The Latest Discoveries in Egyptology (January-February 2019)

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. The start of 2019 has seen the discovery of a Ptolemaic winery in the Delta, hieroglyphic inscriptions in far away Saudi Arabia, and a domestic shrine from an undisturbed context at Tell Edfu.

Did you read our last edition on discoveries from November & December?

The Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities publishes a helpful round-up of recent discoveries, events, and projects in Egypt in an accessible PDF format. The latest issue was published in February 2019 (English or Arabic).

Discovery of the remains of a domestic shrine was announced by the Oriental Institute (Photo: Oriental Institute) 

Oriental Institute excavation at Tell Edfu reveals early New Kingdom complex (January 4 – OI News)

Nile Scribes: The OI team was in the news last year for their discovery of an administrative complex dating to the Old Kingdom. This year’s field season, they devoted their time to exploring a residential building from the early New Kingdom which brought to light a domestic shrine which honoured the family’s ancestors. The shrine, found in an undisturbed context, is a rare discovery.

“The findings at the site of Tell Edfu in southern Egypt include a large hall containing a rare and well-preserved example of a domestic shrine dedicated to family ancestors. “It has been more than 80 years since such a shrine for the ancestors was discovered in Egypt, and the ones we did have were rarely within an undisturbed context,” said Nadine Moeller, associate professor of Egyptian archaeology at UChicago, who leads the Tell Edfu Project excavation with Oriental Institute research associate Gregory Marouard. Located about 400 miles south of Cairo in the Nile Valley, the ancient city of Tell Edfu was a provincial capital occupied for nearly 3,000 years.”

An inscription mentioning Ramesses III has been found near the Tayma Oasis in Saudi Arabia (Photo: Egypt Today)

Hieroglyphic inscriptions discovered in Saudi Arabia (January 13 – Egypt Today)

NS: The area around the Tayma Oasis in northwestern Saudi Arabia already produced Egyptian inscriptions mentioning Ramesses III several years ago. News of another Egyptian inscription from the same time is raising the possibility of increased connections between Egypt and this area in antiquity.

“Saudi Arabian archaeologists discovered a hieroglyphic inscription illustrating the signature of King Ramses III, one of the kings of Pharaonic Egypt. Al-Arabiya channel broadcasted the discovery of the inscriptions in Tayma in Northern Saudi Arabia,one of the largest archaeological sites in the kingdom and the Arabian Peninsula. The Hieroglyphic inscription was found on a fixed rock, near the Tayma oasis. It bears a royal signature (a double cartouche) of King Ramses III. Several additional Aramaic, Thamudic and Nabataea inscriptions, as well as ancient illustrations of cattle, ostriches and snakes were discovered.”

One of the two tombs bore colourfully-decorated scenes showing the steps in the mummification process (Photo: Ministry of Antiquities)

Two Roman tombs unearthed in Dakhla Oasis (January 17 – Daily News Egypt)

NS: The Ministry of Antiquities announced that two tombs were discovered at Beir Al-Shaghala in the Dakhla Oasis. Dating to Roman times, the tombs contained human remains, some ceramic vessels, and, in the case of the second tomb, decorated scenes showing the steps of the mummification process.

“The Ministry of Antiquities announced the unearthing of two Roman-period tombs at the archaeological site of Beir Al-Shaghala in the Mout village at the Dakhla Oasis. Located on the eastern side of the archaeological site, the tombs were found adorned in colours, and depicting scenes from that period. The discovery is a part of the excavation works which were being carried out at the area since 2002, and resulted in the revelation of a total of 10 incomplete sandstone tombs from the Greek era.”

Later burials were also uncovered in the Greco-Roman industrial complex (Photo: Ministry of Antiquities)

Greco-Roman Industrial Complex and Cemetery Discovered in Alexandria (January 17 – Luxor Times)

NS: A Greco-Roman industrial complex was discovered in the Ameriya area in Alexandria, which was later used as a cemetery after the complex was abandoned. Among the finds at the site were ovens used for cooking as evidenced by the fish and bird bones found within them. 

“An archaeological mission working in Tabet Motawah in Ameriya district of Alexandria has discovered a group of artifacts that date back to the Greek and Roman periods. The discovered site is unique as it represents an industrial and trade complex, which was also being used as a cemetery, said Secretary General of the Supreme Council of Antiquities Dr Moustafa Waziri. A set of interconnected walls that vary in their design and construction has also been discovered, Waziri added. Some of the walls had been built using irregular stones, while others had been established with carefully-cut stones, he explained.”

Tombs from two different periods have been uncovered in the northeastern Delta (Photo: Ahram Online)

Ancient tombs and prehistoric burials found in Nile Delta (January 24 – Ahram Online)

NS: An Egyptian team has uncovered a large number of tombs in the northeastern Delta at Kom el-Khelgan. Unfortunately in a poor state of preservation, about twenty of the tombs date to the late Predynastic Period. A number of additional tombs are from much later, the Second Intermediate Period, as broken fragments of distinctive Tell el-Yehudiyeh vessels indicate.

“During excavation work carried out by an Egyptian mission in Kom El-Khelgan area in the Nile Delta, a collection of tombs and burials have been unearthed. Mostafa Waziri, secretary general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, told Ahram Online that the tombs date back to the Second Intermediate Period and include animals burials, a collection of broken burned clay pots, rounded and oval pots with holders, as well as seven amulets and scarabs carved in faience and decorated with well-known motifs of the era.”

Several tombs from the Old Kingdom have been discovered in Aswan (Photo: Ahram Online)

Nine Old Kingdom tombs discovered in Upper Egypt’s Aswan (January 26 – Ahram Online)

NS: The well-known Qubbet El-Hawa Research Project has discovered several new tombs dating to the Old Kingdom. In one of the tombs, ancient tomb builders had blocked an entrance as a means of deterring intruders. Unfortunately, this did not save the tomb as there is evidence of looting during antiquity.

“Six Old Kingdom mastaba tombs, two Old Kingdom shaft tombs and one rock-cut tomb with multiple burials that were previously unknown were discovered last month by the Qubbet El-Hawa Research Project (QHRP) in Aswan. Mostafa Waziri, the general-secretary of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, told Ahram Online that some of the tombs measure 190x285cm and some measure 352x635cm. One of the shaft tombs has an intact shaft. Martin Bommas, head of the mission and director of QHRP, said that although the tomb builders had blocked the entrance to the burial chamber of one of the tombs with a wall of carefully laid mud bricks, that particular tomb had been emptied in ancient times by looters who broke into the sepulchre through the rear wall, thus avoiding the security measures in place.”

A winery with an attached residential complex has been identified in the northwestern Delta (Photo: Ahram Online)

Graeco-Roman winery discovered in Egypt’s Beheira (January 27 – Ahram Online)

NS: In the northwestern Delta, an Egyptian mission has uncovered not only a section of a winery, but also a residential area used by the workers at the winery.

“An Egyptian archaeological mission has uncovered the third section of a Greaco-Roman winery and its store galleries surrounded by a mud brick wall at Abu Al-Matameer archaeological site in Beheira governorate. Adjacent is a residential settlement that was once used by the winery employees. Mostafa Waziri, secretary-general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, told Ahram Online that the galleries of the winery have a distinct architectural design, with thick mud brick walls of different sizes. Some of the walls bear in their mortar small blocks of limestone that appear to have been inserted randomly. “These blocks may have been used to ac[h]ieve the temperature needed to preserve the wine,” Waziri suggested, adding that the wine produced in this area was of high quality and well-known in many parts of the world at the time.”

More than 50 mummies, including 12 children, were found in a four metre deep shaft at Tuna el-Gebel (photo: the Guardian)

Tomb containing 50 mummies uncovered in Egypt (February 2 – Guardian)

NS: With many ambassadors from around the world present at the announcement ceremony at Tuna el-Gebel, the Ministry of Antiquities announced that 50 mummies were discovered in shafts measuring nine metres in depth. Not much is known yet about their identities, although they date to Ptolemaic times and were found either wrapped in linen or placed in a coffin.

“Egyptian archaeologists have uncovered a Pharaonic tomb containing 50 mummies dating back to the Ptolemaic era (323-30BC) , in Minya, south of Cairo, the ministry of antiquities said. The mummies, 12 of which were of children, were discovered inside four, nine-metre-deep burial chambers in the Tuna el-Gebel archaeological site. The identities of the mummies were still unknown, said Mostafa Waziri, secretary-general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities. “We have not found names written in hieroglyphics,” he said. He added it was obvious from the mummification method that the individuals whose remains were found had to some extent held important or prestigious positions.”

A workshop with some rough-cut stone was discovered at the quarry of Gebel el-Silsila (Photo: Daily News Egypt)

Ancient New Kingdom’s sandstone workshop discovered in Aswan (February 26 – Daily News Egypt)

NS: The discovery of a sandstone workshop at Gebel el-Silsila, a major quarry for limestone, suggests that the quarry site may also have been used for the production of pieces destined for architectural projects. Within the workshop, a statue of a cobra as well as an unfinished stela were found among other rough-cut pieces.

“Less than a month after unearthing a wine press factory and a boat construction workshop, the Ministry of Antiquities announced on Tuesday discovering a New Kingdom’s sandstone workshop in Aswan at the hands of a Swedish-Egyptian mission. The discovery also included a large criosphinx statue. Mostafa Waziri, secretary-general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, stated in a press release that the statue’s dimensions are 5 metres long, 3.5 metres high, and 1.5 metres wide, and it is believed to belong to Amenhotep III of the 18th Dynasty. The Swedish mission is headed by Maria Nilsson and John Ward from the Lund University. Abdel Meneim Saeed, director-general of Aswan and Nubia Antiquities, said in a press release that a statue of a cobra was also discovered inside the workshop, along with a blank round-top stela.”

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