Swedish archaeologists unearth 3,400-year-old necropolis in Aswan
Courtesy: Ministry of State for Antiquities and the Gebel el-Silsila Project
 

A team of Swedish-led archaeologists announced on Wednesday that they discovered a network of over 40 ancient Egyptian tombs, dating back nearly 3,500 years, in the southernmost governorate of Aswan.

These ancient earthen-carved tombs are located on the eastern river bank of the Gebel al-Silsila archaeological site, and are said to belong to members of the nobility or royalty from the 18th Dynasty (circa 1,543-1,292 BC) of the New Kingdom.  

A statement posted on the official webpage of the Ministry of Antiquities on Wednesday announced that a team from Sweden’s Lund University had succeeded in uncovering these tombs, which contain the bones and buried remains of men, women and children.

According to the ministry’s statement, archaeological evidence suggests that these people were buried here over the course of several different eras, indicating that this site, currently known as Gebel al-Silsila, had been constantly inhabited for many ages.

Known as the Gebel al-Silsila Survey Project, Egyptologists and archaeologists from Lund University have been conducting excavations at this ancient site since 2012.

The ministry’s statement indicates that these same tombs may have been reused for 19th Dynasty (circa 1292 -1187 BC) burials.

This statement added that several of these newly discovered tombs include shafts and crypts. On average, each tomb is said to contain one or two burial chambers. The entrances of some of these tombs include rock-carved stairs, while others are reported to have large sliding stone stoppers sealing them-off.

It is reported that there are no hieroglyphs or inscriptions carved on the walls of these ancient tombs, however. This renders the process of identifying the tombs’ owners more difficult.

A small compartment, of what may have been a shrine, has reportedly also been discovered. It is reported to be well preserved, and its two chambers are in good condition. The entrance to this structure contains an engraved solar disk with wings.

The statement from the Ministry of Antiquities mentions that the team had cleared some of these newly-found tombs of sand, which had blown-in over the centuries and covered many of the chambers within.

This statement concludes that many of these newly discovered tombs are poorly preserved, due to natural erosion and rising levels of ground water.

In an interview with Discovery News, the Swedish team’s chief archaeologist, Maria Nillson, explained, “Many tombs are in bad condition. They have suffered from heavy erosion and extreme decay due to the rising water and its high salt contents.”

Commenting on the absence of tomb inscriptions, Nillson added, “Due to the lack of exterior or interior decoration, the identity of the buried persons remains unknown at this time.”

Nillson also pointed out that these tombs contain clues revealing the high social status of their owners, such as fragments of painted plaster, which could be remains of decorated coffins, scraps of mummy wrappings, along with an assortment of amulets and beads.

She explained that a cartouche seal-ring and scarab were also found within these tombs bearing the name of Pharaoh Thuthmose III (reigned circa 1479-1425 BC), which may indicate that those buried inside these tombs may have been officials from the royal court. 

In cooperation with authorities from the Ministry of Antiquities, the team is due to be conducting further studies on these ancient tombs.

The team has recently made several important discoveries around Gebel al-Silsila, including the unearthing of two ancient burial chambers (also dating back over 3,400 years) containing a set of six intact statues, in December 2015.

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