Top Ten Ancient Egyptian Discoveries of 2014
Throughout the year, we reported on more than fifty incredible archaeological discoveries in Egypt, challenging the long-held view that there is nothing of significance left to dig up in the desert sands. On the contrary, this year’s findings have shown that there is plenty left to discover and each finding has shed new light on the great civilization of ancient Egypt. Here we feature ten of the most exciting discoveries to be made in Egypt in 2014.
The Minister of Antiquities in Egypt announced the discovery of an ancient Egyptian temple near Cairo, from the time of Pharaoh Thutmose III. The ancient temple was found beneath a house, submerged under groundwater, by a group of looters who used diving equipment to explore the nine-meter deep ruins. Seven tablets, two blocks covered in hieroglyphics, several column bases and a huge statue of a seated person made of pink granite were unearthed. The temple, which was found 40km south of the Great Pyramids of Giza, in the town of Badrashin, dates from the time of Pharaoh Thutmose/Thutmosis III, one of Egypt’s most prominent warrior kings. Thutmose III was the sixth Pharaoh of the 18th Dynasty.
“We will start an excavation project in the area to find more,” said antiquities minister Mahmoud al-Damaty, who expressed hope that the inscriptions on the temple walls could unlock new information about the kingdom and reign of Thutmose III.
An ancient Egyptian codex written in Coptic and dating back 1,300 years was deciphered for the first time, revealing that the 20-page book made of parchment contains a series of spells and invocations, including spells to counter evil possession. The codex reflects a fusion of religions, as some invocations call upon Jesus, while others refer to divine figures from the Sethian religion, considered heretical in the 7th century AD when the text was created.
The dialect used in the ancient text may suggest an origin in Upper Egypt, perhaps around the ancient city of Hermopolis. "It is a complete 20-page parchment codex, containing the handbook of a ritual practitioner," write Malcolm Choat and Iain Gardner, who are professors in Australia at Macquarie University and the University of Sydney, respectively, in their book, "A Coptic Handbook of Ritual Power" (Brepols, 2014). The Egyptian codex, which researchers are calling the “Handbook of Ritual Power”, includes a series of invocations with drawings, followed by twenty-seven spells, including prescriptions to cure possession by evil spirits, spells to bring success in love and business, and magical formulas to treat ailments such as a ‘black jaundice’, a potentially fatal infection that is still around today.
Archaeologists carrying out excavations at Tell el-Amarna in Egypt, the capital city built by Pharaoh Akhenaten in c. 1330 BC, found a number of human remains containing well-preserved elaborate hairstyles, including hair extensions and dyed hair. One of the most interesting sets of human remains belonged to a woman who wore a complex coiffure with more than 70 hair extensions fastened in different layers. The hair may have been styled after death, but it is also likely that they are the same or similar to styles used in everyday life.
Researchers also found a number of other interesting hair styles. Some had brown hair that had been formed into rings or coils around their ears, many had braids, and one other skull with extensions had hair of different colours, suggesting the hair used to create the extensions came from multiple people. In a number of cases, fat was used to help form the hairstyles and keep it in place. One woman was also found to have an orange-red colour on her graying hair, that is believed to have come from the henna plant.
Archaeologists made a rare and unexpected discovery during a natural gas pipeline salvage excavation in Jezereel Valley, Israel, when they came across a 3,300-year-old Egyptian sarcophagus complete with human remains and numerous grave goods. It is the first time in around fifty years that an anthropoidal (person-shaped) coffin has been found in present-day Israel. The Bronze Age clay coffin contained an anthropoidal lid with a naturalistic impression of a man’s face, with stylized hair in an Egyptian style, ears and, like sarcophagi of Egyptian pharaohs, hands crossed over the chest in the manner of the deceased. The clay coffin was surrounded by pottery, storage vessels, and animal bones. Inside the sarcophagus was an adult skeleton, pottery, a bronze dagger, a bronze bowl, hammered pieces of bronze and, most significantly, a rare Egyptian scarab seal of Pharaoh Seti I encased in gold and affixed to a ring. The seal features the winged Uraeus (cobra), protector of the pharaoh’s name and person.