Wednesday, January 11, 2017

New Discovery, Aswan: New discovery in Aswan Reveals Health of Gebel Al-Silsila Inhabitants in Ancient Times

New tombs discovered at Gebel Al-Silsila area in Aswan continue to change perceptions of the nature and role of this ancient Egyptian quarry. Written By/ Nevine El-Aref.

Skeletons found in the newly discovered tombs (Photo: Nevine El-Aref)
On the northern side of Gebel Al-Silsila in Aswan, the Egyptian-Swedish archaeological mission from Lund University has stumbled upon another group of rock-hewn tombs from the reign of New Kingdom pharoahs Amenhotep II and Thutmose III. Announced by Mahmoud Afifi, head of Ancient Egyptian Antiquities Department at the Ministry of Antiquities, the Swedish mission, led by Maria Nilsson and John Ward, in 2015 discovered a series of rock-hewn tombs located in the north of Gebel Al-Silsila's east bank, in the area immediately to the north of the famous stele of King Amenhotep IV and stretching westwards to the Nile.

"While the tombs had been described by previous visitors to the site, no comprehensive survey, nor any proper archaeological work, had been conducted until 2015," Nilsson said, adding that during the initial survey, 43 tombs were identified, and five tombs were chosen to be cleared of sand and a damaging layer of salt, in order to study their state of conservation. Returning to the site eight months later, Nilsson continued, the work proved successful as both external and interior walls, and to some extent also the ceiling, stabilised by exposing them to the sun, drying out prior dampness.

The tombs entrances
In the initial clearing process the team was successful in identifying various architectural markers, including two rock-cut chambers, external courtyards, and dressed portcullis – slot-cuts into the door jambs by the entry to the tombs, into which a stone slab would have been placed to seal the door after burial. During this season, Nilsson said, the team discovered another 12 rock cut tombs as well as three crypts cut into the rock, two niches possibly used for offerings, one tomb containing multiple animal burials, and three individual infant burials, along with other associated material.

The majority of the tombs excavated so far – with the main exception of two infant burials – had been plundered in antiquity and left neglected without further disturbance, covered by up to three metres of Nile silt, blown in sand, and fallen quarry spoil and debris.

"These readily identifiable stratifications have given a wealth of information with regards not only to the manner in which the spoil and silt have been deposited, but also provided a rudimentary chronological overview for the area," said Ward. He explained that the individual tombs excavated so far this season reveal multiple burials within the same chamber or crypt. A fact that suggests the tombs could belong to a complete family, and individuals of varying ages and sex.

"In addition, the newly discovered infant burials present another aspect to the cemetery, clearly indicating family life at Al-Silsila," Ward pointed out. He added that three different styles of burials have been documented so far, including a rock-hewn crypt, a shallow grave covered with stone, and one infant wrapped in textile placed within a wooden coffin. Two of the three children were placed secreted within the overhangs of the natural sandstone bluffs. They were placed on their side, oriented in either a north-south direction, face towards the east, or alternatively a east-west direction, and facing north.,,, READ MORE.

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