Category Archives: EGYPT

Hoard of Islamic era gold and silver coins found behind Egyptian temple

Hoard of Islamic era gold and silver coins found behind Egyptian temple

Archaeologists in Egypt have uncovered a nearly 1,000-year-old cache of gold and silver coins behind a temple in Esna, a city located along the Nile River.

Hoard of Islamic era gold and silver coins found behind Egyptian temple
Archaeologists uncovered both gold and silver coins at the temple site in Esna, Egypt.

The hoard, which was discovered by a team of researchers from Egypt’s Supreme Council for Archaeology, includes coins minted throughout different parts of the Islamic era, which began in A.D. 610, when Muhammad received his first revelation, and lasted until approximately the 13th century(opens in new tab). 

Notable coins found during the excavation, which began last year, include 286 silver coins of kings and kingdoms from that era, as well as a variety of gold coins, a coin from Armenia that was minted during King Leo II’s reign in the 13th century, and bronze and brass coins from the Ottoman Empire.

Also found among the “hidden treasure” were dirhams (silver coins used across several Arab states, including today’s United Arab Emirates) minted by a variety of kings and sultans.

In addition, researchers unearthed molds and weights that were used during the minting process, according to a translated statement.

Archaeologists(opens in new tab) aren’t sure why the hoard of coins was abandoned at the temple site and hope further analyses of the cache will provide clues to the coins’ history, according to the statement.

New Kingdom Sarcophagus Discovered at Saqqara

New Kingdom Sarcophagus Discovered at Saqqara

To the south of the causeway of King Unas in Saqqara necropolis, the archaeological mission of the Faculty of Archaeology, Cairo University, headed by Ola El-Aguizy, stumbled upon the sarcophagus of Ptahemwia from the reign of King Ramses II, whose tomb was discovered last year in Saqqara.

New Kingdom Sarcophagus Discovered at Saqqara

Mostafa Waziry, secretary-general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, said Ptahemwia holds several titles, including the royal scribe, the great overseer of the cattle in the temple of Ramses II, the head of the treasury, and the one responsible for the offerings of all gods of Lower and Upper Egypt.

Waziri said the entrance to the shaft of the tomb at the centre of the peristyle court measured 2.2 X 2.1 m. The subterranean burial chamber opened on the west side of the shaft at the depth of 7 m.

It led to a square room measuring 4.2 X 4.5 m, leading to two other rooms on the western and the southern sides. 

These two rooms were completely empty. In the main room, he added, a cut in the floor on the north side was noticed, leading to stairs that led to the burial chamber proper which measured 4.6 X 3.7 m. 

El-Aguizy explained that the sarcophagus was uncovered on the west side of the burial chamber. It was directed south-north with an anthropoid lid showing the facial features of the deceased with crossed arms on the chest holding the Djed symbol of the deity Osiris and the Tyet symbol of the goddess Isis. 

The sarcophagus is decorated with the usual inscriptions found on New Kingdom sarcophagi, with the bearded head of the owner, the sky-goddess Nut seated on the chest extending her wings.

Engraved on the lid and body of the sarcophagus is the name of Ptahemwia and his titles, representations of the four sons of Horus, and the prayers accompanying them all around the body of the sarcophagus.

“The lid of the sarcophagus was broken diagonally, and the missing part was found in the corner of the chamber. It has been restored to its original position. The sarcophagus was empty except for some residue of tar from the mummification on the bottom of the sarcophagus,” El-Aguizy pointed out.

Belgium Repatriates Ancient Artifacts to Egypt

Belgium Repatriates Ancient Artifacts to Egypt

Egypt recovered on Sunday two ancient Egyptian statues that were smuggled to Belgium, as the country continues intensive efforts to retrieve thousands of artefacts found in the unlawful possession of museums and individuals around the world.

Assistant Foreign Minister for Cultural Relations Omar Selim (L) and General Supervisor of the Repatriation Antiquities Department Shaaban Abdel-Gawad during the hand-over of two ancient statues retrieved from Belgium.

The two pieces are a wooden, painted figurine statue of a standing man resting on a pedestal and a wooden ushabti figurine.

The first piece dates back to the Old Kingdom (2686-2181 BC), the other to the Late Period (664-332 BC), a statement by the ministry read.

In 2016, the two pieces were seized by the Belgian authorities at an exhibition for selling antiquities after investigations concluded the exhibition owner did not possess their ownership documents, the statement added.

The two pieces were handed over by Assistant Foreign Minister for Cultural Relations Omar Selim to the Repatriation Antiquities Department (RAD) at the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities in the presence of General Supervisor of the RAD Shaaban Abdel-Gawad and a representative of the Ministry of Interior.

Egypt is set to repatriate 16 artefacts that were stolen and smuggled out of the country after they were recovered by the authorities in the United States as part of their investigations into a major case of international trafficking in Egyptian antiquities.

In June, New York prosecutors announced seizing five Egyptian artefacts worth more than $3 million from the Metropolitan Museum of Art as part of an investigation into international trafficking in Egyptian antiquities involving Jean-Luc Martinez, the former president of the Louvre, who was charged in May with complicity in fraud.

In recent years, Egypt toughened penalties for unlawful possession or smuggling of artefacts. 

Last year, parliament amended the law on protecting antiquities to stipulate that those illegally possessing or selling antiquities face imprisonment and a fine of EGP 1 million to EGP 10 million.

Egypt has succeeded in recovering 5,000 artefacts from the US, 115 from France, and 36 from Spain in recent years.

Archaeologists uncover 2,600-year-old blocks of white cheese in Egypt

Archaeologists uncover 2,600-year-old blocks of white cheese in Egypt

Archaeologists uncover 2,600-year-old blocks of white cheese in Egypt

Archaeologists in Egypt made an unexpected discovery on Saturday, opening a set of ancient pots to discover a block of halloumi inside, preserved for 2,600 years.

Yep, we’re serious—it was halloumi.

The ancient Egyptians ate a cheese they called haram (no, it wasn’t haram), which eventually evolved into the word halloum—aka halloumi.

The world’s squeakiest cheese, which tastes at its rawest like new sneakers on a hospital floor in the best possible way, was found as part of the Egyptian archaeological mission working in Giza in the Saqqara antiquities area. Yep, the same place as Secrets of the Saqqara Tomb was set.

No word yet on whether it is edible, but perhaps they’re taking volunteers?

While some scientists point to Cyprus as the originate of the cheese during the Byzantine period, others dispute this, and claim it was previously known as haram in ancient Egypt.

The archaeologists found a number of clay pots that contained the cheese, which was inscribed in Demotic script, a type of writing that was discovered on the Rosetta Stone.

Archaeologists uncover 2,600-year-old blocks of white cheese in Egypt
The archaeologists on saturday discovering the halloumi.

They found a large number of containers, the rest of which are planned to be open in the coming days. No speculation on whether they all contain halloumi or whether there are other cheeses—or non-cheese substances of some kind—within the pots.

The Saqqara area has been a hugely fruitful area for relics in recent years, with more than 100 sarcophagi discovered, which was turned into the 2020 Netflix documentary.

Archaeologists have more planned excavations for the area too. The Egyptian Antiquities Mission has been working on the site since 2018, and through the past five excavations seasons, it had highlights including the discovery of the unique tomb of the priest of the Fifth Dynasty “Wahi”, in addition to 7 rock tombs, including three tombs from the New Kingdom and four tombs from the Old Kingdom, and the facade of a tomb from the ancient state, in addition to the discovery of more than a thousand amulet of faience, dozens of wooden cat statues, cat mummies, wooden statues and animal mummies.

None, of course, is as delicious as halloumi.

Archaeologists in Egypt still a huge hit for Netflix

Netflix’s feature-length documentary Secret of the Saqqara Tomb, released in October 2020, was viewed by 22 million households around the world in its first four weeks, according to the streamer. 

That amount puts the documentary in the top five documentary films in Netflix history, says the film’s director, James Tovell. 

Netflix doesn’t often release numbers, so the figures and rankings are an interesting insight into how popular documentaries are on the platform. Extraction, the Chris Hemsworth action film released last year, was viewed by 99 million homes in its first four weeks, for comparison. 

“All of these experiences and the amazing discoveries that were made have of course become all the more rewarding now that so many Netflix members have come along with us on this journey.

We’re extremely grateful to all those who have watched the film, and thrilled that so many people have found something to enjoy, from those learning about ancient Egypt for the first time to those familiar with this world who were able to learn or experience something new,” says Tovell.

Egypt to repatriate 16 artefacts recovered by authorities in the United States

Egypt to repatriate 16 artefacts recovered by authorities in the United States

Egypt is set to repatriate 16 artefacts that were stolen and smuggled out of the country after they were recovered by the authorities in the United States as part of their investigations into a major case of international trafficking in Egyptian antiquities.

Egypt to repatriate 16 artefacts recovered by authorities in the United States

The repatriation of these stolen artefacts was made possible through a collaborative effort between the country’s Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities and Ministry of Foreign Affairs, on the one hand, and the Office of the Attorney General in New York, on the other hand, after the completion of all necessary investigations.

Shaaban Abdel-Gawad, the supervisor general of the Antiquities Repatriation Department at the Supreme Council of Antiquities, broke down the identity of the artefacts to be repatriated.

First, six artefacts were seized by the Manhattan District Attorney after they were recovered from the prestigious Metropolitan Museum of Art (The Met) in New York City during the ongoing major investigation into the smuggling of Egyptian antiquities to the United States and France.

The six include a part of a painted coffin depicting the facial feature of a lady; limestone relief engraved with hieroglyphic text and an offering scene; five linen Fragments of a wall illustrating the biblical Book of Exodus that date back to between 250 and 450 BC; a bronze statue of a famed musician named Kemes; and a portrait depicting a Roman-era lady in Fayoum.

Second, nine of the artefacts were seized after they were found in the unlawful possession of an American businessman.

The nine include distinguished ancient Egyptian objects and a Ptolemaic-era coin.

All recovered artefacts will be handed over to the Egyptian Consulate in New York within days in order to make their way back home.

In June, New York prosecutors announced seizing five Egyptian artefacts worth more than $3 million from the Met as part of an investigation into international trafficking in Egyptian antiquities involving Jean-Luc Martinez, the former president of the Louvre museum, who was charged in May with complicity in fraud.

3,300 Years Ago Ancient Egyptians Collected and Revered Ancient Fossils Now Known as the ‘Black Bones of Set’

3,300 Years Ago Ancient Egyptians Collected and Revered Ancient Fossils Now Known as the ‘Black Bones of Set’

3,300 Years Ago Ancient Egyptians Collected and Revered Ancient Fossils Now Known as the ‘Black Bones of Set’
A linen bundle unwrapped many years ago, from Qau el-Kebir was found to contain fossil bones.

Some of the first people ever to stumble upon prehistoric fossils lived in Egypt 3,300 years ago. Their story likely started with a sandstorm. Some strong wind rose up and blew the desert sands away, exposing a secret hidden underneath: the hard, pitch-black bones of what looked like a gigantic monster.

We can only imagine what must have gone through the minds of the men who found them. They didn’t write a word about it – or, if they did, it’s been long lost to the decay of time.

All we know is what they left behind: a tomb filled with prehistoric fossils, some of them as much as two million years old, hidden until 1922 AD. It’s a fascinating mystery that we’re only starting to unravel today. We don’t know for sure what sense they made of the bones of the massive prehistoric giants that they found. Slowly but surely, though, archaeologists are unravelling a few clues.

Egyptian fossils in an unwrapped linen bundle.

A Tomb Full Of Prehistoric Bones

It’s taken nearly a century of research to discover anything about the prehistoric fossils found in ancient Egypt. When the first archaeologists, Guy Brunton and Flinders Petrie, found them, they didn’t even fully understand what they’d discovered. All they knew, at first, was that they’d found bundles wrapped in linen, with no idea what could be inside.

The Egyptians, after all, hadn’t put these bones on display. Instead, they’d taken them to a rock-cut tomb near a town called Qau el-Kebir. There, they’d given the massive, prehistoric bones the sort of dignified burial fit for royalty. They’d wrapped them up in fine linens and placed them in the tomb, buried with ivory tools to help them through the afterlife.

Linen bundle still wrapped (supported by modern string) found in a rock-cut tomb at Qau el-Kebir, c.1922-24.

Whatever it was they thought they’d found, they believed it was something worthy of their respect. The tombs of Qau el-Kebir weren’t just makeshift graves thrown together for the occasion; they were the ancient resting places of powerful Egyptian lords, built 1,500 years before the fossils were found.

It was a place for the revered ancient dead; a place fit for the bones of a creature that, 2 million years ago, had terrorized the land that would become Egypt.

Three Tons Of Fossils Transported Over Miles

We still have no idea where the Egyptians found them. In 1926, shortly after they were uncovered, a geologist named K. S. Sandford combed every spot within 500 miles ( km) of Qau trying to track them down without success. To this day, nobody’s been able to figure it out for sure.

All we know is that they were moved. There were more than three tons of them and they had been dragged across miles of wild country, just to bury them again. It must have felt like nothing short of a holy act. It would have taken an incredible amount of effort to move those bones, and a whole team of people must have been involved.

Their destination, Qau el-Kebir, was no ordinary town. It was the centre of a cult dedicated to the god Set, the god of darkness, storms, and confusion. He was the lord of the black land; a monstrous, evil force who was often drawn looking like a monster with a hippopotamus’s head.

Wall relief of fight between Seth and Horus where Horus, helped by Isis, kill Seth (hippopotamus), the temple of Edfu, Egypt.

Without question, the bones were taken there on purpose. Whatever the Egyptians believed they’d found, they thought they belonged to the god of Chaos, and they were willing to do anything to bring them to him.

A Breakthrough In a 90-Year-Old Mystery

After more than 3,000 years buried in a tomb, Gun Brunton and Flinders Petrie pulled the fossils out, only to lock them up once again. They sent their discovery off to a museum, where they were left in unopened crates. Brunton planned on writing a book about them, but he never did. And for nearly 80 years, they just sat in those crates; an incredible discovery was forgotten.

It took until 2007 before anyone looked inside. In part, it was a matter of technology. Nobody wanted to tear open a 3,000-year-old linen bundle and risk destroying a priceless artefact. We had to wait for x-ray scanning machines that could show us what was hidden inside.

But finally, in 2014, the bones were revealed. Little pieces from countless extinct animals were inside: giant wildebeests, crocodiles, boars, horses, buffalos, and even human beings.

Inside the x-ray CT scanner at the Imaging and Analysis Centre, NHM, London. The X-ray source is on the left of the image, and on the right of the image the bundle on the turntable behind it is one of the x-ray detector plates.

But the creature they saw the most of were the bones of massive, prehistoric hippopotamuses – the animal of the god Set. And every fossil had been polished over millions of years by river sands until they shimmered with the colour of the chaos god: pitch black.

The Black Bones Of Set

Nobody knows for sure what the Egyptians thought they’d found – but there are theories. It’s very likely that, 3,300 years ago, the people who found those bones believed that they had stumbled upon the remains of a god.

The Egyptians had come to a similar conclusion before. Early Roman and Greek historians wrote that when the Egyptians found fossils from the coiled shells of nummulites near the pyramids of Giza, they took it as proof that Set had once ruled over their land. The small fossils were taken to a temple in Tienna and, there, were given up as an offering to the gods.

Nummulitid foraminiferans from the Eocene near Al Ain, United Arab Emirates.

They may have felt the same way about the gigantic fossils they put to rest in Qau el-Kebir. The bones had been fossilized – they were incredibly hard – and their religion had long taught that the gods had bones made of iron.

Perhaps they thought what they had found was something more than an animal or a man. Perhaps, as palaeontologist Kenneth Oakley has suggested, they recognized the fossilized remains of humans and giant hippopotamuses and assumed they’d all come from the same place: the remains of the half-human, half-bestial god of chaos, Set.

God of Chaos, Set.

An Ongoing Mystery

That, at least, is one theory – but to this day, nobody knows for sure what the ancient Egyptian fossils meant to the people who uncovered those prehistoric bones. All we have to work off of are a few archaeological finds – and so far, they’ve left us with more questions than answers.

We still don’t know where the bones were found. We still don’t know why they were buried, or why nothing was written about such an incredible find. And we still don’t know for sure what it meant to them.

But bit by bit, we’re uncovering more and more clues that give us a better image of our pasts – just like our ancestors did before us, 3,300 years ago.

A dried-up arm of the Nile provides another clue to how Egyptians built the pyramids

A dried-up arm of the Nile provides another clue to how Egyptians built the pyramids

To understand what environmental issues lie ahead for our warming planet, geographers often look back to the past for answers.

A dried-up arm of the Nile provides another clue to how Egyptians built the pyramids
The pyramids of Giza.

A new study published on August 29 in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences details how the landscape of ancient Egypt allowed them to create the pyramids of Giza—one of the most iconic human-made phenomenons in the world. On a now-dried-up arm of the Nile River called the Khufu branch, the study authors found that people needed the waterway to transport tools and other materials such as stones and limestones to the Giza Plateau for pyramid construction.

The Nile was a vital resource not only for transportation, but for food, land for farming, and water for ancient Egypt, explains Sheisha Hader, a physical geographer at the Aix-Marseille University in France and the lead author of the study.

“Good [Nile] levels promised stability [to] the ancient Egyptian society,” Hader says. “By contrast, the drought as a result of low Nile levels would be catastrophic and a reason for social unrest and sometimes, civil wars.”

In May 2019, Hader and the team studied pollen grains taken after drilling the land next to where the Khufu branch of the Nile once stood. Two of the study sites were in the supposed Khufu basin.

About 109 samples dating between the Predynastic and Early Dynastic-Old Kingdom periods were collected for analysis and divided into different groups based on seven vegetation patterns.

The vegetation patterns combined with other data sets involving nearby volcanic activity that could drive weather changes, solar radiation, and African water levels at the time, helped the geographers trace back changing water levels and painted a picture of how the climate looked over the last 8,000 years in Egypt.

This timeline encapsulated the dates when the three pyramids of Giza—Khufu, Khafre, and Menkaure—were estimated to be completed, between 2686 and 2160 BCE.

An artist’s reconstruction of the now defunct Khufu branch of the Nile River, which once enabled transportation of construction materials to the Giza Pyramid complex.

Hader says she wasn’t as much surprised but rather in awe of the “clever old kingdom’s engineers who could thoroughly harness their environment and the Nile dynamics for turning the impossible into reality.” With the river, she says the ancient Egyptians were capable of designing a harbour on the edge of the desert where the small Khufu channel would drive in water without the risk of flood. “They dredged the floodplain on the western part of the channel and let the water flow, and the ships navigate to provide the logistic supply for builders.”

Joseph Manning, a professor of classics and history at Yale University says that, before this study, how water got to the Giza pyramids was not well understood. “We’d known there was water that came pretty close to the Giza Plateau, which is how they’re getting stone from the Tura quarries [the Egyptians’ main source of limestone] across the river over to Giza,” he explains. “I thought they were building canals that connected, but it looks like it’s a natural river channel.“

Manning says that finding natural river features frames how humans interacted and took advantage of their environment, creating not-so-simple projects like the pyramids. However, one concern he points out in the study is how the researchers analyzed the data on volcanic eruptions during that time period.

Their findings suggest volcanic eruptions played a major role in fluctuations in the Khufu branch, which in this case, led to a decrease in Nile summer flooding. “Just because you have a volcanic sequence doesn’t necessarily tell you anything about Nile conditions,” he explains.

For instance, some large eruptions in high latitude regions, such as Iceland or Alaska, have been known to impact the East African monsoon—which can change the water levels on the Nile. But not every eruption has an effect, Manning says, explaining that other factors such as the time of year, location, and the scale of the eruption will affect monsoon responses in the Middle East, instead. 

Christophe Morhange, an expert in geomorphology at Aix-Marseille University and senior study author, says the study goes beyond knowing the origin of these massive monuments. “It’s also the human imprints on the environment [and] the importance of landscape archaeology.”

The rise and fall of the ancient Egyptian empire were hinged on changes in the Nile, explains Hader. Looking back on a society that rose to power by tapping into the local ecosystem can teach/inform climate scientists today. 

It’s important to know how “the path of their history and how the environment could direct a flourishing empire like the old kingdom,” Hader says. “[But] the climate-environmental change being the same reason for which the empire collapsed is a crucial point to understand if we want to face our present and future environmental challenges.”

Did archaeologists discover the grave of Alexander the Great?

Did archaeologists discover the grave of Alexander the Great?

An Egyptian official has claimed that he has evidence that Alexander the Great’s tomb is in Siwa, Egypt, the Egypt Independent reported on Friday.

Did archaeologists discover the grave of Alexander the Great?
An Egyptian tourism official has claimed to have located the tomb of Alexander the Great in Siwa.

The report says that Mohamed Omran, the director of Siwa’s Tourism Department, “announced evidence suggesting the potential discovery of the tomb of alexander the Great might be in the Marai area.”

Omran said that between 1995 and 1996 a temple was found in the area that historians believed could be consistent with Alexander the Great’s tomb. Omran also pointed to the discovery of a temple that could be traced back to the Greek and Roman era three years ago.

It is important to note that Omran’s purported evidence has not yet been verified. The tomb of Alexander the Great is considered one of the “Holy Grails” of archaeological discovery and has been said to have been found several times in the past, with each time failing to substantiate any results.

We will have to wait and see if Siwa is truly the home of the Greek leader’s tomb, and if it is, it will be a momentous day in history. Alexander the Great is one of the most exalted figures in history— and the whereabouts of his tomb would command the attention of historians and archaeologists across the world.

The story of Alexander the Great

Alexander III, the “Basileus of Macedon”, the “Hegemon of the Hellenic League”, the “Shahanshah” of Persia, the “Pharaoh” of Egypt and the “Lord of Asia” — better known as Alexander the Great — was one of the most significant figures in human history.

Born in Pella, in modern-day Central Macedonia, northern Greece, in 356 B.C., he was the son of Philip II, the King of Macedon and his wife, Olympias. But Alexander was no royal place-holder. He became renowned at a very early age for both his military and political capabilities.

Alexander, whose name in Greek (Alexandros) means “defender of men”, knew as the son of a king that his destiny was already written, putting him at the forefront of history.

This was why, while he was still a teenager, he began to be tutored by one of Greece’s most respected men, the giant of philosophy and science, Aristotle.

Since his education included philosophy, politics, ethics, and science, Alexander was clearly not brought up to become just a warrior but a thoughtful leader of men and society.

Fate dictated that, following his father’s assassination when Alexander was only twenty, he would take into his hands not only the Kingdom of Macedon but also the generalship of the Hellenic League of Greece.

Several years prior to that, his father Philip II of Macedon had managed to unite most of Greece’s city-states, urging them to address the Persian threat as a united and solid front. Alexander fearlessly took on this enormous responsibility after the death of his father and began the great march of the Hellenes to the East.

The greatest leader of all time

Thousands of soldiers followed him. What is now the modern-day countries of Turkey, Syria, Israel, Egypt, and the entirety of the modern-day Arab world, became Greek in less than ten years’ time. In a few short years, Alexander had conquered all the way east to the western borders of India.

Battle after battle, fight after fight, Alexander and his men were able not only to beat many enemies while conquering the vast Achaemenid Empire but to establish a new status quo which would respect the local people. At the same time, the Greek overlords would introduce into their everyday life and cultural elements of the Greek way of thinking and acting.

Alexander’s original plans included the conquest of the last centimetre of the East. It is recorded in history that he stated his vision was to literally reach “the end of the world”. But Alexander’s long military campaigns finally led his men to demand his return to their beloved homeland of Greece.

Alexander wisely eventually listened to his officers and men, who once had blindly followed him eastward, and he reluctantly began his long journey home from the borders of present-day India.

His plans called for the city of Babylon to become the new capital of his vast empire. But the Fates did not pay heed to the conqueror’s grandiose plans.

Alexander, at the very young age of 33, suddenly fell gravely ill; to this day the cause of his illness remains a mystery. In the span of just a few days, his strong body betrayed him, and he died in his bed.