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Ancient Egyptian mummies found floating in sewage water in Egypt

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Several mummies complete with sarcophagi were retrieved from dirty water where they’d been found floating near El Minya, Egypt.

According to a statement from the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities, two previously unknown Greco-Roman era mummies were located this week. They had been buried in tombs in a small village in northeastern Egypt, 240 kilometers (150 miles) south of Cairo. However, police were alerted to the sarcophagi when they were spotted floating in polluted sewage water.

The centuries-old sarcophagi held mummies which were wrapped in many layers of thick linen. Very few human remains were recovered from the wrappings. The wooden sarcophagi containing the mummies had suffered extensive damage due the foul water. It is reported by Daily News Egypt that they have since disintegrated.

The artifacts dated back to the Greco-Roman era of Egyptian history, from 332 B.C. to 395 A.D. The remains were preserved in the tradition of the time, with colorful drawings of the women on the sarcophagi tops. This type of mummy portraiture, known as ‘Fayum portraits’ often depicted the head and chest of the deceased painted onto a panel using encaustic wax or egg-tempera paint techniques. Colorful designs decorated the sarcophagi, but they had no ancient Egyptian writings or hieroglyphs.

Mummy with an inserted panel Fayum portrait of a male youth. Roman period. Encaustic on limewood, linen, human remains.

Mummy with an inserted panel Fayum portrait of a male youth. Roman period. Encaustic on limewood, linen, human remains. © Ad Meskens / Wikimedia Commons

It is not clear how or why the mummies were left in the sewage water, but experts at the ministry suspect the artifacts might have been deliberately discarded there during illegal excavations. Rather than be found with priceless antiquities, any diggers, looters or smugglers might have dumped the mummies so as not to suffer the penalties of the country’s severe security restrictions.

Youssef Khalifa, head of antiquities at the ministry, said “The robbers may have resorted to dumping these sarcophagi in the irrigation canal when they felt that authorities were closing in on them, or perhaps when they were approaching a security checkpoint,” reports International Business Times.

Looting and illegal excavation or historical sites is a problem around the world, and political turmoil doesn’t make the situation easier for officials. According to experts, looters will strip Egypt of most of its archaeological heritage within the next 25 years unless something is done to stop it.  A satellite survey project, funded in part by the National Geographic Society, has examined more than 4,000 archaeological sites in Egypt using Google Earth satellite imagery, and already tens of thousands of looting pits have been identified across the landscape.

Archaeologists survey damage caused by looters at Abu Sir el-Malaq, Egypt.

Archaeologists survey damage caused by looters at Abu Sir el-Malaq, Egypt. ( savingantiquities.org).

The problem in Egypt has been exacerbated by bigger and bolder steps being taken by treasure hunters, who are now swapping spades and shovels for bulldozers and dynamite. Although Egypt employs about 1,200 guards at archaeological sites, most make only about $40 a week, leaving them tempted by generous bribes. Others may be scared off by armed gangs.

Restoration and preservation of ancient artifacts is a time consuming and exacting practice, and the loss of the sarcophagi is a blow to conservationists and the wider community of culture and heritage preservation. The condition of the El Minya mummies is poor, but Khalifa has announced the mummies and sarcophagi will be restored as much as possible and put on display at the Hermopolis Museum .

Featured Image: An Egyptian mummy (representational image only). Source: BigStockPhoto

By Liz Leafloor

Comments

real or not

I am a 6th grader, we are doing a project on Ancient Egypt. May I use some of your pictures for my project?
Thank you,
Valerie

You are correct. Though other people have learned to preserve these antiquities, ISIS continues its path of destruction to erase what they consider idolatry. I believe peace loving Muslims need to be the strongest opponents and speak out feverishly against the ravaging and destruction of these archaeological sites. ISIS may be more likely to hear other Muslims before they hear anyone else, maybe not but it has to be tried. The Muslim community has been too silent and many people consider that to be a form of approval. They have been too silent in speaking out against terrorism but much more vocal and vigilant on speaking out against what they consider discrimination. I think Muslims would see less of what they consider discrimination if they showed they are as against the goal of ISIS and other radicalized groups and they do not wish to indoctrinate the world and convert everyone to Islam. Preaching and trying to call people to a religion is one thing. Enforcing their beliefs onto others is another. If the rest of the world saw more outrage from the Muslim community I think that others may be less fearful and wouldn’t be as much of an issue as many Muslims think it is. When a group of people have declared war on all other religions of the world and do not wear uniforms to identify themselves as combatants, it causes fear among the population towards all. I don’t think it’s discrimination at all. Discrimination is the unjust prejudicial treatment of different categories of people or things especially on the grounds of race, sex or age. The fear people have cannot be considered unjust when these hijackers of Islam have decided to deceive and blend into the community and attack innocent civilians instead of their self-proclaimed enemy’s military. They have declared war against us and everyone who isn’t Muslim. What Muslims feel isn’t discrimination it is the basic human instinct called self-preservation. That you could be right next to someone who has declared you their enemy and wishes death upon you without the foresight of knowing who your enemy is. In conventional wars, one of the reasons militaries wear uniforms is so they can be identified and distinguished between non-combatants. The radical Muslims are completely in the wrong for attacking unarmed citizens who aren’t aware they are in a war with the man standing next to them. Peaceful Muslims are victims of these radicalized Muslims not anyone else. Their issue needs to be with them, not with people simply trying to protect themselves and survive. Also, since lying and deception is an acceptable tactic toward advancing the cause of Islam, blame can be assigned to that at well. Before you call out other forms of violence committed by other religions, please remember other religions haven’t declared war against Islam.

Dear persons...I believe you are severely misinformed....Islam as a religion does not by any means justify the defacing of monuments...as just as every religion that advocates peace so does islam...if what you claim is a reality than all the great monuments in Egypt from the pyramids to the temple of amunra would not have made it today...in another aspect you criticize the defacement of monuments to build a mosque and how that proves how undisciplined Muslims are...newsflash...this trend has persisted with many religious cultures...many ancient roman artifacts like the collosseum were partially dismantled by church institutions and used to well build churches...as such I commend you to put your antagonism and prejudice aside and reassess the situation in terms of people....religion regardless of what faith you follow does not comment actions of extremist or hostility..it's people who decide to take such actions so instead of blaming religion, blame the person or group....the actions of the few should not reflect on the majority... Hitler was responsible for a massive genocide campaigne of the Jewish population in Germany, does that make all of Germany bad...what about the families who attempted to help hide the jews, they're German too....they are hitler's subjects too...so before making such a claim stating that islam is the cause of cultural and historic deterioration think again and put your prejudice aside, there is no crime worse the ignorance and dogmatism....

Alas!!!! A bath!!!

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