The Latest Discoveries in Egyptology (August-September 2017)

Every few months, the Nile Scribes bring you summaries of the latest news and discoveries in Egyptology, both from the field and the lab. We’ll introduce you to the newest archaeological finds or recently undusted manuscripts being rediscovered in museum collections, plus other new theories stirring in the Egyptological Zeitgeist. This week, read about a new gypsum head of Akhenaten, a cache of ritual objects found at Karnak Temple, and a new Eighteenth Dynasty tomb in Luxor. 


Have you read our post about the discoveries from earlier this summer?

The Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities publishes a very helpful round-up of recent discoveries, events, and projects in Egypt in an accessible PDF format. The latest issue was published in August 2017 (version: English or Arabic).


A Ptolemaic period tomb at El-Kamin El-Sahrawi (Photo: Nevine El-Aref)
A Ptolemaic period tomb at El-Kamin El-Sahrawi (Photo: Nevine El-Aref)

Three Ptolemaic tombs uncovered in Egypt’s Minya (August 15 – Ahram Online)

Nile Scribes: Several tombs were discovered in Middle Egypt at a site which saw greater concentrated activity in the later periods of Egyptian history. These newly discovered tombs dated to between the Twenty-Seventh Dynasty (525-404 BC – the First Persian Period) and Graeco-Roman times, and were located near twenty other, similarly dated tombs, that illustrate the site was used as a necropolis during the Late Period.

“Three rock-hewn tombs from the Ptolemaic era have been discovered during excavation work in the El-Kamin El-Sahrawi area of Minya governorate.. […] The tombs contain a number of sarcophagi of different shapes and sizes, as well as a collection of clay fragments, according to ministry officials. Ayman Ashmawy, head of the ministry’s Ancient Egyptian Sector, said that studies carried out on the clay fragments suggest the tombs are from the 27th Dynasty and the Graeco-Roman era. “This fact suggests that the area was a large cemetery over a long period of time,” said Ashmawy. Ashmawy describes the discovery as “very important” because it reveals more secrets from the El-Kamil El-Sahrawi archaeological site. During previous excavation work, the mission uncovered about 20 tombs built in the catacomb architectural style, which was widespread during the 27th Dynasty and the Graeco-Roman era.”

Roman cemetery at Be’r al-Shaghala in the Dakhla Oasis (Photo: Egyptian Independent)
Roman cemetery at Be’r al-Shaghala in the Dakhla Oasis (Photo: Egyptian Independent)

Five Roman cemeteries discovered in Dakhla Oasis (August 23 – Egyptian Independent)

NS: In an area just west of the Dakhla Oasis, far from the hospitable Nile Valley, an Egyptian archaeological mission uncovered five cemeteries dating to the Roman period. Highlights among the finds include a fragmented base of a sandstone sphinx, plates with hieroglyphic and hieratic inscriptions, as well a gypsum funerary mask.

“The Egyptian archaeological mission, operating in the Be’r al-Shaghala area of Dakhla Oasis, discovered five cemeteries dating back to the Roman era, during this years excavation season. The discovered tombs are constructed of mud-brick, Head of the Egyptian Antiquities Sector with the Ministry of Antiquities, Ayman al-Ashmaw, said in a statement on Wednesday. The first cemetery includes an entrance area that leads to a cross-sectional lounge and two burial chambers, Ashmawy said. The second cemetery has a vaulted roof and consists of an entrance area that directly leads to the burial chamber, he continued.”

A New Look into the Mystery of an ancient Egyptian King’s Smashed Sculpture (September 3 – Jerusalem Post)

NS: A bust of what is likely an ancient Egyptian king was discovered in 1995 at Hazor in Upper Gallilee and believed to have been smashed around 1,300 BC (although the reasons behind this are unclear). In a recent reevaluation, the broken statue was dated stylistically to the late Old Kingdom and was quarried in  the only known ancient Egyptian-worked source of greywacke in the Near East.

“The mysterious head is discussed in the book Hazor VII: The 1990-2012 Excavations, the Bronze Age, and was recently examined in a report by Dimitri Laboury, a senior research associate at the Belgian National Foundation for Scientific Research at the University of Liège, and Simon Connor, a curator at the Museo Egizio in Turin, Italy. […] According to Laboury and Connor, the sculpture was crafted out of “a piece of graywacke, a metamorphic rock only quarried in the ancient Near East in Wadi Hammamat,” supporting the notion that the artifact came from Egypt. While they were able to pinpoint its creation to the 5th Dynasty (ca. 2465-2323 BC), during which nine pharaohs ruled, the similar physiognomy and typology of the sculptures of that period made it virtually indistinguishable from the others, the researchers said.”

A look at some of the mummies within the goldsmith’s tomb (Photo: Nariman el-Mofty)
A look at some of the mummies within the goldsmith’s tomb (Photo: Nariman el-Mofty)

Egypt announces discovery of 3,500-year-old tomb in Luxor (September 9 – Toronto Star)

NS: Found by Egyptian archaeologists on Luxor’s (ancient Thebes) west bank, the tomb dates to the Eighteenth Dynasty (1539-1292 BC) and belongs to a goldsmith named Amenemhat, who worked in the service of the god Amun in Thebes, Amun’s cult centre.

“The tomb, located on the west bank of the river Nile in a cemetery for noblemen and top officials, is a relatively modest discovery, but one that authorities have announced with a great deal of fanfare in a bid to boost the country’s slowly recovering tourism industry. […] The tomb has two burial shafts, one of which was likely dug to bury the mummies of the goldsmith and his wife. It also contained wooden funerary masks and a collection of statues of the couple, according to a ministry statement. Three mummies were found in the shaft.”

See also:

A sphinx and statuettes from a Karnak cache (Photo: J. Maucor/CFEETK-CNRS-MoA)
A sphinx and statuettes from a Karnak cache (Photo: J. Maucor/CFEETK-CNRS-MoA)

Sphinx, Baboon and Cat Statues Found in Ancient Egyptian Burial (September 21 – Live Science)

NS: A cache of 38 statuettes and other small finds was discovered at the Temple of Ptah in the northern part of Karnak in 2014 and the results of this find have only recently been published. While the title suggests these objects were found as part of a burial (that is, a funerary context), they actually belong to a cache of ritual objects, which were buried in the pit during the Ptolemaic period after the objects were taken out of use in the temple (for example, after being damaged) .

“After years of being washed, perfumed and fed in ancient Egypt, the statue of a revered Egyptian deity was given a proper burial with other “dead” statues more than 2,000 years ago, a new study finds. […] Archaeologists discovered the pit in December 2014 at Karnak, an Egyptian temple precinct, and spent about a month excavating its rich assemblage. […] It appeared that the artifacts were buried in a certain order. After digging the pit, also known as a favissa (a cache of sacred objects that are no longer in use), the ancient Egyptians would have put down the lower part of Ptah’s limestone statue. The statue was large, and it probably took two to three people to carry it, the researchers said.”

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Gypsum head of King Akhenaten unearthed in Tell el-Amarna (September 30 – Ahram Online)

NS: An exciting find recently discovered at the ancient site of Tell el-Amarna (ancient Akhet-aten), is a small gypsum head (only 9 cm tall and 8 cm wide) of king Akhenaten. It was found at the Great Aten Temple, which he built during his reign.

“A British-Egyptian archaeological mission from Cambridge University has discovered a gypsum head from a statue of King Akhenaten (around 1300 BC) during excavation work in Tel El-Amarna in Egypt’s Minya governorate. The head – which is 9 cm tall, 13.5 cm long and 8 cm wide – was unearthed during excavation work in the first hall of the Great Aten Temple in Tell El-Amarna, secretary-general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities Mostafa Waziri told Ahram Online.”

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