Tomb Found In Egypt: Can You Guess What Was Inside?

It was early 2019, and a group of archaeologists was doing some fieldwork at the Tuna El-Gebel necropolis near the city of Minya, Egypt. On their second week, after digging 30 feet beneath the ground, they uncovered a group of mysterious tombs. But this is not all! When they opened the tombs, they couldn’t believe what was hidden inside them. Read the story to find out about their startling discovery!

#20. The Ancient City Of Hermopolis

Egypt is one of the most ancient nations in the world, and it was once home to one of the world’s most modern civilizations. Thousands of years ago, Egypt was not a unified country but was separated into two parts: Lower Egypt and Upper Egypt.

Photo: Courtesy of Roland Unger

Near the boundary between both territories stood Hermopolis, one of the largest cities back then. Hermopolis survived the Roman invasion of Egypt in the year 30 BC. However, the Muslim conquest of Egyptian territory in the 7th century AD led to the city’s final downfall.

#19. Hermopolis And Its Burial Ground

But right before its downfall, Hermopolis was one of Egypt’s most thriving cities. In fact, it was the second most opulent city in Ancient Egypt, second only to Thebes. For this reason, archaeologists have been drawn to this city during the last hundreds of years, and they have unearthed hundreds of amazing artifacts from the underground.

Photo: Courtesy of Vyacheslav Argenberg

But there’s another factor that makes the former city of Hermopolis a rich archaeological site. It turns out that it was home to a vast necropolis, where Egyptians buried and honored the dead with monuments and tombs. Because of this, tons of archaeological projects have been carried out in the site where this ancient city was located.

#18. The Famous Necropolis

Hermopolis’ vast necropolis was known as Tuna El-Gebel. Several centuries ago, archaeologists made a startling discovery: it appeared to be that the residents of Hermopolis had an original way of transporting the bodies from the city all the way to the Tuna el-Gebel burial ground.

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Instead of carrying the bodies over land, people floated the corpses down the river. Hermopolis was located near the banks of the Nile River, and apparently, letting the current carry the corpses to the burial ground was more practical.

#17. The Downfall

However, after several centuries of economic and cultural prosperity, Hermopolis was defeated with the Muslim invasion of Egypt during the 7th century AD. Even though most of Ancient Egypt’s towns and cities managed to escape damage from the many wars and invasions that struck the country, Hermopolis didn’t have such a lucky fate.

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Once the Muslims retained control of the city, its leaders ordered the army to destroy many of its buildings. The reason behind this was that they wanted to reuse the materials, as well as to retrieve lime from the stones of the buildings.

#16. The City’s Remains

However, not everything was destroyed, and remnants of Hermopolis remain even today. In fact, several of the city’s columns and statues stand in an open-air museum near the city of El-Ashmunein. Most of these statues were built during the reign of Amen-Hotep III during the 15th century BC.

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But in the last couple of decades, archaeologists have centered their attention and efforts on the Tuna el-Gebel necropolis. The thing is, many different artifacts have been found in this ancient burial ground, and many of these discoveries have provided crucial information about life and death in ancient Hermopolis.

#15. The First Excavations

However, it was only towards the beginning of the 20th century that excavators gained conscience of the archaeological value of this site. The first exploratory session was carried out by the Institut Français d’Archéologie Orientale during 1902 and 1903.

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This first exploratory session was followed by several other initiatives. For example, a decade later, the Deutsche Orient-Gesellschaft led another excavation, and the results were extremely successful: the team found several examples of Roman tombs hidden beneath the surface.

#14. Tomb Houses

But the 1913 German excavation discovered much more than just a couple of tombs. The dig also revealed a few tomb houses with painted designs and decor. The biggest of them was four floors tall! Nobody could believe these findings, but six years later, something even more impressive was discovered.

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During the 1919 excavation, a team of archaeologists discovered the tomb of Petosiris, who had been a high priest of Thoth. Thoth was an ancient Egyptian god who supposedly controlled the universe and solved disputes among the rest of the gods. Thus, you can imagine how sacred this tomb must have been back then. Look at the photo above: don’t you think the tomb has been magnificently preserved?

#13. Rebuilding The Tomb Of Petosiris

The Tomb of Petosiris had been one of the most impressive discoveries of the past century in Egypt, and it made people realize the unique archaeological potential of the area. A group of experts spent the next two years excavating the location non-stop, and after that, they managed to rebuild the tomb’s structure.

Photo: Courtesy of Scribol

After this thorough work was carried out, archaeologists and historians learned that the building’s outer court had been constructed in a distinctive Greek style. This may have related to the fact that Alexander the Great was Egypt’s Grecian ruler at the time of the construction of the tomb.

#12. Underground Galleries

But when the Tomb of Petosiris was rebuilt, the archaeologists knew that their work was not over. After all, there could be dozens of other structures and tombs in nearby areas, so actually, their work had just begun. Therefore, successive excavations were carried out until 1931 with the help of Sami Gabra, a professor at Cairo University.

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Gabra spent a total of nine years at the site studying and digging into the area located south of the Petosiris tomb. And during the early 40s, he made a shocking discovery. He came across a series of underground galleries, and inside them, animal burial sites where unearthed.

#11. Animal Remains In The Tombs

Finding animal remains next to human tombs sounds crazy, but it’s actually common. According to experts, one of the reasons behind this is that some animals sometimes get inside the structures and then fail to escape. But this is not the only explanation.

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Several ancient tombs unearthed in different parts of Egypt have contained remains of animals that had been cut into pieces or painted. This means that those animals had been sacrificed or offered as part of a ritual o religious ceremony. Thus, the animal remains spotted within the underground galleries could have a cultural significance.

#10. A New Temple Is Discovered

A couple of years later, a group of excavators led by the famous Egyptologist Alexander Badawy discovered the temple of Thoth. Thoth was the God of magic and writing back in Ancient times. In case you were wondering, this temple was also found in Tuna el-Gebel, the same burial ground where the rest of the buildings were discovered.

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However, the archaeologists found several striking objects within the temple. The most interesting of them was a sakia, which is a wheel that was used to lift water and that was set in motion by a powerful animal such as a donkey or an ox.

#9. The Chapel Of Isadora

Nevertheless, one of the most amazing discoveries that have been made to date at Tuna el-Gebel is the Tomb and Chapel of Isadora. The young woman that was buried there had lived in the ancient city of Hermopolis during the reign of Emperor Antoninus Pius, which went from 138 AD to 161 AD.

Photo: Courtesy of IWM Collections

Legend has it that Isadora engaged herself in a forbidden romance. Allegedly, Isadora and a soldier from Antinopolis fell in love with each other, and they soon decided to get married. But the problem was that Isadora’s father would not give her his blessing. Can you guess how this story ended?

#8. Forbidden Love

The couple was still determined to get married anyway, so they decided to elope, and they began their journey to the altar by crossing the Nile River. But unfortunately, Isadora apparently drowned in the river before she was able to get married.

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After this tragic incident, Isadora’s father mummified her body and built a beautiful tomb around it. This tomb still stands today at Tuna el-Gebel. And according to Lonely Planetyou can still see elements of her hair, nails, and teeth inside the tomb.

#7. Excavations In The 21st Century

But several decades after the Chapel of Isadora was discovered, experts decided to perform new excavations in Tuna el-Gebel. From 2005 onwards, excavators, land surveyors, architects, and geophysicists worked together to plot a map of the necropolis. This map included some areas that had been remained untouched by the digs, as well as a plan for future architectural reforms to the location.

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In addition, a field school was set up in the area in 2012, with the help of Egypt’s Minya University and Germany’s University of Hildesheim. Ever since several excavations have taken place at Tuna el-Gebel with the guidance of Egypt’s Ministry of Antiquities, which is a government group which aims at protecting the country’s heritage.

#6. A Groundbreaking Discovery

During the first weeks of 2019, another team of Egyptian archaeologists and historians explored the ancient burial ground of Tuna el-Gebel, of course with the guidance of the Ministry of Antiquities. They also counted with the help of Minya University’s Research Center for Archaeological Studies. But this time they made a groundbreaking discovery.

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At first, the workers dug 30 feet into the ground, until they came across four different burial chambers. But once the archaeologists entered the tombs, they found that inside there was a collection of mummified remains. According to the findings, 50 people had been buried at those burial chambers, including a dozen children.

#5. How The Mummies Buried

This discovery was truly amazing and became the talk of the town all over the world. After all, each time there is an excavation, the findings often include a couple of ancient artifacts or, if the group is lucky, one or two mummies. But not 50!

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But these findings were impressive not only because of the number of bodies that were inside the chambers. Apart from that, the archaeologists realized that the mummies had been buried in different methods. Some lay inside stone coffins, while others rested inside wooden caskets. Moreover, some other bodies had been wrapped in linen and left within the tomb.

#4. The Mummies’ Identity

But despite the different ways in which they had been buried, the careful and meticulous mummifications and burials suggested that they had belonged to very important people. In fact, ever since this discovery, several historians have claimed that these mummified people probably once held high-ranking positions during Ancient Egypt’s Ptolemaic period.

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The Ptolemaic period began in 305 BC and came to an end in 30 BC. During this period, Egypt was ruled by a Macedonian Greek family, until they were defeated after the Roman invasion. This is considered one of the most fascinating periods of Egypt’s history since during these years the country was greatly marked and influenced by Greek culture. This archaeological finding is perhaps the most significant one belonging to this era.

#3. Celebrating The Findings

But despite the theories regarding the mummies’ identity, the secretary-general of Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities, Mustafa Waziri, has claimed that the people buried in the Tuna el-Gebel tombs could not be identified. In his words, “We have not found names written in hieroglyphics“. Thus, the belief that these mummies belonged to Ptolemaic officials is just a theory.

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But even though nobody could be sure about who those corpses belong to, the finding was definitely worth celebrating. And in 2019, the Egyptian government held a ceremony and invited dozens of ambassadors of other countries. The nearly 50 mummies were laid out for the crowd to see.

#2. Boost In Tourism

These findings were great news for many reasons. First of all, because each time a new archaeological site is found, it helps us understand the history and culture of ancient civilizations. But in this case, these findings also helped to boost tourism in the region, which had been dropping ever since the Arab Spring of 2011.

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In this sense, the Egyptian government constantly tries to promote tourism by promoting its rich history. And ever since the government promoted these last findings, thousands of tourists have swarmed to Tuna el-Gebel to see the mummies for themselves. So what are you waiting for? You must see it for yourself!

#1. The Importance Of Archaeology

In this article, we have gone over the main discoveries made in the ancient burial ground of Tuna el-Gebel throughout the 20th century an during the beginning of the 21st century. As you can see, each successive finding has shed light on the country’s history and culture. Moreover, these discoveries have also boosted tourism.

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Thus, this shows us the importance of promoting and encouraging archaeological projects, both in Egypt as well as in other parts of the world. Right now, different groups of archaeologists are trying to obtain funding in order to carry out other excavations in this burial ground. Let’s hope they succeed.

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    Hernán Tamargo

    Teacher. Political Scientist. Writer. Feminist... and much more!

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