Tuesday, April 13th, 2010
Archaeologists excavating Egypt’s Bahariya Oasis, 185 miles southwest of Cairo, have uncovered 14 Greco-Roman tombs dating to the 3rd century B.C. In one of them they found an intricately-carved gypsum sarcophagus in the shape of a woman dressed in Roman robes. Preliminary investigations indicate there is a mummy still inside.
The sarcophagus hasn’t been dated yet, but the burial style suggests she’s from the Roman era which started in 31 B.C. and continued for a few hundred years after that. At first archaeologists weren’t sure if it’s a woman or a girl mummy because the sarcophagus is so tiny, only 38 inches long. The decoration and features suggest an adult, however, so she was probably a small but grown woman.
There’s no writing that names who she was, but judging from the quality of the sarcophagus and the other artifacts found in the tomb she was definitely a wealthy, prominent person.
They also found four anthropoid masks made of plaster, a collection of coins, clay and glass vessels of different shapes and sizes, and a sheet of gold depicting Imsety, Duamutef, Hapi and Qebehsenuef — the four sons of the ancient Egyptian sky god Horus.
According to [Mahmoud Affifi, director of Cairo and Giza antiquities], the tombs have a unique interior design. They consist of a long stairway leading to a corridor which ends in a hall. Each corner of the hall contains mastabas (rectangular structures found above many Egyptian tombs) that were used in burning the deceased.
This isn’t the first time extraordinary finds have been made in Bahariya Oasis. In 1996, Zahi Hawass uncovered 17 tombs with 254 golden masked mummies, hence its being known as the Valley of the Golden Mummies. There’s a lot more to be found, too. Experts think there may be as many as 10,000 mummies buried in the oasis, making it the largest Egyptian cemetery ever uncovered.