a half mile (800 m) north of the pyramid.

The growth of a modern-day cemetery and village poses a danger to the newly uncovered pyramid. In order to help prevent further looting, a fence was built around the structure, thanks to financial assistance from the American Research Center in Egypt and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Graffiti and child burials

As the team uncovered the pyramid, they found that inscriptions had been incised on its outer faces. They include hieroglyphic depictions of a book roll, a seated man, a four-legged animal, a reed leaf and a bird.

“These are mostly private and rough inscriptions, and certainly dedicated to the child/babies’ burials located right under these inscriptions at the foot of the pyramid,” Marouard told Live Science in an email. One of the inscriptions appears to mean “head of the house” and may be a reference to the mother of a buried child. Marouard said his team would be publishing these burials and images in more detail in the future. 

A pyramid abandoned

The archaeologists found that by the time of the reign of Khufu (the pharaoh who built the Great Pyramid), ca. 2590-2563 B.C., the pyramid at Edfu had been abandoned, and offerings were no longer being made. This occurred less than 50 years after its construction, Marouard said.

This suggests the seven small pyramids stopped being used when work on the Great Pyramid began. It seems Khufu no longer thought there was a need to maintain a small pyramid at Edfu, or elsewhere in southern Egypt, Marouard said. Rather, Khufu focused all the resources on building the Great Pyramid at Giza, which is close to the Egyptian capital at Memphis, he added.

Khufu may have felt politically secure in southern Egypt and saw no need to maintain or build pyramids there, Marouard said in the email. The “center of gravity of Egypt was then at Memphis for many centuries — this region draining resources and manpower from the provinces, all regions being put to use for the large construction sites of funerary complexes.”

At Wadi Al-Jarf, a port found on the shore of the Red Sea that dates to Khufu’s time, papyri (written documents) dating to the end of Khufu’s reign were recently discovered that supports the idea that the pharaoh tried to converge all the resources he could toward Giza and the ancient wonder being constructed there.

Archaeologists in Egypt reveals ‘elite’ mummies, jars filled with organs, and mystery snake cult

Archaeologists in Egypt reveals ‘elite’ mummies, jars filled with organs, and mystery snake cult

The ancient Egyptians, known for their elaborate mummies, took a lot of care in preparing for the afterlife. Now, for the first time, archaeologists have discovered that they had a bustling funeral industry, too. As it turns out, priest-embalmers were also savvy business people whose tactics presaged the modern funeral industry.

A burial workshop unearthed in 2018 in Saqqara, a necropolis (or city of the dead) 20 miles south of Cairo, offered Egyptologists the first major opportunity to document a site where mummies were made.

Archeologists behind early excavations likely overlooked such sites in their eagerness to uncover richly decorated royal tombs.

But as it turns out, the Egyptian funeral parlor wasn’t just preparing the pharaohs for the afterlife. They offered a whole range of services, from ornate golden funerary masks to cheaper plaster ones embellished with gold foil. The canopic jars, which stored the organs of the dead, could be made from alabaster or cheaper painted clay.

“The evidence we uncovered shows the embalmers had very good business sense,” says Ramadan Hussein, an Egyptologist at the University of Tübingen in Germany, told National Geographic. “They were very smart about providing alternatives.”

In a tomb deep below the desert, Egyptologist Ramadan Hussein (left) and mummy specialist Salima Ikram (right) examine the coffin of a woman who was laid to rest inside a limestone sarcophagus weighing more than seven tons.

The ancient funeral parlor was located beneath a burial shaft that had last been investigated in the late 1800s—archaeologists had to remove 42 tons of debris to access the chamber, found just three feet below where the earlier excavations had ceased.

Hussein soon realized that what they had found wasn’t a tomb, but the site where bodies were prepared for burial. There was an air shaft that would have provided crucial ventilation, bowls containing traces of the oils and resins used in mummification, and a table-like slab perfect for laying out bodies.

The excavation of the funeral parlor also uncovered six nearby tombs, home to some 50 mummies that illustrate how the business offered its services to different clientele.

The wealthy, buried the deepest—the closest to the underworld—bought such expensive trappings as a limestone sarcophagus and a silver face mask with gold gilding, only the third of its kind ever discovered. The working class on the tomb’s upper tiers, on the other hand, settled for simple wooden coffins.

The rare silver face mask gilded with gold. Photo courtesy of the University of Tübingen, Ramadan Hussein.

The afterlife was hugely important to the ancient Egyptians, and the ritualized mummification process that ensured one’s safe journey to the underworld took a full 70 days.

Embalmers carefully packed the internal organs into four canopic jars, then dried the body out with salt, anointed it with oil, and wrapped it in linen. The finished mummy would be laid to rest in a fully provisioned tomb, according to the family’s means.

Loved ones would pay embalmers regular fees for the upkeep of the dead, according to papyrus documents found in Saqqara over 100 years ago. The discovery of an actual Egyptian funeral parlor offers the first physical evidence of this practice.

“Mummification was a business transaction between an individual and an embalmer in which the embalmer was a specialist, a priest, and a businessman,” Hussein told.

One of two extra mystery canopic jars containing an unidentified organ, buried with the coffin of a woman named Didibastet. Photo courtesy of the Egypt Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities.

Among the important discoveries at the site was the coffin of a woman named Didibastet, who was buried with six canopic jars, two more than tradition dictates, reports Al-Ahram Weekly.

All of the jars contain human tissue, a CT scan revealed, suggesting that this was a special form of mummification that preserved additional organs beyond the lungs, stomach, intestines, and liver. The team’s radiologist is now studying the jars to identify the extra organs.