The Latest Discoveries in Egyptology (November-December 2018)

Every two months, the Nile Scribes bring you summaries of the latest news and discoveries in Egyptology, both from the field and the library. We introduce you to the newest archaeological finds or rediscovered artefacts from museum collections, plus other new theories stirring in the Egyptological Zeitgeist. This winter has seen a wealth of new discoveries with much excitement generated by a beautifully preserved tomb of an Old Kingdom official and a collection of mummified scarab beetles, both from Saqqara.

Did you read our last edition of Discoveries from September?

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 November 2018 (English or Arabic).

The site of Matariya has been in the news often over the last year (Photo: Ministry of Antiquities)
The site of Matariya has been in the news often over the last year (Photo: Ministry of Antiquities)

Inscription fragments uncovered at Temple of the Sun (November 6 – Egypt Today)

Nile Scribes: The area around Matariya finds itself in the news yet again: a significant number of fragments of inscriptions and statuary were found within the Temple of the Sun. The dates given for these artefacts range from the Middle Kingdom all the way until the end of the New Kingdom.

“An Egyptian–German archaeological mission uncovered a number of inscription fragments and fragments of smaller statuary at the Temple of the Sun in Matariya, in piles close to lime burning installations. The discovered fragments date back to the 12th and 20th dynasties as well as the Third Intermediate Period, according to Ayman Ashmawy, head of the Ancient Egyptian Antiquities sector at the Ministry of Antiquities and head of the Egyptian side of the mission.”

An Eighteenth Dynasty white sarcophagus recently found at North Asasif in Luxor (Photo: Ministry of Antiquities)
An Eighteenth Dynasty white sarcophagus recently found at North Asasif in Luxor (Photo: Ministry of Antiquities)

Sandstone panel, sarcophagus unearthed in Luxor (November 8 – Egypt Independent)

NS: Working near the tomb of Petamenope in Luxor’s North Asasif, a French archaeological team has uncovered a limestone stela and anthropoid sarcophagus dating to the Eighteenth Dynasty and belonging to a man named Pouia. The stela bears the names of two officials: Tetiankh and Ineni.

“The French Institute for Oriental Archaeology’s mission has unearthed a sandstone panel and a wooden ark [sarcophagus] dated back to the 18th Dynasty of Pharaonic Egypt in the northern area of El-Assasif Necropolis in Luxor. The mission found the ark [sarcophagus] and the panel in good condition. It only lost part of the leg, Secretary General of the Supreme Council of Antiquities Mostafa Waziri said.”

Over a hundred cat statues were found at Saqqara recently (Photo: Ministry of Antiquities)
Over a hundred cat statues were found at Saqqara recently (Photo: Ministry of Antiquities)

Cats, beetles, other mummified animals found—along with a sealed door (November 11 – Ars Technica)

NS: Among dozens of mummified cats found at Saqqara were reports of mummified scarab beetles, an exceptionally rare find. Two large beetles, in one instance, were found wrapped in linen and placed within limestone sarcophagi decorated with images of beetles.

“Along with the mummified cats and scarabs, the Saqqara tombs contained more than a hundred gilded wooden cat statues and one of solid bronze, all dedicated to Bastet, as well as gilded statues of lions, a cow, and a falcon. Archaeologists also found painted wood sarcophagi containing a mummified crocodile and two mummified cobras, as well as an assortment of amulets, canopic jars, writing instruments, and papyri, all of which could help reveal more about life and death in Egypt’s Old Kingdom.”

The sad discovery of a pregnant woman and her fetus provides rare glimpse into childbirth in antiquity (Photo: Ministry of Antiquities)
The sad discovery of a pregnant woman and her fetus provides rare glimpse into childbirth in antiquity (Photo: Ministry of Antiquities)

Skeletons Of Pregnant Egyptian Woman And Fetus Found By Archaeologists Suggest Death In Childbirth (November 16 – Forbes)

NS: The Ministry of Antiquities recently announced the remarkable discovery of the skeleton of a pregnant woman buried with her unborn fetus near Aswan. This discovery sheds fresh light on deaths during childbirth as such examples are quite rare.

“Dating back 3,700 years, the burial represents an important find for the growing understanding of reproduction and childbirth in the ancient world. This new discovery, announced Wednesday by Dr. Mostafa Waziri, Secretary-General of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, was found in the region between Aswan and the site of Kom Ombo, well know for its unique Ptolemaic-era double temple dedicated to two gods. This region is currently being investigated by the Aswan-Kom Ombo Archaeological Project (AKAP), directed by Dr. Maria Carmela Gatto of the University of Leicester and Dr. Antonio Curci of the University of Bologna.”

The Ramesside period tomb is decorated with scenes of the deceased and his family (Photo: Ministry of Antiquities)
The Ramesside period tomb is decorated with scenes of the deceased and his family (Photo: Ministry of Antiquities)

Tomb of mummification shrine overseer uncovered in Luxor (November 24 – Ahram Online)

NS: The Ramesside tomb of Thaw-Rakht-If, who worked at the Precinct of Mut as the overseer of the mummification shrine, has been discovered in Luxor. Unfortunately, the tomb’s two burials date to a later period rather than to the original tomb owner.

“Inside the tomb, two huge wooden anthropoid sarcophagi were found, but studies revealed that they do not belong to the owner of the tombs, but rather to a son and daughter from a later period, Padiset and Nesmutamu. Anany described the well-preserved sarcophagi inside the tomb as “magnificent”, with eyes inlaid with golden sheets. Mostafa Waziri, Secretary General of the Supreme Council of Antiquities told Ahram Online that the tomb was buried under 300 meters of debris, and that the mission also uncovered two wooden statues of the deceased, five painted wooden funerary masks, and a collection of ushabti figurines made of faience, wood, burnt clay.”

Several mummified remains were found at Dahshur, some of which were covered in beautifully painted plaster (Photo: National Geographic)
Several mummified remains were found at Dahshur, some of which were covered in beautifully painted plaster (Photo: National Geographic)

Ancient Egyptian mummies discovered near much older pyramid (November 28 – National Geographic)

NS: Brightly-painted cartonnage has been discovered along with several mummified remains near the pyramid of Amenemhat II at Dahshur. The site of Sneferu’s two earlier pyramids, the unearthed finds actually date to the Late Period, some thousand years later.

“Eight mummies were discovered during excavations near a pyramid in Dahshur, Egypt, the country’s Ministry of Antiquities announced today. Dating from the Late Period (664-332 B.C.), the mummified remains were each covered in painted cartonnage (a sort of paper-maché made from plaster and papyrus or linen) and buried in a limestone sarcophagus. Only three of the mummies were in good condition, according to Mostafa Waziri, secretary-general of Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities.”

A sandstone figure found in the Fayoum (Photo: Ministry of Antiquities)
A sandstone figure found in the Fayoum (Photo: Ministry of Antiquities)

Egyptian Mission Discovers Middle Kingdom Burial Well In Fayoum (December 10 – NILE FM)

NS: A Middle Kingdom burial well with three burial chambers was recently found by an Egyptian archaeological team working in the Fayoum. Though heavily looted, the chambers contained some ceramic finds and a sandstone figure.

“An Egyptian archaeological mission discovered a burial well dating back to the Middle Kingdom in the al-Khalwa area, Fayoum. The well contained three burial chambers, one of which had part of a 40-cm tall statue of a person with his hand on his chest made from sandstone. Another had the mid-section of a basalt statue at 30-cm tall.”

High groundwater levels have made access to this undecorated tomb at Gebel el-Silsila difficult (Photo: Gebel el-Silsila Project)
High groundwater levels have made access to this undecorated tomb at Gebel el-Silsila difficult (Photo: Gebel el-Silsila Project)

Swedish mission discovers 18th Dynasty tomb in Upper Egypt’s Aswan (December 13 – Ahram Online)

NS: The list of remarkable discoveries continues in 2018 (from aged cheese to a sewage-water drowned sarcophagus) as archaeologists at Gebel el-Silsila in Upper Egypt have announced the discovery of a mass burial of 50-60 individuals from the Eighteenth Dynasty, half of whom were children. The tomb is now filled with ground water, a possible factor in keeping the grave intact until today.

“A Swedish archeological mission has discovered an ancient tomb dating back to the 18th Dynasty in Upper Egypt’s Aswan governorate, a Ministry of Antiquities statement said on Thursday. The mission, operating in Gabal Al-Selsela area in Kom Ombo, Aswan, announced that the tomb was located five metres underground and consists of a burial chamber and two sided rooms without any decoration.”

Wahtye's tomb has been preserved in excellent condition for over four thousand years (Photo: Ministry of Antiquities)
Wahtye’s tomb has been preserved in excellent condition for over four thousand years (Photo: Ministry of Antiquities)

Egypt tomb: Saqqara ‘one of a kind’ discovery revealed (December 15 – BBC)

NS: The discovery of the tomb of Wahtye, an official during the reign of the Fifth Dynasty ruler Neferirkare, provides us with important insight into the administration and bureaucracy of the Old Kingdom state. Its beautiful preservation has captured the attention of the world this month as the internet has been flooded with gorgeous photos of the tomb’s interior.

“Mostafa Waziri, secretary-general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, described the find as “one of a kind in the last decades”. The tomb, found in the Saqqara pyramid complex near Cairo, is filled with colourful hieroglyphs and statues of pharaohs. Decorative scenes show the owner, a royal priest named Wahtye, with his mother, wife and other relatives. Archaeologists will start excavating the tomb on 16 December, and expect more discoveries to follow – including the owner’s sarcophagus.”

Mud sealing from Kom Ombo bearing the name of King Userkaf (Photo: Ministry of Antiquites)
Mud sealing from Kom Ombo bearing the name of King Userkaf (Photo: Ministry of Antiquites)

Old Kingdom’s Kings Names Discovered in Kom Ombo (December 20 – Luxor Times)

NS: An Egyptian-Austrian team have announced the discovery of cylinder seals bearing the names of two Fifth Dynasty kings, Userkaf and Neferirkare, at Kom Ombo – the first time they have been attested at the site. The team’s finds continue to illuminate the activities of the Fifth Dynasty kings in southern Egypt.

“Dr. Irene Forstner-Müller, director of the Austrain Archaeological Institute mission at the site said “The mission started working at the site in 2018 to investigate the history of the town of Kom Ombo. The first season of survey and excavation brought to light a First Intermediate Period Cemetery with the town of the Old Kingdom below it as well as a seal of King “Sahure”.”

Which of these recent finds intrigues you the most? Let us know in the comments!