Six tombs containing mummies belonging to elite figures of 26th Dynasty unearthed in Egypt
Six ancient Egyptian tombs belonging to elite members of the 26th dynasty of the Late Pharaonic Period have been excavated by an Egyptian archaeological team. The Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities reports that the tombs were looted in the unrest of 2011 but a number of stunning artifacts were still found.
Archaeologists unearthed some sarcophagi with mummies intact, statues of the falcon-headed god Horus and his four sons, and amulets of different colors, shapes and sizes, reports AhramOnline. Researchers do not yet know who these people of the 26th dynasty were, though it's believed they were powerful figures of Egyptian society.
A statue of a son of Horus in faience found in one of the tombs (Egypt Ministry of Antiquities photo)
The site is in a cemetery or necropolis near the Nile River on the west bank of Aswan, near Aghakhan's mausoleum. Previously only tombs from the early and middle dynasties had been excavated in the area, so this is the first tomb belonging to the 26th dynasty ever recovered from the region.
An ancient history website describes the 26th dynasty as a Renaissance, which came after Assyrian conquerors left and Egyptian governors declared themselves kings. The first of the Saite kings, as they were known, was Psammetichus I.
“Psammetichus unified Egypt, inaugurated an age of great prosperity, and was clever enough to give the Assyrians the impression that he still served them,” says Livius.org.
The tombs are of the final stretch of the Late Period, a powerful dynasty that ruled from 664 BC to 332 BC, said Mamdouh Eldamaty, Egypt's minister of antiquities.
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.
"With this tombs collection, the Aswan ancient Egyptian necropolis has been completed," said Mamdouh Eldamaty, minister of antiquities. He said wooden and limestone sarcophagi were found with mummies in them. The statues of Horus' sons were made of faience and the statuettes of Horus himself are of wood. Faience is tin-glazed pottery on earthenware.
A wooden statue of Horus, the falcon-headed god and son of Osiris, considered a savior god of many people of ancient Egypt. (Egypt Ministry of Antiquities photo)
A 30-step stairway leads to the underground tombs, which have three or four chambers, said Nasr Salama, director Aswan Antiquities.
Salama said the tombs are undecorated, but another official, Mostafa Khalil, said they're engraved. He also said illegal excavations took place during the Egyptian uprising of early 2011.
A 30-step stairway leads underground to the tombs, which are near Aswan on the Nile River. (Photo by Egypt Ministry of Antiquities)
The Saite kings used Greek and Carian mercenaries against their enemies. They conquered Kush or Sudan, parts of Palestine and Judea. They built a navy and had an admiralty. Babylonians expelled the Egyptians from Asia, leaving as refugees some Judeans who preferred Egypt to Babylon. The Saite King Amasis conquered Cyprus and entered into a naval alliance with Polycrates, a tyrant of Samos.
In 525 the Persians conquered Egypt. One factor for Persia's dominance was that Egypt had no iron and its best weapons were bronze, Livius.org says.
Featured image: A limestone sarcophagus of an unknown person has been unearthed near Aswan. Some of the sarcophagi at the site have mummies intact. (Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities photo)
By Mark Miller