Thursday,20 September, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1358, (24 August - 6 September 2017)
Thursday,20 September, 2018
Issue 1358, (24 August - 6 September 2017)

Ahram Weekly

New discoveries galore

Nevine El-Aref reports on an exciting archaeological week in Minya and Dakhla Oasis

New discoveries galore
New discoveries galore

Three important finds were unearthed last week in Minya and Dakhla Oasis.

At Al-Kamin Al-Sahrawi, south-east of Samalout in the governorate of Minya, a Ministry of Antiquities mission found three rock-hewn Ptolemaic tombs, suggesting the existence of a large cemetery in the areas spanning the 27th Dynasty to Graeco-Roman times.

Ayman Ashmawi, head of the Ancient Egyptian Antiquities Department at the ministry told Al-Ahram Weekly the tombs contained limestone sarcophagi with anthropoid lids and a collection of clay vessels.

“These artefacts suggest a large cemetery operating over a long period of time,” he says.

The newly discovered tombs differ architecturally from tombs already excavated at the site. The first consists of a vertical rock hewn burial shaft that runs north to south leading to a burial chamber where four sarcophagi with anthropoid lids were found. Two of the tombs were for women, two for men. Nine burial holes containing fragments of coffins were also uncovered.

The second tomb consisted of a vertical burial shaft with two burial chambers one of which contained the remains of two sarcophagi carved in limestone. A further six burial shafts were uncovered, one of which contained the remains of a child.

“This is the first child burial found in Al-Kamin Al-Sahrawi necropolis,” said Ashmawi.

The second chamber, at the end of the burial shaft, contained the remains of a wooden sarcophagus.

Excavation works at the third tomb is ongoing.

Examinations of the bones revealed a large age range of both men and women, suggesting the tombs were part of a cemetery serving a considerable civilian population rather than a military garrison as was earlier thought.

Excavation at the site began in 2015 when a collection of five sarcophagi of different shapes and sizes and the remains of a wooden sarcophagus were unearthed.

Beginning in October 2016, a second season of excavation uncovered five tombs.

In Al-Nassara, also in Minya governorate, archaeologists have uncovered a settlement that may have housed monks. The settlement includes rock-hewn tombs and a residential area dating from the fifth century AD says Gamal Al-Semestawi, director-general of Antiquities in Middle Egypt. The tombs comprise a collection of burial chambers covering an area of 50m by 70m. The residential area includes the remains of mud-brick houses, including monks’ cells.

Excavations in the area began in 2008 when the remains of a fifth-century mud-brick church, a prayer hall and several chambers decorated with painted plaster and hymns written in the Coptic language were discovered. Unfortunately, says Al-Semestawi, the remains were destroyed when security collapsed in the aftermath of the 25 January 2011 Revolution.

In 2013 excavations at the site resumed and the remains of a monk’s chamber, a prayer hall, a kitchen and a grain store with walls decorated with red crosses were uncovered, says Gamal Mohamed, director of Maghagha antiquities.

The latest finds include the base of a monk’s tombstone and a collection of metal coins and clay pots.

The town of Al-Bahnasa during the Hellenistic period was known as Oxirenkhosis on the West Bank of the Nile.

In Dakhla Oasis an Egyptian archaeological mission has uncovered five mud-brick Roman tombs in Al-Shaghala, some vaulted, others pyramid shaped, says Magdi Ibrahim, director-general of antiquities in Dakhla Oasis. A gilded gypsum funerary mask and clay pots and lamps in a variety of shapes and sizes were also uncovered along with two limestone ostraca engraved with hieratic and hieroglyphic texts and the remains of a sandstone sphinx shaped statue.

Eight Roman tombs built in similar architecture styles were unearthed in earlier seasons at the same site.

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