Top 10 Discoveries of 2018

With 2018 come and gone, the Nile Scribes review the best archaeological discoveries of 2018 made in Egypt. Last year presented a wide variety of unusual finds, from tattoos to scarabs, which you will see in our post today. Out of dozens of new artefacts and methods, we picked our own Top Ten Discoveries to share with our readers.

Nestled between tall apartment buildings, an intact sarcophagus from Ptolemaic times was found in the course of construction (Photo: Ministry of Antiquities)
Nestled between tall apartment buildings, an intact sarcophagus from Ptolemaic times was found in the course of construction (Photo: Ministry of Antiquities)

Ptolemaic-Era Black Granite Sarcophagus Discovered in Alexandria

An intact discovery of a sarcophagus! You could just imagine the headlines across global news networks when this discovery was announced in early July. The sheer size of the sarcophagus presented some issues for the mission and when it was finally opened, two men and one woman were revealed as their inhabitants. The sarcophagus was also filled with a large amount of sewage water, a side-product which became the central plank of a popular petition: it was to be bottled for consumption – no, thank you!

What may be the world's oldest cheese has been discovered in a tomb in Memphis (Photo: University of Catania and Cairo University)
What may be the world’s oldest cheese has been discovered in a tomb in Memphis (Photo: University of Catania and Cairo University)

World’s oldest cheese confirmed in Egyptian tomb

A vessel containing specimens which proved to be the “world’s oldest cheese” were found in the tomb of Ptahmes, mayor of Memphis in the reigns of Sety I and Ramesses II. The tomb itself, located near the causeway of Unas’ pyramid at Saqqara, was first found in 1885 before being “lost” until 2010. Now, the contents of the vessel have been analysed to be a cheese made from both goat and cow milk and the cheese also contains one of the earliest examples of the bacterium Brucella melitensis.

The large granite statue of Kaires greets excavators in his burial chamber at Abusir (photo: Czech Institute of Egyptology)
The large granite statue of Kaires greets excavators in his burial chamber at Abusir (photo: Czech Institute of Egyptology)

Czech Archaeologists Discover Tomb of Important Egyptian Dignitary

Charles University’s Czech Institute of Egyptology has been undertaking fieldwork at Abusir for several decades. Their discovery of a tomb belonging to Kaires, a royal official, buried among those belonging to members of the royal family highlights the importance of this deceased official. Kaires also showed his exceptional status by including basalt blocks in his chapel and furnishing his burial chamber with a statue – a previously suspected, but not confirmed, practice.

New Meroitic inscriptions were discovered at Sedeinga (Photo: Sedeinga Archaeological Mission)
New Meroitic inscriptions were discovered at Sedeinga (Photo: Sedeinga Archaeological Mission)

Large Cache of Texts May Offer Insight Into One of Africa’s Oldest Written Languages

Archaeologists working at the site of Sedeinga (located between the second and third cataracts in the Sudan) have unearthed a stela of Lady Maliwarase and a lintel with inscriptions with the name of the great lady Adatalabe. They are among several finds made on the surface of the cemetery which dates from Napatan and Meroitic times.

Finding mummified scarab beetles is a rare occurrence (Photo: Ministry of Antiquities)
Finding mummified scarab beetles is a rare occurrence (Photo: Ministry of Antiquities)

Cats, beetles, other mummified animals found—along with a sealed door

Excavations within seven tombs at Saqqara revealed finds of a large number of cat mummies, cat statues, and other artefacts dating to the Old Kingdom. Most interesting however was the discovery of mummified scarab beetles, a very rare occurrence! Archaeologists unrolled two scarab beetles which were wrapped in linen and placed within a limestone chest – a smaller chest nearby had a larger number of similarly mummified beetles.

Thousands of fragments belonging to Psamtek I were discovered in Matariya (Photo: Ministry of Antiquities)
Thousands of fragments belonging to Psamtek I were discovered in Matariya (Photo: Ministry of Antiquities)

Fragments of massive Psamtek I’s Matariya colossus uncovered

In mid 2018, you may have read about the exciting reconstruction of a colossal statue of the Twenty-sixth Dynasty ruler Psamtek I – it sure looked imposing! The reconstruction is based on the discovery of the more than 4,000 fragments from the statue which were found in Matariya near modern Heliopolis. More fragments had been discovered previously in 2017 and are located now in the Egyptian Museum.

One of many reliefs discovered belonging to the Ramesside tomb of Iwrkhy at Saqqara (Photo: Ministry of Antiquities)
One of many reliefs discovered belonging to the Ramesside tomb of Iwrkhy at Saqqara (Photo: Ministry of Antiquities)

Egypt uncovers tomb of great Ramesses II era general in Saqqara

A mission under the direction of Ola el-Aguizy from Cairo University was working in a cemetery of New Kingdom officials near the causeway of Unas’ pyramid at Saqqara. They came across a tomb belonging to the general Iwrkhy who was active in the reigns of Sety I and Ramesses II. Possibly identified as a foreigner who attained high office in Egypt, Iwrkhy chose several episodes from his military career to be represented within his tomb walls.

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

Yet another discovery of a tomb from Saqqara (this time dating to the Old Kingdom) has been announced by the Ministry of Antiquities in mid December. The tomb owner is Wahtye, a royal official and priest who served during the reign of the Fifth Dynasty ruler Neferirkare. While the rest of the tomb awaits complete excavation, the finds so far provide an intriguing look into the elaborate bureaucracy as it existed at the time.

Tattoos discovered on Egyptian mummies housed in the British Museum (Photo: British Museum)
Tattoos discovered on Egyptian mummies housed in the British Museum (Photo: British Museum)

World’s earliest figural tattoos discovered on 5,000-year-old mummies

A Predynastic male and female mummy from Gebelein in Egypt have been subjected to a new research programme at the British Museum. It included reexamining these using infrared imaging. Researchers were amazed to learn that the brown smudges which had not been investigated further before, were in fact tattoos. The tattoos on the female mummy make them actually the oldest tattoos found on a woman in the world!

The stela shows the two queens seated before tables of offerings (photo: Ministry of Antiquities)
The stela shows the two queens seated before tables of offerings (photo: Ministry of Antiquities)

Egyptian Archaeologists Discover Stela of Liberation Queens in Aswan

While we may have mentioned previously the discovery of a sphinx statue at Kom Ombo from Ptolemaic times, the nearby find of a stela showing Queens Tetisheri (Seventeenth Dynasty) and Ahmose-Nefertari (early Eighteenth Dynasty) suggests a New Kingdom presence at the site. The stela also foreshadows the increased role royal women were to play throughout the New Kingdom.

Which find of 2018 is your favourite? Tell us in the comments!

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