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More Secrets from the 'Valley of the Golden Mummies'

Part 2: Mummies

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The eleven tombs thus far excavated in the vast cemetery found in Baharia Oasis can give us much information concerning the burial practices of Ancient Egypt during the Greek and Roman periods. Some unique burial styles may be found here. One type has a mummy placed inside pottery coffins. They are not well burned and the coffin has a human face. There are other anthropoid coffins with a cylindrical shape. Other burials in mudbrick mastabas have a rectangular shape.

For the first time, we can see from this excavation that we have many different styles of mummies. These include the mummy that is completely covered with linen and the mummies covered with cartonnage that are colored from the head to the feet. The cartonnage has scenes representing the mummy on the mummification bed. Anubis is performing the mummification process, and the cobra protects the deceased.

The second style of mummy is covered with linen with a mask of gypsum placed on the face, which has beautiful colors. The mask has the same types of scenes.

The third style of mummy has the mask of gold with scenes of the gods, including Thoth of wisdom, Anubis, Horus and the four sons of Horus. On other mummies, the mask covered his head. This is found only on the mummies of children.

The last style includes mummies covered with linen only and without cartonnage or masks.

This season, we were able to move the x-ray machine to the site, and we prepared a room for the machine. We brought many mummies to x-ray. We had Dr Aiman with us to do the analysis. We found evidence of many diseases, such as a man who died at the age of forty with cancer. Another mummy showed that the deceased suffered sinusitis, which likely caused him to have headaches. One man's right leg is longer than his left. One lady reached the age of seventy and had lost most of her teeth. Her backbone was also bent. It is important to notice that there are a large percentage of deaths among children and young people. One mummy was estimated to be about two years at the age of death, and also had cancer. One young boy, about a year and a half old, was placed under the x-ray, where we found that they had put on his forehead a gold crown of cobras with wings. On another mummy of a child, we discovered two amulets beside his head.

The tombs contained many artifacts, in particular, funerary items, such as offerings given to the deceased on religious occasions, including wine, dates, figs, beans and olives. There was funerary equipment to assure the perpetuation of the deceased in the afterlife. These included pottery vessels. There was jewellery, including necklaces, earrings, and bracelets made of pottery, bronze, ivory, wood, glass and faience. There were statues such as motherhood statues and animal statues, to be used as children's toys as well as statues of mourning women. We also found coins made of bronze and placed in the hand of the deceased to give as payment to the ferryman who will transfer the deceased into the afterlife.

The most beautiful artifact that was discovered is a stela on the feet of mummy number 7. This is a lady who is covered with linen in a beautiful design, and then buried in a wooden coffin. The stela on her feet is incredibly beautiful. It is made of wood and represents the eternal gate of the deceased. The lady is depicted in the middle of the gate as if she is leaving or going to her resurrection. She wears a Roman dress typical of this period. She is depicted with her right leg in front, as if she is departing the coffin after being resurrected. The sides of the stela are decorated with cobras. The stela, in the form of a temple fašade, is also decorated with cobras at the top. There are twelve cobras with the winged sundisk, and below them, the deceased is represented. It is a masterpiece!

The excavation revealed much information about life and death of the Egyptians who lived in Baharia during the Greek and Roman periods, since 332 BC. The reason that the people were buried in this place is because they wanted to be near the Temple of Alexander the Great. I feel that Alexander the Great stopped at Baharia Oasis on his return from Siwa, where he visited the oracle Temple of Amun. Many people believed that he returned through Alexandria.

The cemetery is big, and I believe that it may contain at least 10,000 mummies. The people became rich through the exportation of wine to the Nile Valley since pharaonic times. Egyptian texts mention that the wine from Baharia was excellent.

Baharia was also important to the Egyptians because it functioned as a border of Egypt. The Egyptians caught a spy sent by the Hyksos about 37,000 years ago. They sent the spy to contact the Nubians in the south. From then on, the Egyptians began to protect this western border of Egypt.

I believe that this excavation will open a new era for the archaeology of Egypt, and this site will enrich our knowledge of the importance of Baharia.

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