Top 10 Discoveries of 2017

With 2017 behind us, the Nile Scribes review and highlight our Top 10 Archaeological Discoveries of 2017 made in Egypt. The old adage of “there is nothing left to discover” could not be any more untrue as you will see in our post today. Out of numerous new finds and methods, we pick our own top ten to share with our readers.

Discovery of a Funerary Garden at Luxor (Photo: Ministry of Antiquities)
Middle Kingdom Funerary Garden (photo: Ministry of Antiquities)

4,000 Year Old Funerary Garden Discovered in Luxor

When we picture Egypt today, we think of endless sand dunes. In many tombs, however, there are depictions of trees near their entrances and these of course provide much-needed shade from the day’s heat. Egyptians, in turn, kept elaborate gardens as this discovery shows. This funerary garden provides a rare insight into Egyptian horticulture. Spanish archaeologists found it within the courtyard of a Theban tomb dating to the Middle Kingdom.

Gypsum head of Akhenaten (photo: Amarna Project)

Gypsum head of King Akhenaten statue unearthed in Egypt’s Minya

Digging at Amarna since the early 1970s, Barry Kemp’s team has made several notable discoveries from Akhenaten’s capital. In September, members of his team unearthed a gypsum fragment within the Great Aten Temple. The fragment was of a head of a statue that depicts the pharaoh Akhenaten and provides further clues into the king’s reign at Amarna.

The wooden head of a statue of Queen Ankhnespepy II (Photo: Ahram Online)
Wooden head of a statue of Queen Ankhnespepy II (photo: Ahram Online)

Head of Queen Ankhnespepy II found at Saqqara

In excavations near what is believed to be the pyramid of Queen Ankhnespepy II at Saqqara, a French-Swiss team found a well-preserved wooden head with some decoration still extant. This discovery goes well with a pyramidion attributed to the queen, which was found a little earlier. While the wooden head is dated to the late Old Kingdom, the scholars noted that it was found in a disturbed layer. On social media, some scholars have suggested that the statue is stylistically more similar to examples of the New Kingdom because of her earrings.

A new Early Dynastic cemetery at Abydos (photo: Al-Masry Al-Youm)

Ancient residential city, cemetery discovered in Abydos

For much of Egypt’s earliest history, settlement data is hard to come by due to the choice of building materials and the state of preservation in many cases. Recent work undertaken near the famous Temple of Sety I at Abydos revealed the remains of a cemetery and possibly a residential area. While archaeologists have dated this area to the Early Dynastic Period (2,900-2,545 BC), we have not come across much information surrounding this discovery and look forward to hearing more about this in 2018.

A medical text was among the discoveries made at Saint Catherine’s Monastery in the Sinai (Photo: Greek Reporter)
A medical text was among the discoveries made at Saint Catherine’s Monastery (photo: Greek Reporter)

Greek Philosopher Hippocrates’ Texts Found at St. Catherine’s Monastery

Sometimes it is a good idea to go through what has already been found as was the case within the library of Saint Catherine’s Monastery in the Sinai. There, scholars use new technologies to examine texts written on parchment as in many cases parchments contain writings written over older, erased texts. In this case, they came across a previously unknown medical text, which is attributed to the Greek physician Hippocrates.

Remains of the Thirteenth Dynasty pyramid at Dashur (photo: Ministry of Antiquities)

Burial Chamber of Princess Possibly Found in Ancient Egypt Pyramid

The remains of a Thirteenth Dynasty pyramid was discovered at Dashur, south of the famous Bent Pyramid. While the original size of the pyramid is still unknown, the burial chamber contained a canopic box with the name Hatshepsut inscribed on it. Because of an alabaster inscription also found at the pyramid, scholars have interpreted these finds as those of a Middle Kingdom princess, belonging to the daughter of King Ameny Qemau.

Colossal head of Psamtek I found at Mattariyyah (photo: Getty Images)

Colossus Discovery Highlights Difficulties of Preserving Egypt’s Heritage

What was first hastily identified in the press as a colossus of Ramesses II (for good reason- the New Kingdom pharaoh is known for creating and usurping monuments of all sizes during his long reign), was later corrected as belonging to the Late Period King Psamtek I. The striking photos of the pieces being excavated in downtown Cairo reminded us that so much of Egyptian history lies beneath the streets you can walk down today, perhaps forever. The badly fragmented statue that weighed over 51 tonnes, will eventually be displayed at the new Grand Egyptian Museum.

Alabaster statue of Queen Tiye (photo: Ministry of Antiquities)

New Statue Discovered Depicting Queen Tiye, King Amenhotep III’s Wife 

Every year, the archaeological mission at Kom el-Hitan, under the direction of Dr. Hourig Sourouzian, uncovers more of the vast memorial temple complex that belonged to Amenhotep III. This near-lifesize statue of his wife, Queen Tiye, was discovered when the team lifted a colossus statue of the king and revealed a beautiful figure, notable because other examples of the Queen were made of quartzite while this one was of alabaster.

The tomb of Shemai at Qubbet el-Hawa (photo: Ahram Online)

Intact Tomb Uncovered in Aswan 

The Spanish team working at Qubbet El-Hawa, an important cemetery in Aswan, discovered an intact Middle Kingdom burial. The tomb belonged to Shemai, the brother of Sarenput II who was a regional governor during the reigns of Senusret II and Senusret III. His burial included model boats and cedar coffins, as well as a mummy. This discovery gives us more details on the life of the important official Sarenput II and his family at Elephantine.

The owner’s name revealed on an Egyptian coffin (photo: BBC News)

Scan technique reveals secret writing in mummy cases

A team at the University College London, led by Professors Melissa Terras and Adam Gibson, has piloted new imaging methods which can be used to reveal writing inside papyri cartonnage. UCL team member Dr Kathryn Piquette led a project on a coffin lid in the collection at Chiddingstone Castle using multispectral imaging to reveal the previously unknown name of the coffin’s owner, Irethoreru. After thousands of years, some pigments are no longer visible except through new methods such as these; technical imaging is a promising and exciting area of development in the field.

Further Reading

For more details on some of the discoveries made in 2017, have a look at our discoveries posts from last year:

Our list did not contain the amazing discovery of the tomb of the gold smith, Amenemhat, nor mention of the “void” above the Grand Gallery in Khufu’s Pyramid at Giza. Instead, we focussed on lesser known, but just as impressive finds, which speak to the multi-faceted expertise and interests active in our field.

What was your favourite discovery from 2017? Let us know in the comments!