Egyptian Elite Sarcophagi and Unique Gold Treasures Unearthed
In Egypt, archaeologists have revealed a number of tombs that contain sarcophaguses. They also found a treasure trove of grave goods and other funerary figurines at the location. The sarcophagi, in particular, are providing researchers with a new perspective on the Late Pharaonic Period.
The Egyptian Antiquities Ministry announced the major find in the village of Tuna al-Gabal. This is not far from the city of Minya in central Egypt and some 180 miles (110 kilometers) south of Cairo. The site has already been excavated by archaeologists and they have made a large number of discoveries.
Yahoo News reports that the Tuna al-Gabal site has already yielded “funerary buildings and catacombs filled with thousands of mummified ibis and baboon birds”. During recent investigations, experts came across 16 tombs in total, some of which contained more than one burial.
20 Sarcophagi Discovered in the Tombs
In total they found 20 sarcophagi in the tombs all made from limestone. They had been placed in cross-shaped cuttings on the floor of the funerary chambers. According to The Times of Israel, the “long-abandoned tombs date back to three dynasties, from 664-399 BC, in the Late Pharaonic Period”. The tombs are in good condition, despite their age.
The sarcophagi lids were carved to represent a human form and shaped to represent figures that symbolize a mummy. The secretary-general of Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities, Mostafa Waziri, is quoted by The Times of Israel as stating that the limestone of the sarcophagi was “well-polished”. All of the burials were engraved with a number of hieroglyphs, which were studied by experts.
This photo, provided by Egyptian Antiquities Ministry, shows one of sarcophagi archeologists discovered in the tombs. (Egyptian Antiquities Ministry)
The Gods Honored in the Tombs
Phys.Org reports that “one of the stone sarcophagi was dedicated to the god Horus, the son of Isis and Osiris”. There is also a depiction of Nut, the goddess of the sky, stars, and the heavens spreading her wings. The hieroglyphs and the nature of the sarcophagi indicate that the tombs were used by the local elite.
It seems that some of the tombs belonged to high priests of Djehuty an aspect of Thoth, who was the god of wisdom, magic, and the inventor of writing. Some of them seem to be the final resting place of senior local officials. It appears that the priests and officials all came “from the 15th nome, an ancient Egyptian territorial division ruled over by a provincial governor” reports Phys.org.
Representation of Djehuty, some of the tombs belonged to high priests of Djehuty. (Tatiana Matveeva / CC BY-SA 2.0)
The Tombs Contained a Treasure Trove of Grave Goods
The Ministry of Antiquities permitted journalists to visit the site and they were led down the narrow shafts into the tombs. They were shown many of the artifacts that were found during the recent excavations. According to AFP, an official “unveiled 10,000 blue and green ushabti (funerary figurines)”. These figures are in human form and in Egyptian religion were believed to serve the deceased in the afterlife.
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The ministry found 10,000 blue and green ushabti in the tombs. (Egyptian Antiquities Ministry)
Also found were a number of canopic jars. They were painted and made to look like the sarcophagi from limestone. The jars were used to store most of the organs of the mummified dead, such as their liver. The Egyptians believed that these were needed by the dead in the afterlife.
Unique Gold Amulets Found in the Elite Tombs
AFP reports that “700 amulets - including some made of pure gold” were found. The majority of them in the shape of scarab beetles, which were very common in Egyptian society. Also unearthed was a very unusual amulet in the shape of a winged cobra which was a symbol of authority and royalty in Pharaonic Egypt.
This engraved gold winged cobra amulet collar was one of several found on the thorax of King Tut's mummy, is in the form of Wadjet, the winged cobra goddess of Lower Egypt. (woodsboy2011 / CC BY-SA 2.0)
The Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities is eager to publicize any archaeological findings. This is in order to boost the economy, which is heavily dependent on tourism. Post-excavation studies of the sarcophagi and the grave goods are expected to reveal more about those who died and in particular provide insights into the regional religious and political elite, in ancient Egypt.
Top image: The team found 16 tombs containing 20 sarcophagi. Source: Egyptian Antiquities Ministry.
By Ed Whelan