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Four 6000-Year-Old Tombs with Child Burials Uncovered in Egypt

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Four pre-dynastic tombs have been discovered at Tel Al-Farkha, Egypt, by a Polish Expedition which has been working at the site since 1998. They are located on the edge of the village of Ghazala, northeast of Cairo. Three of the four tombs, each containing child burials, are in very poor condition. However, the fourth is in wonderful condition and can be dated back to 3000-3200 BC (Naqadian III period).

Near Ghazala, three ‘koms’ or mounds rising 5 meters (16 feet) above the surrounding fields were first discovered in 1987 during a survey by the Italian archaeological mission of Centro Studi e Reserch Ligabue, based in Venice. This uncovered more than 30 sites of interest of which one was Tel Al-Farkha, also known as Tell el-Farkha.

No spectacular finds were made until after 1990, with early finds largely consisting of pottery and various other items. These helped to establish the sites chronology, covering the Lower Egyptian culture to the beginnings of the Old Kingdom. Financial considerations forced the Italian mission to abandon the project but in 1998 it was revived by the present Polish mission. A change in archaeological methods revealed the architectural layout of the site settlement. This was important for the understanding by the team of the processes leading to the emergence of the Pharaonic Egyptian civilization and discoveries made during the last few years have been unprecedented. These have included figurines carved from hippo tusks and a golden sheet adorned with images depicting a Pre-dynastic ruler and his son and heir.

Typical Naqada III pottery. ( Jorge Elías/Flickr )

It has become clear that the history of the site began many hundreds of years before the first Pharaohs and it can be divided into several stages. The oldest is associated with the Lower Egyptian Culture of the Nile Delta, settlers occupying the site from 3,600 BC to 3,300 BC. These people were, in turn, followed by settlers from the south called Naqadians who were associated with the first political centers emerging in Upper Egypt. A slump in settlement occurred around the middle of the First Dynasty, but continued into the early Fourth Dynasty (the Egyptian Old Kingdom of around 2,600 BC).

The project is interdisciplinary in that ceramologists, physical anthropologists, osteologists, geologists, paleobotanists and geophysicists work alongside the archaeologists.

The discovery was announced by the Egyptian Minister of Antiquities, Mamdouh Eldamaty, who told Ahram Online that the tomb consisted of a mastaba with two chambers. The southern chamber contained 42 clay vessels, most of which were used for storing beer, in addition to a number of bowls, 180 small carnelian beads and 26 stone vessels of different shapes and sizes. Some of these stone vessels are globular while others are cylinders. A skeleton was discovered in the northern chamber.

According to Mahmoud Afifi, head of the Ancient Egyptian Antiquities Department at the Ministry of Antiquities, the most important discovery at the site was the remains of a brewery with fragments of two vats surrounded by fire dogs.

Remains of the Brewery, Tel Al-Farkha, Egypt

Remains of the Brewery, Tel Al-Farkha, Egypt ( El Wady News )

Head of the Polish mission, Marek Chlodnicki, said that the eastern sand pile located on the northern and eastern sides of the mastaba covered the remains of two huge buildings. The first of these is a rectangular structure with thick walls containing a row of rooms along the eastern side of a courtyard. This structure can be dated back to the Naqada IIIA1 period.

The second structure is more rounded and was built during the second half of the First Dynasty. It consists of 95 centimeters (37 inch) thick double adjacent mud-brick walls and an interior space of 7 meters (23 feet) in diameter. A ceramic stamp with hieroglyphs was also discovered close to this building.

Work continues on analyzing the site, tombs, and artifacts recently unearthed.

Featured image: tomb with two chambers containing stone vessels and skeleton ( Ahram Online )

By Robin Whitlock

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