Egypt is an ancient land of history, mystery, and intrigue. With a continuous, thriving culture of over 8,000 years, there are wonders still to be found. Amidst the secretive and often puzzling routes to burial, and the eternally shifting sands, most of Egypt’s history is still being discovered. Egypt is best known for the Nile, giver of life and agriculture, mummies, the Sphinx and a cascade of mysterious pyramids.
Egypt is one of the oldest cultures and the ancient landscape of how ancient people, worked, lived and worshiped glorified in beautiful paintings and massive sculptures. In fact, much of the ancient culture has survived in the rituals and agricultural practices of the modern Egpytian.
Despite important discoveries like the tomb of Pharoah Tutankamen in 1920, in the Valley of the Kings, archaeologists have are still finding new and revealing aspects of this ancient culture as they shift through sands, and dig into bedrock, and unearth the mysteries within.
Recently, Egyptian officials have uncovered two ancient places that have raised some serious questions about the burials of citizens and officials.
The Egyptian government and Ministry of Antiquities recently launched new excavations in an unexplored area of the desert that is known for it’s shifting sands. They began a quest that was had an Indian Jones quality to it.
They were eager to see what lay beneath the sand, but they could never imagine how wonderful a find they would indeed encounter. The site that they found would begin to transform many things we know about life in Ancient Egypt in the Fifth Dynasty.
The search for Egyptian relics began in the early 1800’s, when all things Egyptian swept Europe and America. Many transported mummies and various other artifacts out of the country into private collections, and museum collections.
For almost 200 years, archaeologists and Egyptologists have meticulously searched for, and uncovered, thousands of ancient relics, mummies, and secrets hidden in the deserts of Egypt up and down the Nile Valley. But, given the timespan of the culture, and the enormous amount of acreage to cover, and the shifting sands, there are still many unusual treasures that haven’t yet discovered.
Sometimes, searchers stumble upon rare historical gems, and jewelry quite often researchers aren’t as lucky. This is because of several factors: the care, cleverness, and cunning of the ancient people who built these tombs to be solid and theft proof and the grave robbers over many generations who have smashed their way in to find gold and gems.
This makes the archaeologist’s job, who uses scientific methods and great care a delicate scavenger hunt.
In recent years, the Ministry of Antiquities of Egypt has lead numerous excavations in various parts of Egypt.
Their goal is two parts, one make new discoveries, but almost more importantly to to help repair the damage that both ancient and modern tomb raiders and looters have caused over time.
Since the Egyptian revolution in 2011, known as the Arab Spring, many areas, for example the Great Pyramids, have been completely unguarded. Leaving riches and ancient wealth open to grave robbers who unlike their ancient counter parts have affiliation and major connections to the criminal world.
And then there are just common thieves, who see an opportunity, and plundered the area. Either way, precious artifacts are being lost.
Additionally, some tomb shafts proved too small and compact for grown adults to navigate, like Jafar in Aladdin, they use small children to access the tombs. Sometimes, this causes injury and even accidental death to these children of thieves.
Loss of life and theft of a large portion of tombs. These have all suffered damage beyond repair and information, as well as beauty and history are being lost forever.
In 2018, the unusual treasures the Ministry of Antiquities found were highly preserved and unique. One of the newly excavated sites was the necropolis of Saqqara, an ancient burial ground.
Saqqara served as the necropolis for the Ancient Egyptian capital, Memphis. Saqqara is the site of some of the earliest pyramids. One finding was dubbed “the most beautiful tomb discovered this year.”
While looters damaged and stole many of the valuable ancient relics. The found inside a wooden coffin lay hidden a mask of gold-plated silver. Silver was not a metal often used in ancient Egypt.
Only a few of this kind of funerary masks exist. Excavators were excited and looked forward to finding other usual pieces waiting to be found within Saqqara’s depths.
Finding the mask was a boon to the archaeological community. In fact, it was this first mission in the area since the early 1900, so the probability that more significant and unusual treasures, artifacts, and information about culture were high and looked forward to with glee and anticipation.
Soon after the mummy was found, archaeologists came across some several ancient artifacts. Lodged inside a stone ridge were a series of seven tombs. One of the crypts held mummified cats and rare, large scarab beetles. Cats were worshiped in ancient Egypt, not only for their cunning but because they protected the all important grain from mice and rats. Egypt for thousands of years was know as the bread basket of the ancient world. Beautiful Scarab beetles were often shown in jewelry because of their lovely, shiny shells and carapaces.
Ancient Egyptians are best known for creating mummified human bodies to preserve them for the rich afterlife. Animals were often mummified as part of religious offerings or merely to bring along a favorite pet.
After collecting the pristinely and uniquely preserved creatures, the researchers were delighted that they had also discovered the entrance to an untouched tomb believed to hold human remains. This was as joyous as finding Pharaoh Tutankhamen in 1920.
This new tomb was left completely intact for over 4,400 years. The boon was that the tomb was the elaborately decorated. It was discovered in the hieroglyphics that it was final resting place of a revered high priest by the name of Wahtye. As a high ranking member of the elaborate and revered priesthood, the archeologists knew that he had been appointed by royalty.
In fact, Pharoah Neferirkare Kakai, in the Fifth Dynasty appointed him as chief priest. The Fifth Dynasty pharaohs reigned for approximately 150 years, from the early 25th century BC until the mid 24th century BC. Neferirkare reigned for eight to eleven years, sometime in the early to mid-25th century BCE.
The tomb of Wahtye was found to be 33 feet long, 9 feet wide, and 10 feet high. Not unlike a modern studio apartment. The tomb held many clues about Wahtye, his family, and the community that surrounded him.
These stories were told vividly on the walls. Elaborate carvings, paintings, and hieroglyphics all told accounts about the life of high priest, Wahyte.
Archaeologists were were astounded, everywhere they looked within the tomb Wahyte was paying tribute to his beloved mother known as, Merit Meen.
Elaborate drawings, paintings, and statues of covered Merit Meen the walls and space drawing attention to his devotion and warm relationship with his mother.
Wahyte had also had a dear wife, Weret Ptah, although there was much less information and details of their relationship. It is astounding to view the vibrant walls and think that thousands of years after the tomb artists had originally painted and carved the limestone walls that modern people were seeing the lives that are finally saw the depicted in elaborate scenes.
The wonders of ancient Egyptians hunting, sailing, and manufacturing and living their everyday lives.
The Saqqara site exposed details of daily life for an Ancient Egyptian’s life in the 5th century. There were drawings of musical performances, and the making of clay pottery and wine and beer, as well as sailing down the Nile, commerce of the age and skills like furniture making.
In many ways Ancient Egypt doesn’t seem that much different in their daily work and the social life than a present-day young, cultured city dweller and family.
When they examined the deeper inside of the tomb, they learned more about Wahtye. Not just the story of his life, family, and place in the fifth dynasty. The team was eager to find Wahtye’s hidden final resting place. This would give them an insight in the historical era of Old kingdom of Egypt and how they created their mummies.
On December 13th 2018, the excavation team had found it. They cleared away the last layer of debris and rubble. They were delighted and surprised, the first shaft was unsealed. A rarity in archelogy, but it was empty. Nevertheless, there were four other shafts. These had potential to find treasures as yet unseen.
The general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, Mostafa Waziri was elated. “I can imagine that all of the objects can be found in this area.” Thus, he indicated that the remaining shafts could hold the best and most sought after answers.
“This shaft should lead to a coffin or a sarcophagus of the owner of the tomb.” But he also apprised that they would use scientific methods of careful excavation to preserve and maintain as much integrity of the site as possible.
Officials said that in the coming months and years, as the excavation continues, they expected to extract even more in the preserved chambers.
They use slow methods meant to carefully expose the treasures, like carefuly shoveling by hand, delicately sifting through stone and sand in copious sieves. The archaeologists wait with anticipation to reveal more exciting glimpses into the distant past of the 5th century.
Simultaneous, another excavation revealed something quite different. In Alexandria, Egypt, 235 km or 146 miles from Wahtye’s tomb, construction workers building a modern building hit something more than the usual bedrock during a mundane excavation.
They knew this was something out of the ordinary and possibly an ancient find of monumental proportions.
The city of Alexandria was a busy harbor during ancient times and an important place of commerce. Seated on the Mediterranean Ocean it was the main port to Athens, Greece and ancient Rome. Alexandria was founded in c. 331 BC by Alexander the Great, during his conquest . It was an intellectual and cultural center and capital for over 1,000 years.
Alexandria was best known for Pharos, the Lighthouse of Alexandria which was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. It was also known for its Great Library which was the largest library in the ancient world.
Today, Alexandria is still a bustling metropolis, but it’s population has exploded and its commerce takes on a modern venue. Alexandria is just as important now, as it was then.
Currently, it is It is the second largest city in Egypt. It is also the largest city on the Mediterranean.
So finding a tomb in the middle of this burgeoning metropolis was quite a find.
Resting in the corner of the tomb was an enormous black sarcophagus, the likes which had never been discovered.
Compared to other basalt sarcophagus, this was a black granite sarcophagus.
Mostly basalt sarcophagi have been found throughout Egypt, this particular one was abnormally large. Archaeologists weren’t sure what they’d find.
Alongside of enormous black sarcophagus was an enormous white alabaster head. Unfortunately, the delicate and distinctive features of the head had eroded beyond recognition through time. Regrettably, there were no clues and none of the experts could determine if it was supposed to someone important.
The tomb was immediately roped off. News was spreading and it would likely be a location to bring vandals and thieves.
It was determined, to lift the lid, that they were going to need some heavy machinery, however, the ancient nature and archeological significance of the find meant that an expert in archeology and machinery was needed.
The crew also contacted an expert who had worked at Egypt’s Ministry of Antiquities, Ayman Ashmawy. He had experience examining historical finds like the black sarcophagus.
Immediately, he noticed a thick layer of ancient mortar between the lid and body. Thus meant that it had not been touched for over 2,000 years. It was perfectly sealed. Thus, making it a unique find. It was also made out of black granite, a very unusual material for Egyptian to use. The question emerged, who was in this unusual sarcophagus.
Was the person buried inside of a high status, or, perhaps, someone famous or someone infamous? What brought about this usual burial.
The goal was to get the lid off, however many people were war. There were many stories over time of the many Pharaoh’s curses being unleashed with the opening of tombs. Was there an evil curse involved with this tomb?
Many people including experts, believed there was someone incredibly important buried inside due to its size and special black granite construction. Whispers circulated, could it be Alexander the Great?
Using a combination of massive cranes and thick ropes, the workers were able to get a hold of the lid. The concern was if it dropped during mid-lift, it not only could it destroy, but it could destroy whatever lay inside.
It could seriously injure those involved with the removal.
Almost immediately when it was lifted, a horrid smell emerged. The workers moved quickly to escape the stench that filled the air from the the now open sarcophagus.
After most of aroma had scent dissipated, and everyone stared at the remains lying inside.
There were three mangled skeletons, and they swam in a thick red liquid, that resembled red jelly. It was suggested that the skeletons were soldiers.
The red liquid when tested was found to be raw sewage that leaked into the sarcophagus. Over time, the sewerage had fermented into a horrific smelling glop.
Innes McKendrick, an entrepreneur actually started a petition to turn the red liquid into a sort of a carbonated energy drink for consumption. He postulated that by consuming the liquid, that the drinkers would would gain ancient “powers.”
Thankfully, in spite of numerous signatures, the corpse juice, as it was called, will remain unconsumed by anyone.
The finds in Egypt will continue over the years. Researchers, and archeologists have recently found an entire network of tombs underneath the city of Cairo.
These are considered over 2,000 years old. This is a massive find and will take at least five years to completely excavate. Who knows what wonders, or horrors will be found.
The opening of the black granite sarcophagus wasn’t as marvelous an event as expected. Archeologist had hoped to find something that was of more historical significance. Sewage-covered remains of unnamed soldiers was not what they wished or expected.
In archeology, some finds are wonderful, beautiful, and significant, others add to the lore. All are worthy, and lead to the next clue.