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More Secrets from the 'Valley of the Golden Mummies'

Part 1: Tombs

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In 'The Valley of the Golden Mummies' I used to stay most of the time where the main camp of the expedition is located. There are two main tents with another area for guards and the x-ray lab. I always go to the site at sunrise accompanied by Tarek, when the rays of the sun set on the excavated mummies. We finished all our photography. We had three cameras plus a digital camera. We also invited Ken Garret, a photographer with National Geographic, to join us to witness our excavation on a daily basis.

When I left my office at Giza, I told my secretary Nashwa to tell everyone that I was on vacation at my village, visiting my mother. I was afraid that the media would descend upon us at Baharia Oasis and we would not be able to work. The media in Europe, Egypt and Japan used to call my office constantly to ask when we would start our excavation in Baharia. Our team stayed almost two months, and we did not see a single reporter during this whole time. I believe this is why the discovery did not make any publicity outside of Egypt. The exception was the fox Network program that was televised live on the 23rd of May, which showed only three tombs.

We also decided this year to give training in excavation techniques to two young archaelogists at Baharia, Samy and Khaled. I found that it is very important to train them because they will lead future excavations in the Oasis.

Our stay at El-Beshmo Hotel was comfortable, and I used to go to bed at 9.30pm every night. I discovered that when you go to bed early, you always have a lot of dreams.

The site continued to be divided into 10 meter x 10 meter squares for excavation. The squares were drawn on a grid all over the site, with bags of sand around the sides of the squares to protect them. The excavation this year started to the west of the tombs that we dug last year. We excavated only about seven tombs, while last year we uncovered four tombs. Last year, we discovered 105 mummies inside these four tombs. This year, we excavated rock-cut tombs with many different beautiful architectural styles. The tombs also contain many different types of mummies; but, of course, most of them were encased with gold or gilded. Some of the tombs are in the shape of a cross. Other tombs have a single horizontal axis with various burial chambers on the sides. Tombs were also found which consisted of a shaft leading to four burial chambers. Tombs were also cut into the rock for the burial of one person, while others were discovered in the shape of the ankh sign.

We surmise that the different styles occurred because of the great number of tombs, and due to the crowding, they could not find an area for cutting rock-cut tombs. We can also associate the different styles of the tombs with the social strata of the user of the cemetery, according to whether they were rich, middle class or poor people. The tombs of the poor were only shafts, very simple in design. Therefore, most of these tombs were exposed by the wind. The poor burials were covered in linen and did not have a mask or cartonnage. In addition, the body was not put in a wooden coffin. Despite the humble means of burial, the dry, desert weather of the site helped in the preservation of these mummies.

The first tomb that we excavated was cut into the rock, but its ceiling had fallen down. Some walls of mudbrick were built, and the end of the delivery room and those walls continued to the wooden door of the tomb. We found remains of wooden beams in the mudbrick walls, which were connected to the use of the door. The entrance is located on the north side and has six stairs. The delivery room used to have four persons in it to receive the mummy to put his body in the chosen place. The burial hall extends from north to south, and is about 29 feet in length. In the middle of the hall, a mummy was found in very good condition and was resting on a mudbrick stand. The mummy originally was inside a wooden coffin, which had deteriorated.

There are seven niches cut into the sides of the hall, three on the west side and three on the east with one on the north. Nine mummies were found in one of the niches on the west side. One of them was that of a child who was covered with cartonnage. Another mummy of a lady is in beautiful condition and has a golden mask. Her hair is colored black with a bank of flowers on her forehead in red and yellow. The cobra is depicted on the forehead of the lady. The chest of the lady is covered with cartonnage, which is decorated in yellow and has scenes of the four sons of Horus. The royal symbols of the pharaohs, such as the cobra, nemes, and the false beard were taken over by the rich in the Greek and Roman periods.

There is a simple tomb in the shape of the ankh sign. We also found mummies in this tomb. One mummy was discovered with a scene of the deceased in the form of Osiris made of gypsum on the fašade of the wooden coffin. The deceased is depicted as Horus on the right side and Anubis on the left side.

Another small tomb was found in the shape of a cross. Five mummies were discovered inside; one of them was a child burial. When we excavated the floor of the burial hall, we realized that the tomb was used in two different periods. We found a mummy on the northeast side of the hall with two red pottery vessels near it. In addition, significant quantities of pottery and date seeds were discovered as well as a beautiful vessel and olive seeds. The quantity of pottery found in this tomb included sixteen vessels, which are all wine jars.

Another excavated tomb has a shaft with four burial chambers cut into the sandstone leading off from the shaft. In three of them, we can see that the mummies were burned. We do not know why. The fourth room has about six mummies in it.

One tomb has a small burial chamber containing two niches, one on the east and one on the west, with a third on the south. In the east niche, we found a group of mummies buried one on top of each other in a unique style. They appeared to be laid in steps, and at the bottom, we discovered two mummies of children. A unique group of pottery vessels was found on the floor.

The last style is a unique tomb that has a large anthropoid coffin made of pottery in one niche. The coffin is decorated in yellow, and a mummy was found inside. We also discovered another unique mummy, which was placed behind the wall. They tried to hide it.

Excavation continues in kilometer no 7. I believe that the tombs in this area should be dated to the Greek period because they are near the Temple of Alexander the Great. The tomb that we excavated has a special architectural style. Most of the mummies have deteriorated, and it seems that the tomb was entered in antiquity. We will continue excavation in this area next season.

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