The Discovery of The Valley of the Golden Mummies at Bahariya Oasis
(Pictures taken directly by Dr. Hawass can be seen HERE)
Festival of Mummies was discovered recently by an Egyptian team at Bahariya
Oasis, located about 380 km west of the pyramids.
Four tombs were excavated, and found inside them were 105 mummies, many
of them beautifully gilded. These
mummies, many sumptuously decorated with religious scenes, represent the very
best of Roman-Period mummies ever found in Egypt.
These ancient remains are around 2000 years old, but they have withstood
the test of time remarkably well.
The story of the discovery began about three years
ago, as I was excavating in the site of the tombs of the pyramid builders.
I was cleaning the skeleton of a workman who once was working in
constructing the great pyramid.
My assistant Mansour Bouriak told me that there
was a very important discovery at Bahariya. I stopped cleaning the skeleton.
I said Mansour: is this one of your latest jokes?
Mansour said: Ashry Shaker Chief Inspector of
Bahariya is here and wants to tell you about the discovery.
Ashry said, "We have found beautiful mummies.
You have to leave these skeletons because lots of mummies have been
found." He added, “Yesterday
the Antiquities guard Aiad was riding his donkey along the side of the road that
leads to Farafra Oasis, some six Kilometers south of the town of El-Bawitty, the
Capital of Bahariya. The donkey
tripped, hitting its leg on the edge of tomb."
I told Ashry to start excavate this tomb, and I
would visit the site the following week.
When I went in May 1996 to see them, I could not believe that such
beautiful mummies could exist. Their
eyes were looking at me as if they were real people.
Another mummy discovered reminded me of the mummy used by Hollywood in
the movie Curse of the Mummy. The tombs with the mummies were a stunning cache.
In 1996, the Bahariya Inspectorate of Antiquities
did not have sufficient funding nor enough qualified excavators and conservators
to properly preserve the mummies. Therefore,
we kept this discovery secret; we did not announce it because we were afraid
that thieves could smell the taste of resin that was put inside the mummies.
felt that this site should be excavated to preserve the mummies and also to know
the size of the cemetery.
led a team of archaeologist, architects, restorers, conservators, draftsmen, an
electrician, and an artist. We camped in the desert and stayed in a very nice
motel near the site. It was a nice change to leave the pyramids and excavate
conjure up so many images in people's mind. Most people know about mummies
through scary movies. They
inevitably evoke horror movies. But the significance of this find is that it is
the first exciting thing that has brought Egyptomania to the modern world. To me
this is personally very exciting, but I am not overawed by the scary reputation
of mummies. To me it is a science and this remarkable find gives me the chance
to find more out about people from another place and time.
The story of our discovery begins back in 1996 when
an Antiquities guard of the Temple of Alexander the Great was crossing the
desert on his donkey. Suddenly the
leg of the donkey buckled and it fell. There
was a small hole in the desert floor where the donkey had fallen.
The guard left his donkey in the area and ran to Mr. Ashry Shaker to
report the incident.
Discoveries in Egypt
Many major discoveries in Egypt have occurred
entirely accidentally, just as in the case of our Valley of the Golden Mummies.
For example, a stumbling horse played a significant role in Carter’s
excavation of the Valley of the Kings in 1899, before the discovery of
Tutankhamun’s tomb. When Carter was returning to his rest house on the West Bank
at the end of the day, his horse fell and exposed a shaft in the ground.
Upon investigating the shaft, Carter found a sealed chamber that
contained an empty coffin bearing no inscribed name; this chamber is known today
as the Tomb of Bab el Hosan, "The Tomb of the Door of the Horse.”
Inside the tomb, Carter found a statue wrapped in a
linen shroud, resting beside the coffin. It
is presumed to be a statue of Mentuhotep, the first king of Dynasty II. The king
is shown wearing the red crown of the Delta and a short skirt with an Osirid-shape.
The function of this statue remains
unexplained by Egyptologists, but it is now on display at the Cairo Museum.
Around the same time, a second major discovery was
made by a similar accident in Alexandria. In
1900, the site of Kom El-Shokafa was used as a quarry.
One day as Ahmed Kasbara was riding his donkey, the leg of the animal
fell into a hole in the desert floor. The
incident revealed a labyrinth of underground tunnels that later came to be known
as the Catacombs of Kom El-Shokafa.
A horse has also led the way to one of my most
significant discoveries. This
occurred in August 1990. An American woman was riding a horse southeast of the
Sphinx when her horse stumbled to the ground after hitting its leg against a
small mud-brick structure. That structure turned out to be the first of a huge
series of tombs of the pyramid builders. Although
excavation of this site has only just begun, it is estimated to be one of the
largest ancient Egyptian cemeteries ever found.
I had been searching for this very same cemetery only months earlier but
had closed our original excavation due to a lack of decisive findings.
Ironically, the horse discovered the first tomb in this cemetery only 9
meters from my original excavation location.
Of course, the most recent discovery made by a donkey was the amazing
Valley of the Golden Mummies at Bahariaya Oasis. Bahariya is among the most beautiful oases of Egypt.
It falls under the Giza governorate, and therefore it is within the
jurisdiction of the Giza Department of Antiquities.
This excavation revived the adventurous spirit of archaeology inside all of us who worked at Bahariya, because we were not merely uncovering the objects used by people or the tombs they were buried in, we were uncovering the very people who made them.
Roman Settlement at El Haiz
When in 1940 the archaeologist Ahmed Fakhry began to
conduct a cursory excavation of the ancient settlement known as El Haiz, he
found only a few artifacts, but concluded that "Undoubtedly, the larger
oasis fifty kilometers north of El Haiz was also thriving during the new Kingdom
and will reap much new information about this time in our history."
As we have seen, Fakhry was correct in his
estimation. The area around El
Bawiti to which he referred was for centuries a crucial caravan station for
Bedouin traders, merchants, and soldiers, as well as for foreign settlers who
lived between Bahariya and Farafra Oasis to the southwest. Bahariya served as a crossroads for various cultures and, as
a result, the site represents a cross section of the different types of people
who passed through or settled there. It
is literally a gold mine of information about religious and social customs from
ancient times to the Christian era.
The most prominent monument in El Haiz is the large
fortress. Dated to the Roman
Period, the fortress apparently served as a garrison.
On a knoll opposite the garrison, Fakhry found the remains of a large
Coptic church. The ancient church
is currently being restored to its original beauty by local Moslems with the
support of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, which seems fitting in light of
the fact that a few of the famous mosques in Cairo had actually been built
centuries ago by Coptic architects.
Our preliminary survey in 1993 of the area around the
fortress revealed a maze of mud-brick walls covering four acres and the remains
of a long wall surrounding the entire structure.
From architectural features, I concluded that this was a very large Roman
palace, the likes of which we have not yet seen in Egypt.
Once the rooms are fully excavated, the architecture and frescoes will
greatly enrich our knowledge of this Roman settlement.
In the future, we plan to excavate the palace and the
surrounding cemetery at El Haiz, an area that we believe was inhabited by
Romans, Egyptians, and Egyptian Christians.
By excavating the palace and cemetery, we hope to obtain information
regarding the transition to Christianity and to explore the paleopathology of
the people who lived during that time. It
is possible that we may find evidence of diseases, such as leprosy, which have
been alluded to in surviving Christian documents.
Bahariya Temples and Tombs
Bahariya Oasis, which was inhabited in ancient times
well beyond its present borders, is now host to several archaeological sites
that are scattered throughout the surrounding desert in various stages of
restoration. Among these are a few
new sites only recently opened for public viewing and exploration; some are only
part of an extended complex of monuments where excavation has not yet begun or
is just beginning. The first
monument is the oldest structure yet found in Bayariyya, dating to about 1295
BC; the next group of three -- two tombs and a temple -- date to the
Twenty-sixth Dynasty, and the fifth monument is a Greek temple to Alexander the
Great, the only one of its kind in Egypt.
At the site of Garet-Helwa, almost two miles south of
Bahariya's ancient capital of El Qasr (now in El Bawiti), lies the tomb of
Amenhotep Huy, governor of Bahariya. George
Steindorff first discovered this New Kingdom site in 1900.
It is the oldest known tomb found in the Oasis thus far, dating from the
end of the Eighteenth Dynasty to the beginning of the Nineteenth, although since
my team and I began to survey its outlying area in 1999, other tombs from
earlier and later periods have started to surface.
Because the Twelfth Dynasty kings of the Middle Kingdom paid attention to
this strategically located settlement, it is highly possible that the area
around the ancient capital will offer up some of the richest archaeology of the
Bayariyya enjoyed a resurgence of power and
prosperity in the Twenty-sixth Dynasty. To date, we have reopened three tombs
that reflect the wealth of this era. The
pharaohs and local leaders for whom these monuments were so reverently
constructed represent some of the last of the native Egyptian rulers.
My hope is that, even as we continue to unearth the more spectacular
golden mummies of the prosperous Greco-Roman era, we can gain perspective about
the redistribution of Egypt's power by studying earlier Oasis structures.
Take, for example, the tomb of Zed-Amun-efankh.
The surroundings in which he was buried, the wall paintings, and the
great lengths to which the tomb builders went to give him privacy and security
all attest to his having been a remarkably powerful man in the community.
During the reign of Ahmose II, residents of the Oasis had an opportunity
to make a sizeable fortune relatively quickly.
These businessmen became the most powerful individuals of the Oasis at
this time, just as powerful as the priests, if not more so. It was no longer a matter of who was noble or pious enough to
deserve such a "house of eternity," but who was wealthy enough to
afford the builders and the materials. The
same scenes and words previously reserved for god-kings were, by the Late
Period, used for the rich.
The tomb of Bannantiu, son of Zed-Amun-efankh, had a
tomb that was even larger and more elaborately decorated than his father.
The two most important scenes in Bannantiu's burial chamber show him
standing before the gods in the Hall of Judgment, having been accepted for
eternal life. His family status, in
spite of the lack of religious or political credentials, earned him special
treatment and entry into the afterlife. What
is striking and interesting from a historical perspective is how a merchant
could purchase himself such preferential treatment by the gods.
After Ahmed Fakhry concluded his excavation, he
wrote: "There is no doubt that the tombs of the other members of the family
are still buried, either under the houses of El Bawiti or in one of the ridges
surrounding it. It would be a good
thing to find one day the Tomb of Zed-Khonsu-efankh."
If the three tombs of this man's relatives are any reflection of the
wealth of his family, and if his tomb has not yet been plundered, then it will
surely be a spectacular discovery. I
believe we are close.
An important key to understanding the site was
exploring its relationship to the Temple of Alexander the Great.
This temple was built in 332 BC, when Alexander the Great came to Egypt.
Initially, he traveled from Memphis northward to establish the new city
of Alexandria. Later he made a long
journey to visit Siwa and to meet his father, the god Amun, whose temple was
built in this area. I believe that
Alexander the Great traveled two different routes on these two journeys and on
his journey to Memphis he passed through Bahariya Oasis.
This is one major reason that a temple dedicated to Alexander the Great
was constructed at Bahariya Oasis. This
temple is unique because it is the only one in Egypt that was built for a living
pharaoh. After Alexander the Great left Bahariya, he stayed for one
month in Memphis, ruling the country as pharaoh.
I believe that, in Greco-Roman times, people chose
the area as their burial place because of its proximity to the Temple of
Alexander the Great. It appears
that the cemetery was in use until the 4th century AD.
The temple was excavated by the late Egyptian Egyptologist Ahmed Fakhry,
who dedicated part of his life to excavating and exploring sites in various
Egyptian oases such as Bahariya, Siwa, Farafra, Kharga, and Dakhla.
Alexander's temple consists of two chambers built of
sandstone, a common construction material in Bahariya.
An enclosure wall surrounds the temple, and behind it the priests built
their homes. To the east of the
temple, the administrator of the temple constructed his home, and in front of
the temple were built forty-five storerooms of mud-brick.
The temple's entrance and stone gateway opens to the south, and a granite
altar about 1.09m in height was erected to the south of the entrance.
The altar, inscribed with the name of Alexander the Great, has been
removed and placed in the Cairo Museum.
Fakhry found a small statue of the priest of Re,
among many other artifacts in the mud-brick storerooms, during his 1938-1942
excavation of the temple. Examination
of these objects led the excavator to believe that the temple was in use from
the time of Alexander the Great until the 12th century AD.
Many pieces of broken pottery decorated with human figures and
geometrical designs were uncovered. A number of pottery sherds inscribed with the Greek and
Coptic languages, known as ostraca, were also found.
One of the ostraca was inscribed with Syric and has been dated to the 5th
century AD. Other artifacts, such
as lamps and pottery vases, were also found.
The inner sanctuary of the temple is beautifully decorated with scenes
of Alexander the Great presenting offerings to his father, Amun, and of
Alexander the Great, accompanied by the mayor of Bahariya Oasis, presenting
offerings to the god Amun. The
cartouche of Alexander the Great was once inscribed in the sanctuary walls, but
no trace of it remains.
The Rediscovery of Three Tombs
The sandstone walls crumbled at my touch, a I crouched down to crawl
through a passage into the first burial chamber of Ta-Nefret-Bastet, one of a
group of Twenty-sixth Dynasty tombs that we had uncovered in a residential area
just outside El Bawiti. Roman
mummies were stashed in side rooms and were now blackened from resin, the linen
flaking away from their bodies like ash to reveal their bones. That day in October 1999 was no different than any other day
of digging. I had arrived at the site earlier than usual, while the air was
still cool, in order to assess what needed to be done that day, and I noticed a
space under one of the walls that I had not seen before.
My heart started to race.
When Fakhry found these tombs in 1947, he was eager to move on, hoping to
explore as much ground as he could in a short time.
So he described the tombs only briefly and left them unexcavated.
At that time, a revolution was brewing (one that would result in Egypt's
becoming a democratic republic), and the rules pertaining to antiquities changed
as quickly as the government bureaucrats and archaeological research foundered.
The desert's shifting sand reburied several sites, as it had done
repeatedly during political transitions for thousands of years.
New people filled positions without knowing what excavation work had been
in progress, and important sites were forgotten about.
Because of these conditions, I realized that there might very likely be
more to this particular set of tombs than we had originally suspected of the
basis of the reports filed by Fakhry fifty years earlier.
It was apparent from the substantial space beneath the wall I was looking
at that it was not made of solid rock. We
had already excavated everything Fakhry had referred to in his work on Bahariya
Oasis, so I concluded that there must be another, undiscovered room on the other
side of the wall. If so, it would
be one that had not been investigated since antiquity -- perhaps, if I was lucky
again, an intact tomb.
It is amazing that unknown ancient tombs can still exist in such
populated areas, but it is not hard to understand why.
No Antiquities Inspectorate had stayed on this site in El Bawiti after
Fakhry left in 1950, so the people of the village quickly built homes right on
top of the three tombs, perhaps hoping to unearth their own treasures and sell
them to support their families during a very difficult economic time.
These buildings went up over the ancient site without consequence, since
no antiquities laws existed to protect monuments until 1951, and even after
that, no inspectors were onsite to enforce them.
The tombs had been hidden ever since.
In September 1999, everything was quiet as usual in El Bawiti, when a
resident told Ashry Shaker that five local young men were planning to get
married. They each needed a house
but had no money, so someone in the village suggested that if they dug under the
homes near the cenotaph, they might be able to find artifacts they could sell
for "marriage money." Ashry
Shaker rewarded the man who came to him with this information then promptly
related it to me. I told him to
have one of his inspectors hide behind the houses to catch the boys when they
dug into the earth near the
cenotaph. Every night for two weeks Shaker and his assistant waited
there, but the boys, who must have been alerted, never showed up.
So we began to excavate the area ourselves.
About twenty feet down we found the three tombs Fakhry had mentioned: the
tombs of Ped-Ashtar, Thaty, and Ta-Nefret-Bastet.
The tombs showed evidence of having already been robbed and reused in
Roman times, and any remaining artifacts would have been of little value. It was lucky the boys didn't make their way into the tombs,
not because there was nothing of value in them, but because if they had been
caught, they would not be living in new marriage houses now.
They would have been put in jail for more than five years.
In any case, we are fortunate that this incident in 1999 led us to
rediscover the site.
Discovering the Golden Mummies
We opened four squares and excavated four tombs.
Every two archaeologists were in charge of one square with 15 workmen.
At the same time, an architect was preparing a site map, the electrician
was rigging the place with electricity, and the restorers and conservators were
ready with chemicals, waiting for the mummies to appear.
I was giving directions in every square. The first
square was very interesting because we could see the brilliance of the gold in
the sun and the yellow color was shining in our eyes. The mummies with gold
began to appear. The first was the mummy of a female. The height of this lady is
about 1.55 m. It was apparent that this mummy's face and waistcoat were covered
with gold; the decoration of the waistcoat was divided into three section but
with addition of two circular disks representing breasts.
The central section of the lady mummy begins at
the top with a scene of a box or coffin from which appears a head with two
wings. This scene may represent the soul of the deceased during her rebirth.
Five decorative circles define the base of this register. The second register
shows the recumbent figure of the god Anubis, "god of Embalming," with
a band of decorative triangles below. The
lower register was composed of two superimposed squares, one gold and the other
light red, with a black ox painted in the center.
I stopped describing the wonderful mummy of the
lady, resting the pen against my forehead.
I looked on my left and right sides and saw that lots of mummies had
appeared. There were mummies of
children, men, and women, many in good condition. I told Noha Abdel Hafiaz, the
only lady in our expedition, to count the mummies of this tomb.
I continued the description of the first mummy and
found that the left side of the mummy has, in the top register, three cobras
bearing the sundisk on their heads. A band of five circles creates a decorative
division between this scene and the next scenes, which depict the four children
of the god “Horus". The
woman has a beautiful crown with four decorative rows of red-colored curls.
The hairstyle is similar to the style of the hair in statues known as
Terracotta. Behind her ears appears the goddess Isis on one side and
Nephthys on the other. They protect the deceased with their wings. The face is
covered with plaster and a thin layer of gold.
I moved to the third square and where we
discovered a beautiful pottery coffin. We
archaeologists call this type of coffin "Anthropoid coffins" because
the face of the deceased is represented in shape of a man and the rest of the
coffin is in the shape of a body. It is divided into two parts: the head and the body. Inside
the coffin we found another mummy.
The excavation continued.
Every day we started our work early at 6.30 a.m.
We moved, ate and slept, and we dreamed of mummies.
The first square began to be finished.
The style of the tomb was clear and Noha come to me and informed me that
this tomb contained 43 mummies. No one can describe such a scene … it was a
festival of mummies.
I walked in tomb No 54 which contained the 43
mummies. The tomb is cut into the
sandstone. Architecturally, the
tomb consists of an entrance and the "room of handing over," or the
delivery room. In this room stood
two people to hand the mummies to another two men inside the tomb. Inside, two
burial chambers were cut in the sandstone.
I looked at a corner and found two very
interesting mummies. A lady lay beside her husband, her head turned towards her
husband in an expression of love and affection. It seems that her husband died
before his wife. She must have
asked the family to bury her near him where she could look at him forever.
There were artifacts scattered everywhere near the
mummies, such as statues of women in mourning. They are posed raising their
hands up in the air, in the same manner as is done after the death of a person.
We also found earrings, bracelets with different amulets, and many
different style of pottery, including food trays and wine jars.
We also found many Ptolemaic coins, the most interesting of which is a
coin depicting Cleopatra VII on it. I
gave directions on the cleaning, photography, and conservation of all the
I moved to square No 2 and met with Mahmoud Afifi,
my assistant. We started the cleaning of cartonage on the chest.
I asked Afifi to continue the excavations and clear the other mummies in
this square. I took the brush and
cleaned each space in the mummy; then I began the written description of this
It is a mummy of a man, completely wrapped in
linen with a waistcoat covered with cartonnage.
Both the mask and waistcoat are covered with a thin layer of gold. The
face is long and seems to depict a fifty-year-old man. The crown includes a
fillet worn across the forehead. It is decorated and inlaid with many different
colors such as blue, dark red and turquoise. On the right and left sides of the
crown are scenes of plants and also depictions of the goddesses Isis and
Nephthys who protect the deceased with their wings.
The waistcoat decoration is molded in bas relief.
The decoration is organized in three distinct sections. The central section,
beginning from the chin, is separated from the other sections, flanking it with
two inlaid with colors such as turquoise, dark red and blue in a design that
recalls the crown.
The linear decoration of the central section
begins at the top with a horizontal line colored blue and red. The band is
beautifully inlaid with small squares decorated with a lotus flower and a fine
geometrical scene of three rectangular pieces, possibly representing precious
Beneath this decorative band the first register
presents a winged human figure that could represented the Ba (soul) of the
deceased. Others believed that it represent the goddess Nut (the goddess of the
Sky). Within the second register are two children of Horus, Imesty and
Dewa-Mautef. As we know in the pharaonic period, Imesty is connected with Isis
while Dewa-Mautef is connected with the goddess Nit.
Eight small circles decorated a band separating
the children of Horus from the next register, which depicts a seated bird
figure. This bird may represent the Ka as leaving the body.
Below the bird is a series of Triangles creating a decorative band.
Decoration bordering the mummy’s left side is
divided into four registers. The first scene at the top shows one of the
children of Horus, Hapy, with Nephthys. Imesty
follows in the second register. The
third register shows Hapy and Imesty as standing figures.
The last register contains a recumbent Anubis holding the key to the
The mummy’s right side bears decoration with
Kebeh-snewef who is connected with Serket. Beneath, the register depicts Imesty.
Thereupon the decoration presents mirror images of the opposite side, showing
the two standing figures of the children of Horus and the recumbent Anubis, the
god of Embalmment.
I never did an excavation as exciting as this one,
because when I moved to another square, I saw for the first time a figure of the
god Anubis depicted on the left and right side of a tomb entrance.
This is the only tomb to have a black figure drawn like this; Anubis is
guarding the tomb. The other part of the tomb is cut in the sandstone and
contains many mummies inside.
The most interesting experience was when I saw the
other tomb. This tomb consists of
rooms similar to the catacombs, with one room stacked above the other one.
Inside this room we found a mummy of a child which was, interestingly
enough, also gilded. In other room, we found another mummy covered completely
with linen. This mummy is similar to the New Kingdom mummies and also recalls
the mummies that Hollywood uses in its movies.
When, in the evening, I went to El-Beshmo hotel, I
sat in the courtyard of the hotel, and, thinking of the mummy of the lady, I
began to write some remarks on this mummy.
The headdress of the first mummy displays rows of
curls ending with spirals framing the forehead and extending behind the ears to
the both sides; a braid surrounds these curls. These features were what led some
to believe that the mummy belongs to a woman.
It has also been suggested that the decoration should be analyzed from
the bottom to the top, just as we read scenes displayed on temple walls.
The scenes on the lower register of the mask
depict two figures. The one on the
left holds a standard crowned by an jackal signifying Wepwawat.
The figure on the right, however, is wearing a uraeus on the forehead and
is holding a symbol. Although unclear, the figure could represent the god Horus.
Between the two figures stands the god Toth in the from of an Ibis,
wearing the double crown with two horns.
I thought also of the other mummy and I can see in
it how the god Toth is here represented in the form of an Ibis.
In this case, however, he is flanked by two figures of the god Anubis who
possibly holds the key to the underworld.
mummies tell us a lot about the life of the people at Bahariya Oasis in the
Roman period. They also give us
much information about mummification and the afterlife.
people in Bahariya were very rich because all the mummies show that the people
could afford to have gilding and even cartonnage depict beautiful scenes.
I can imagine the style of workshops in Bahariya.
It would seem that workshops were everywhere and artisans were one of the
main profession in Bahariya. We
know that the population in Egypt during the Roman period was about 7 million.
Therefore I believe that the population in Bahariya during this period
was about 30,000 people. Today the
people of Bahariya number some 450,000 individuals.
The main industry in Bahariya was the production
of wine, which they made from dates and grapes. They exported wine every where in the Nile valley, and I
believe that this was the reason for the wealth of the people in the Oasis.
Today, Bahariya is a very quiet place.
The people take every thing easy and they are very peaceful people.
I believe that this was the same situation in the past.
The people started to build these tombs in 332
B.C., when the temple of Alexander the Great was built in this area.
This temple is located about 1 km from the mummies.
This is one of the many temples in Egypt built for Alexander the Great. He is shown in the temple sanctuary giving an offering to the
god Amon-Re and his cartouche is also shown.
I think that Alexander went to Memphis through Bahariya; therefore, they
honored him by building this temple for him and Amon.
Mummification in this period reached its peak,
contrary to what is claimed about the deterioration of mummification in the
Roman period. The most important
point about mummification is that they started to put sticks made of reeds on
the right and left side of the mummy and cover the mummy with linen. This method
made the mummy very stable and can last even longer that those mummies of the
The preparation of mummies was done inside a
workshop, called by the Egyptians "Wabt." The god Anubis witnessed the entire procedure and behind the
bed were the jars that have on top the four children of Horus.
According to Egyptian religious beliefs, the heart
of the deceased will be placed on a scale and on the other side of the scale is
the feather of "Maat," the goddess of truth. If
the scale is not balanced, there is a huge animal is waiting to eat the
deceased. But if it balanced, the
god Horus will take the deceased to meet the god Osiris (god of the afterlife
and agriculture) and the goddess Isis. Then the deceased will enjoy the life in
the fields of paradise of the Egyptians.
made two key decisions on the morning of my departure from Bahariya. The
first was to move 5 mummies to a room within the Inspectorate of Antiquities:
two female mummies, one man, and two children.
The second decision was to transport the mummy with linen to the X-ray
lab in Cairo. The team was surrounding me, and the workmen were moving the
tents. The conservators were
wrapping the mummy and putting it inside a wooden box. The workmen put the mummy in the truck to go to Cairo.
Ashry Shaker asked me, how we are going to
identify the mummy?
I said: Mr. or Mrs. X.
The next day, I went to my office near the great pyramid and met with Dr.
Azza Sari El Din, the X-ray expert. We
went to the lab and saw the mummy. Aza
brought the X- Ray, which revealed that this was Mr. X who died at the age of 35
without any disease .
Excavations in the Valley of the Mummies
The excavation continues.
We anticipate that there are many more mummies buried in the vast
cemeteries of Bahariya. As we discovered yet another undisturbed burial chamber,
my mind was reeling. Who does the tomb belong to? How many more rooms lie waiting
for us beyond these two? Will they provide us with a good look into history?
Is it possible that their mummies and funerary objects are still
It is at these moments when it is crucially
important to stay calm that I find it most difficult to do so! I stayed there for an hour wondering what I should do,
because it appeared that the chamber's entrance was above, where some modern
dwellings were situated.
I took Ashry Shaker with me to figure out how we
could enter the new tomb, and we concluded that the only way to enter the second
chamber was to demolish ten of the twenty houses aboveground.
We arranged a meeting with the owners of the houses.
The residents there are very poor and very kind.
In the course of our discussions, we realized that they actually had no
legal right to the land, or any legal document to prove that they owned the
houses. Therefore, by law, the
government could not give them any compensation.
I asked Ashry to record the names of all the residents and the sizes of
each house. Then I wrote a report
to the Antiquities Department, explaining the situation and asking them to
assign a decree to demolish the homes under the protection of the police.
I met with the mayor of Bahariya the next day to see how we would
recompense these people. We decided to give them each a piece of land, although we
could not pay them any money. When
I explained our decision to the home owners, I thought they would refuse, but
they were actually very happy. I
was surprised at this and asked Ashry the reason.
He smiled and said that most of them had other houses in town.
I firmly believe that these tombs will prove very
important to the history of Bahariya. My
team of archaeologists is eagerly awaiting the opportunity to move ahead with
the excavations there. Like a child
sitting before a pile of wrapped gifts, I can hardly wait until we enter this
untouched tomb of the Twenty-sixth Dynasty and continue our excavations in the
Valley of the Golden Mummies.
What else lies beyond these walls? What kinds of mummies will lie in the tombs that we have yet to discover? We will have to wait until the next digging season to find out, but I expect nothing less than spectacular. It is even possible that we may find mummies of the upper class and of Roman officials that are even more lavishly decorated than the golden mummies. This is why I love my job: There is always so much more to uncover and each day is full of surprises. Now I feel that there was a reason, after all, that I moved from the site at the Giza Pyramids to Bahariya Oasis. I can only call it destiny.
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