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Baharia - The discovery of a Graeco Roman Cemetry

Today it is possible to reach all the major oases with a normal car, thanks to the relatively new road system, which is being constantly improved. In particular, Baharia, Farafra, Dakhla and Kharga may all be visited in one tour , starting from Cairo and ending in Luxor or back in Cairo again. The tarred road from Giza crosses the four oases down to Kharga. Heading back to Cairo is now much easier than a few years ago thanks to the Desert Road, which runs parallel to the Valley, about 30 km west in the desert, thus avoiding the traffic along the Nile. It is a new road, and in a few years will be provided with petrol stations along its full length.






Baharia, the first to be encountered, lies in a depression about 300 km south-west of Cairo. From an archaeological point of view, little seems to have survived the pharaonic period. The Greco-Roman period on the otherhand is represented by one of the most important discoveries of the last years, a huge cemetery (about 6 square kilometres) in the area of el-Bawiti, the capital of Baharia. More than one archaeological site is said to have been discovered by chance after a horse or a donkey stumbled into something. Also in this case, the hero seems to have been an unaware donkey trotting along. The result was the discovery of over one hundred mummies beautifully decorated, some covered with a layer of gold, some wearing painted masks, some buried in pottery coffins and some wrapped in linen. Archaeologists excavating there expect to unearth over 10,000 mummies.

Statuettes, pottery, jewels and coins were found and helped date the cemetery to the Graeco-Roman period. The remains of a settlement in this area and probably an extended system of subterranean aqueducts still in use today also belong to the Graeco-Roman period. Among the scant remains of the previous periods, it is worth mentioning the small temple of Alexander the Great, at Qasr el-Migysbah, apparently the only place where his cartouche and image were found in Egypt.
(Corinna Rossi)



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