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Part of a gilded coffin which was found in one of the Aswan tombs.

Archaeologists Stumble Upon 10 Egyptian Late Period Rock-Hewn Tombs

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An Egyptian mission from the Ministry of Antiquities recently came across 10 previously undiscovered rock-hewn tombs on the West Bank of Aswan. They say the tombs date to the Late Period (664‒332 BC) and contain sarcophagi, mummies, and funerary collections.

The team was working at the nearby Agha Kahn mausoleum when they found the tombs. Nasr Salama, director-general of Aswan and Nubia Antiquities, told Ahram Online the tombs are architecturally similar. All feature sliding steps leading to an entrance, followed by a small burial chamber. Inside those chambers the researchers have found stone sarcophagi and mummies, as well as artifacts such as a gilded coffin, painted mummy mask, clay pot, and canopic jars.

A painted mummy mask found as part of one of the funerary collections.

A painted mummy mask found as part of one of the funerary collections. ( Ahram Online )

Funerary goods were very important elements of ancient Egyptian burials. As Ancient Origins writer Dhwty explained in an article on enigmatic funerary cones :

“Ancient Egyptians were extremely concerned about the afterlife, and they did all they could to provide for the dead. Funerary goods were buried with the dead to provide protection and sustenance in the afterlife. Amulets and magic spells, for example, protected and aided the dead in their journey through the Underworld, whilst little figurines called shabtis could be magically animated to perform tasks for the dead in the afterlife. Other common items buried with the dead include jewelry, pottery, furniture and food.”

A canopic jar found in one of the Aswan tombs.

A canopic jar found in one of the Aswan tombs. ( Ministry of Antiquities )

An initial study of the tombs suggests that they are likely an extension of the Aswan necropolis containing overseers from the Old, Middle, and New kingdom. The team will return to excavations and conservation work on the tombs in September. They hope to learn more about the deceased at that time.

In June 2015, Mark Miller reported for Ancient Origins that six other ancient Egyptian tombs belonging to elite members of the 26th dynasty of the Late Pharaonic Period were found in the necropolis near Agha Khan’s mausoleum. Before that, only tombs from the early and middle dynasties had been excavated in that part of Aswan.

Those tombs were looted in the unrest of 2011, but a number of stunning artifacts were still found including some sarcophagi with mummies intact, statues of the falcon-headed god Horus and his four sons, and amulets of different colors, shapes and sizes.

Statues found in the 26th dynasty Aswan tombs in 2015.

Statues found in the 26th dynasty Aswan tombs in 2015. (Ministry of Antiquities/ Egitalloyd Travel Egypt )

The 26th dynasty has been called both a Renaissance, after Assyrian conquerors left and Egyptian governors declared themselves kings, and as the last gasp of a once great culture. As Mark Miller wrote:

“Historians say the prosperity of the time is evident in the many temples built then and the precise care taken to reproduce ancient artworks and literary texts. Also, archaeologists have found that the number of contracts written on papyrus from this era was increasing.”

The Brooklyn Papyrus, an ancient Egyptian medical papyrus dating from about 450 BC.

The Brooklyn Papyrus, an ancient Egyptian medical papyrus dating from about 450 BC. ( Brooklyn Museum )

Top Image: Part of a gilded coffin which was found in one of the Aswan tombs. Source: Ministry of Antiquities

By Alicia McDermott

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