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.
The beginning of summer has revealed a wide array of new finds including brightly-decorated coffins, parts of an older church hiding under a basilica, and a large amount of rock art near Aswan.
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 May 2019 (English or Arabic).
4,500-year-old ancient Egyptian tombs found in Giza (May 6 – CNN)
Nile Scribes: The Ministry of Antiquities announced the discovery of a two-person tomb at Giza dated to the Fifth Dynasty. The tomb contained several brightly-painted wooden coffins including those belonging to Behnui-Ka and Nwi.
“Archaeologists working near the pyramids of Giza have discovered an ancient Egyptian burial ground dating back to around 2500 BCE and hosting the tombs of high-ranking officials. The remarkable find includes a limestone family tomb from Egypt’s fifth dynasty, a period spanning the 25th to the 24th century BCE, the country’s Ministry of Antiquities said while unveiling the site. The tomb contains the mummies of two people: Behnui-Ka, who held seven titles during the period, including priest and judge; and Nwi, also known as the “chief of the great state” and the “purifier” of the pharaoh Khafre. Khafre, who built the second of the three famous pyramids of Giza, is believed to have reigned for around 25 years.”
Neolithic royal inscriptions discovered in Aswan (May 9 – Ahram)
NS: More than a thousand scenes of rock art have been found in the area around Wadi Abu Subeira near Aswan. Featuring images of animals and plant life, these have been dated to the Neolithic Period.
“An archaeological mission from Egypt’s Ministry of Antiquities, which operates in Wadi Abu Subeira, has excavated early royal inscriptions in the Eastern Desert northeast of Aswan. The inscriptions date back to the Neolithic period. Secretary-General of the Supreme Council of Antiquities Moustafa Waziri said that thousands of stone inscriptions from the Neolithic period were uncovered in a semi-enclosed circular valley, depicting scenes featuring animals that were living in the area at that time, such as giraffes, elephants and crocodiles. Other inscriptions showing a small city, with scenes of cattle grazing and trees being planted, bear Egyptian royal signs, such as the falcon god Horus. Abdel-Moneim Saeed, director-general of Aswan and Nubian Antiquities, said that sacred motives were also found on some blocks such as the sacred sign of Horus as well as other foliage decorations.”
Possible unmapped chambers discovered near Tutankhamun’s tomb (May 9 – Art Newspaper)
NS: Rumours surrounding additional chambers near or attached to Tutankhamun’s tomb do not seem to be dying down any time soon. Having conducted geophysical surveys in the vicinity to the tomb, an Italian team has announced anomalies in the ground that might suggest man-made cavities underground.
“Italian researchers have discovered two anomalies below the surface of the Valley of the Kings that could represent ancient undiscovered chambers metres away from Tutankhamun’s tomb. Led by Francesco Porcelli of the Polytechnic University of Turin, Italy, the team of researchers undertook a geophysical survey, a scientific exploration method that allows researchers to peer beneath the ground–to reveal the two subterranean anomalies. The anomalies are not connected to Tutankhamun’s tomb, Porcelli and his colleagues write in the Journal of Cultural Heritage, but they “are particularly interesting in that they do not appear to be correlated with known underground cavities”. Their results suggest that the first anomaly, if indeed man-made rather than natural, could represent a void that possibly dates to the era of ancient Egypt; its depth and location suggest that it is unlikely to have been created by more recent human activity. The anomaly is about 12 metres from Tutankhamun’s burial chamber, on roughly the same north-south alignment, but located higher than its ceiling. It may even be of similar size to Tutankhamun’s tomb.”
Ancient Egyptian Military Fortress Discovered in North Sinai (May 13 – Luxor Times)
NS: In an attempt to facilitate access into the Sinai Peninsula, Egyptian archaeologists came across the remains of two towers. These were part of an enclosure wall from the Twenty-Sixth Dynasty that extended for some 85 metres.
“An Egyptian archaeological mission working in Tell El-Kadwa site in North Sinai has discovered the remains of what used to be the northeastern and southeastern towers of a military fortress. The fortress, which was made of mud brick, dates back to the Saite era of the 26th Dynasty, said Secretary General of the Supreme Council of Antiquities Dr Moustafa Waziri. He added that archaeological excavations are carried out as part of a project to develop Sinai. Ayman Ashmawy, the head of the Egyptian antiquities sector, said the mission was able to unearth the remains of the towers of the ancient castle, as well as its southern wall, which extends for 85 meters.”
Egyptian-German Team Discover Ptolemaic Bread Baking Ovens (May 19 – Luxor Times)
NS: The continuous excavations by an Egypto-German team in Matariya near Old Heliopolis have revealed an extraordinary number of finds. Industrial workshops from various periods have been uncovered and the team also unearthed a Ptolemaic-era building containing bread ovens.
“A German-Egyptian archaeological mission working in El Matareya (Od Heliopolis) has discovered several artifacts during 2019 season. The season’s work took place at Al Moaskar, Nectanebo I, and the 251 (Moataseem Street) sites. At Al Moaskar site – which contains industrial workshops dating from the sixth century to the second century BC – Many reused objects were found in the workshops, which represent parts of the various temple elements. Some of these parts consist of royal statues of the 18th Dynasty and parts of carved limestone blocks. The mission also found at the western side of the site, a building from the Ptolemaic period containing bread baking ovens according to Dr. Aiman Ashmawy, the head of the Egyptian antiquities sector and the Head of Egyptian side of the Mission.”
One of Egypt’s oldest churches dating back to the 4th century found hidden behind ancient basilica wall (May 27 – The First News)
NS: Remains of older structures are often found hiding beneath the frameworks of later buildings: this was the case for a basilica at Marea near Alexandria. Polish archaeologists have been doing some work (including conservation) within the basilica and discovered a church from the fourth century located underneath.
“Polish archaeologists have discovered a 4th Century church in Egypt, which they say could be one of the oldest known Christian temples in Egypt. What is left of the church was discovered in the ancient port of Marea, near the city of Alexandria. A team from the University of Warsaw’s Centre of Mediterranean Archaeology has been conducting research since 2000, including digging and conservation work. The team’s most interesting findings in Marea so far include a basilica, a burial chapel and the largest collections of ceramic fragments (“ostraca” to archaeologists) discovered in Egypt. In the basilica, which operated from the 5th to the 8th Century, the archaeologists discovered remnants from ever further back in time.”
New discoveries made in Tuna el-Gebel area (May 30 – Egypt Today)
NS: Remains of a house from Ptolemaic times was announced in the area around Tuna el-Gebel and finds include a collection of coins, pottery fragments, and some pottery with Greek inscriptions. The work was done under the auspices of the School of Excavations of the nearby Scientific Centre that enables inspectors to be trained in archaeological methods.
“Excavation works of the School of Excavations of the scientific center of training in Central Egypt’s Tuna el-Gebel resulted in the discovery of remains of an ancient house that was part of a residential complex from the Ptolemaic period. This discovery is the first work of the School of Excavations in its first season. Al-Hafayr School (School of Excavations) was established in Central Egypt, under Order No. 50 of January 20 2016. The Scientific Center for Training in Central Egypt established the first School of Excavations in the archaeological area of Tuna el-Gebel to train the inspectors of archeology on the latest excavations methods using advanced technical tools. Fifteen inspectors representing the governorates of Central Egypt were highly trained. Their training was supervised by a group of competent trainers from various scientific centers. The newly uncovered archaeological house dates back to the Ptolemaic era and was part of an ancient complex. A collection of silver coins, saddles and pieces of pottery were found inside. The pottery discovered inside the house remains had Greek texts engraved on them.”
Remains of a military fortress discovered in Al-Beheira (June 10 – Egypt Today)
NS: An Egyptian expedition working in an area near Hush Eissa in the al-Beheira governate south of Alexandria came across two buildings from Ramesside times. Dated to the time of Ramesses II, the buildings were part of a military fortress. Nearby storage areas also revealed remains of animal and fish bones.
“The Egyptian Archaeological Mission working in Abqa’in in the center of Hush Issa, Al-Beheira Governorate was able to trace the remains of two architectural units attached to a military fortress used as stores. The mission was also able to discover a residential building from the era of King Ramses II during the mission’s work in the north-west corner of the military fortress.For his part, Head of the Egyptian Antiquities Sector Ayman Ashmawy stated that the two discovered units are complete and each is surrounded by the remains of a square-shaped brick wall, separated by a rectangular courtyard consisting of a controller room for silos and another for guards. Ashmawi added that the two discovered units are stores and silos that are round and come in the shape of a beehive.”
Inauguration of Lahun pyramid and Khond Aslabay Mosque after years of restorations in Fayoum (June 28 – Ahram)
NS: Accompanying the exciting news that the pyramid of Senwosret II near Lahun is now open for visitors, an Egyptian excavation team has also announced the discovery of a tomb from Middle Kingdom times located near the pyramid. Parts of the architectural features of the tomb were revealed and excavators also came across fragments of wooden coffins and cartonnage.
“Excavation works carried out on the southern side of Lahun pyramid by an Egyptian archaeological mission headed by Waziri uncovered several artifacts from a Middle Kingdom tomb. Waziri explains that the uncovered objects were found inside one of the Middle Kingdom tombs which consists of three shrines and a front court. The tomb was filled with rubble, a collection of pot fragments, remains of wooden coffins and cartonage dating back to different ages, were unearthed after the tomb’s removal. Inside the tomb, a collection of wooden coffins for men, women and children, were found. Some of them were badly carved, and the others were skillfully carved and showing the facial features of the deceased.”