Wednesday, June 28, 2017

New Discovery, Luxor: Inscriptions Showing Early Hieroglyphic Writing Discovered at Site South of Luxor

Many of the rock inscriptions date from the Predynastic Period (4,000-3,500BC) Written By/ Nevine El-Aref.

An archaeological mission from Yale University has discovered a new rock inscription site near the village of El-Khawy near Luxor, during their excavation work on the Elkab Desert Survey Project in collaboration with the Ministry of Antiquities.

The inscriptions range in date from the early Predynastic Period, which spanned approx. 4,000 to 3,500 BC, through to the Old Kingdom (approx. 2,686 BC to 2181 BC). The village of El-Khawy is located approximately 7km north of the ancient city of Elkab and 60km south of Luxor.

Mahmoud Afifi, head of the Ancient Egyptian Antiquities Section at the ministry explained that the site is composed of several panels of rock art and inscriptions which include some of the earliest—and largest—signs from the formative stages of the hieroglyphic script, and provides evidence for how the ancient Egyptians invented their unique writing system.

Hani Abu ElAzem, head of the Central Department of Upper Egypt Antiquities, described the discovery as important because it helps in understanding the development of a system of graphic communication, which sets the stage for the appearance of true hieroglyphic writing in Upper Egypt in approx. 3,250 BC.

John Coleman Darnell, the head of the archaeological mission, said the inscriptions were discovered on high rock faces overlooking the modern railroad and the earliest one shows animal images—especially a herd of large elephants—some of which develop into symbols of political power associated with late Predynastic rulers. The most important inscription is found at the northern end of the site dates to the final phase of the Predynastic Period (the Naqada III phase or Dynasty 0, approx. 3,250-3,100 BC.)

He continued that the mission also discovered a panel of four signs, written right to left (the dominant writing direction in later Egyptian texts) featuring a bull’s head on a short pole, followed by two back-to-back saddle bill storks with a bald ibis above and between them. This panel is one of the largest yet discovered from Dynasty 0.

Darnell continues that rock art in the Eastern and Western deserts of Egypt demonstrates that ancient artists often interacted with earlier images—clustering similar images or images with related meanings on the same rock surface.

By the last phase of the Predynastic Period, rock art and other objects from the Nile Valley could use images to express concepts, such as the saddle bill stork with a serpent beneath its beak meaning “victory.”

“These symbols are not phonetic writing, but appear to provide the intellectual background for moving from depictions of the natural world to hieroglyphs that wrote the sounds of the ancient Egyptian language,” Darnell said, adding that the newly discovered inscriptions at El-Khawy provide another example of this important transitional phase.

The team of archaeologists located these inscriptions by mapping out routes based on road networks in Egypt. Most rock inscriptions in Egypt, Darnell said, are not randomly placed; they are placed along major roads, either roads that parallel the Nile or roads that head out into the desert. They are usually at a juncture or crossroads. “Any place where someone might pause in their journey,” said Darnell.

Using a new recording technique pioneered at Yale, Darnell and Alberto Urcia, a digital archaeologist and associate research scientist in the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations, created a series of 3D images of the inscriptions from photographs taken in the field.

“This new technology makes it possible to record sites at a level of accuracy and detail that was absolutely impossible before,” said Darnell. “It also means that we can record the site as a place, or a location, and not just as a series of inscriptions.” “This was not what I was expecting to find when I set out on this period of work on the expedition,” said Darnell. “It was completely shocking to me.”

Thursday, June 22, 2017

News: Al-Khalifa Heritage Project Resumes

The third phase of the Al-Khalifa Area Rehabilitation Project has resumed after securing the required funds, writes Nevine El-Aref.
 The Three Newly Restored Domes
The Al-Khalifa area of Cairo, known for its Islamic monuments, is again in the limelight as the third phase of its rehabilitation project is now set to begin after being put on hold owing to the lack of a budget. The project is being carried out by the Ministry of Antiquities in collaboration with the Cairo governorate, the built-environment collective Megawra, the Al-Athar Lina (the Monuments are Ours) initiative, and Mashroo Kheir.

Mohamed Abdel-Aziz, director of the Historic Cairo Rehabilitation Project, told Al-Ahram Weekly that the third phase included the implementation of a pilot project to integrate solutions for ground-water problems in historic contexts.

A multi-disciplinary research and training programme with the participation of an international team of architects, conservators, urban planners, and experts in urbanism, environment, infrastructure and water resources had begun this in 2016, he said. The programme was organised by Megawra and the universities of Oregon and Cornell in the US, with funding from the American Research Centre in Egypt (ARCE) and the American Embassy in Cairo in partnership with the Ministry of Antiquities and the Cairo governorate.

The team has studied the phenomenon of rising ground water in historic areas and its impact on historic buildings. It has also trained professionals and scholars in the field of heritage conservation on state-of-the-art techniques of the treatment of historic buildings that suffer from high amounts of salt and water damage.

The programme will follow this up by using technologies that can be implemented and that are suitable for the social particularity and economic conditions of the area, with the aim of transforming ground water from a source of harm to a social resource. The third phase, Abdel-Aziz said, includes the restoration of both the Al-Ashraf Khalil and Fatma Khatoun domes in Islamic Cairo.

 Th Al-Sayeda Rokaya Mausoleum 
The Fatma Khatoun Dome was originally a mausoleum and was once part of the Al-Madrasa Al-Khatouniya and the Madrasa Umm Al-Saleh. During the Ottoman period, it was used as a Sufi hostel. The madrasa (school) no longer exists. The dome is located on Al-Ashraf Street near the Al-Sayeda Nafisa Mausoleum. It was built by the Mameluke Sultan Al-Ashraf Salaheddin Khalil Ibn Qalawoun for his wife Khawand Khatoun. The mausoleum is composed of an inner square, a minaret and two rows of stalactites within an outer arch.

The Mausoleum of Al-Ashraf Khalil was founded in 687 AH (1288 CE) by Sultan Qalawoun. The lower part is built using stone-crowned stalactites, while the dome is made of brick.

The restoration project aims to preserve both domes from water damage by installing a new drainage system. It will also decrease the level of humidity, consolidate the walls, and repair cracks. The open area in front of the dome is to be converted into a public park, including an open-air theatre, cafeteria, library and a playing area for children. An administrative building is to be provided.

Abdel-Aziz said that the project was part of a long-term plan to develop the Al-Khalifa area, both archaeologically and in terms of urban planning, as a step towards upgrading... Read More.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

New Discovery, Nubia: Ancient Tomb of Gold Worker Found Along Nile River

A 3,400-year-old tomb holding the remains of more than a dozen possibly mummified people has been discovered on Sai Island, along the Nile River in northern Sudan.

Archaeologists discovered the tomb in 2015, though it wasn't until 2017 that a team with the Across Borders archaeological research project fully excavated the site.

The island is part of an ancient land known as Nubia that Egypt controlled 3,400 years ago. The Egyptians built settlements and fortifications throughout Nubia, including on Sai Island, which had a settlement and a gold mine. 

The tomb, which contains multiple chambers, appears to hold the remains of Egyptians who lived in or near that settlement and worked in gold production.

The artifacts found in the tomb include scarabs (a type of amulet widely used in Egypt), ceramic vessels, a gold ring, the remains of gold funerary masks worn by the deceased and a small stone sculpture known as a shabti. 

The ancient Egyptians believed that shabtis could do the work of the deceased for them in the afterlife. Some of the artifacts bore Egyptian hieroglyphic inscriptions that revealed the tomb was originally created for a man named Khnummose, who was a "master gold worker."

The remains of Khnummose (which may have been mummified) were found next to those of a woman who may have been his wife. Some of the other people found in tomb may have been relatives of Khnummose, the researchers said, adding that they planned to conduct DNA analyses of the remains.

"We will try to extract ancient DNA from the [bones] of the bodies in question," said Julia Budka, professor for Egyptian Archaeology and Art History at the Ludwig-Maximilians-University of Munich. "If the [ancient] DNA is preserved, this will help us a lot. 

Otherwise, it all remains tentative," said Budka, who noted that the samples are already at the Department for Archaeogenetics at the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History in Jena, Germany.

The archaeologists said they aren't sure how many of the bodies were mummified.

"The state of preservation is very difficult here," Budka said. "I am waiting for the report of my physical anthropologists. For now, the position and also traces of bitumen speak for some kind of mummification for all persons in Tomb 26 who were placed in wooden coffins." 

Bitumen is a type of petroleum that the ancient Egyptians sometimes used in mummification.

Many of the coffins are also poorly preserved, and it's uncertain exactly how many of the people were buried in coffins, Budka said.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

News, Giza: Tutankhamun Artifacts Moved to Grand Egyptian Museum Ahead of Soft Opening in 2018

Zidan During Restoration on The Oars
Mummified dates, grains and small model boats were among the objects moved in this most recent batch, an operation that required careful packing and essential restoration work. Written By/ Nevine El-Aref.

Egypt's Ministry of Antiquities has transported another batch of items from the Tutankhamun collection to their new home at the Grand Egyptian Museum (GEM) overlooking the Giza Plateau.

The ancient Egyptian artifacts were moved on Sunday from their current location at the Egyptian Museum in downtown Cairo to the GEM ahead of its soft opening in early 2018.

Tarek Tawfik, supervisor general of the GEM, said the new batch of artifacts includes dried and mummified seeds and fruits, as well as several model boats crafted from wood and a small wooden chair painted in white plaster.

Prior to the move, the objects were subjected to essential restoration work, courtesty of the GEM's First Aid Restoration department.

Eissa Zidan, the department's director, said the artifacts – including dried dates, onions, garlic, wheat, barely and doum – were all transported safely.

He said that the restoration staff used scientific methods to pack and transport the items. They also compiled a detailed report on the current condition of all items prior to the move. Zidan said the objects would undergo further restoration at the GEM.

The GEM is due to open in April 2018, with two areas accessible to the public: a large hall containing the entire Tutankhamun collection; and the Grand Staircase collection of major objects and statues from Ancient Egypt.

The process of transporting items from Downtown to the GEM started in the summer of 2016, while the transfer of the Tutankhamun collection began earlier this year.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Recovered Artifacts, Cairo: Qurans From Ottoman Era Seized at Cairo International Airport

One of The Seized Quran
A smuggling attempt of five Qurans was foiled today at Cairo International Airport. Written By/ Nevine El-Aref.

The Customs Authority at Cairo International Airport has foiled a smuggling attempt of a collection of five Ottoman era Qurans, found in three parcels arriving from Ethiopia.

Ahmed Al-Rawi, head of the Antiquities Units at Egyptian Ports, explained that the parcels were seized in the cargo village at Cairo International Airport earlier today. When the archaeological committee of the Cairo Antiquities Units inspected the packages they verified their authenticity.
The Water Container And The Swords Handles 
Hamdi Hamam, director general of the Antiquities Unit at Cairo International Airport, explained that the parcels include five Qurans from the Ottoman era written in large Naskh handwriting (a style of cursive calligraphy) on old paper and covered with leather.

He pointed out that some of the seized Quran were not organised according to the Quran's normal index but were a grouping of the Quran's verses.

Hamam said that the five seized Qurans are in a very bad state of conservation and are in dire need of restoration work.

Six handles of old swords carved in animals bones were also found in the parcels, as well as a water container made of animal leather. El-Rawi said all the artifacts are now being held as investigations continue.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Our Exnibition, Astana: Temporary Exhibition of Islamic Artifacts to Open Thursday in Kazakhstan

The temporary exhibition in Astana is to include a number of artifacts selected from the Museum of Islamic Art in Cairo. Written By/ Nevine El-Aref.

Under the title, "Sultan Bebars and his reign," the Astana National Museum in Kazakhstan is to host its first temporary exhibition from Egypt.

Elham Salah, head of the museums sector of the Ministry of Antiquities, explained that the exhibition includes a collection of 22 Islamic objects from the reign of Mameluk Sultan Bebars that were carefully selected from the Museum of Islamic Art in Cairo.

The objects, Salah told Ahram Onine, include a copper food container gilded with silver, a lion-shaped white marble sheet, a copper basin gilded with silver and gold, a wooden holder of the Quran embellished with ivory and a collection of silver and gold coins.
The exhibition will last until August.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

News, Cairo: AUC Hands Over Egyptian Artifacts From 1964 Excavation in Fustat

The American University in Cairo transferred the 5,000 items to the Ministry of Antiquities, in line with Egyptian law. Written By/ Nevine El-Aref.

The American University in Cairo (AUC) has handed 5,000 historical artifacts over to the Ministry of Antiquities, parting with a collection it has held since the 1960s. The collection consists of a number of clay vessels of different shapes and sizes, ushabti figurines, tombstones and wooden funerary masks from the Graeco-Roman era, as well as lamps from the Islamic period.

Mahmoud Afifi, head of the Ancient Egyptian Department, told Ahram Online that the artifacts were unearthed by an AUC excavation team led by late Professor George Scanlon in 1964 at Establ Antar archaeological site in Fustat, Cairo. According to the Egyptian antiquities law during that time, said Afifi, any artifacts unearthed at archaeological sites could be divided with foreign missions. Accordingly, the AUC succeeded in keeping half of the excavated items.

Then in 1983, with the passing of the Egypt Antiquities Law (No. 117), the objects were registered as the property of the Egyptian state, but in the possession of the AUC. Mahmoud Khalil, Director General of the Antiquities Possession Department, said the AUC recently sent an official letter to the ministry asking for the artifacts to be returned to the state.

Khalil went on to say that the ministry immediately assigned an archaeological committee to inspect the collection, pack the items and transport them to the National Museum of Egyptian Civilization in Fustat. The ministery has stated that anyone in possession of Egyptian antiquities should follow the lead of the AUC in handing them over, "since they are part of Egypt's heritage, to be enjoyed by all humanity."

Monday, June 12, 2017

Short Story: Not Out of Africa?

Recent DNA analysis apparently showing that the ancient Egyptians were more Levantine than African has created controversy among Egyptian archaeologists. Written By/ Nevine El-Aref.

Early this week, scientists and researchers from the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History at the University of Tubingen in Germany revealed that the ancient Egyptians were genetically related to ancient Turkey and the Levant and not as African as had previously been thought.

The results were published in the journal Nature Communication after a DNA analysis on 151 Egyptian mummies from a period lasting from 1388 BC to 426 CE when Egypt become a province of the Roman Empire had been conducted.

The mummies came from an area named Abusir Al-Meleq, an ancient community in the middle of Egypt, and the DNA samples were extracted from the bones, teeth and soft tissues of the mummies.

Johannes Krause, a paleogeneticist from the University of Tubingen who made the study, told the US newspaper the Washington Post that the major finding was that “for 1,300 years, we see complete genetic continuity”. Despite repeated conquests of Egypt by Alexander the Great, the ancient Greeks, Romans, Arabs and Assyrians, the ancient Egyptians showed little genetic change. “The other big surprise,” Krause said, “was that we didn’t find much Sub-Saharan African ancestry.”

Comparing of the results was done with modern Egyptians and Ethiopians, and the results showed that the ancient Egyptians were closely related to people who lived along the eastern Mediterranean coasts and that they also shared genetic material with residents of the Anatolian Peninsula at the time and Europe. African genes were found in only 20 per cent of the material, and this was due to trade exchange.

In their paper, the researchers acknowledged that “all our genetic data were obtained from a single site in Middle Egypt and may not be representative for all of ancient Egypt.” In the south of Egypt, the authors wrote, Sub-Saharan African influences may have been stronger.

The study has triggered anger among several Egyptian archaeologists who have questioned the results. Egyptologist Zahi Hawass described the studies as “hallucinations” and told Al-Ahram Weekly that they were not accurate for several reasons.

The mummies that were subjected to the DNA tests dated to the Graeco-Roman period when the mummification process was very poor, he said. They also belonged to people who came from Italy or to Greeks who lived in ancient Egypt and not to native ancient Egyptians.

“How can the ancient Egyptians be genetically from Europe,” Hawass asked, adding that when the ancient Egyptians were busy building their civilisation Europe did not exist in civilisational terms.

“There is no scientific or archaeological evidence that could support such results,” Hawass said, adding that the only discovery that scientists think could indicate the origin of the ancient Egyptians was the Naqad Necropolis discovered by archaeologist Flinders Petrie which houses .... READ MORE.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

New Discovery, Alexandria: Hellenistic Tomb With Pottery Vessels Discovered in Alexandria

Newly Discovered Pottery Vessels
An archaeological mission from the Ministry of Antiquities discovered the rock-hewn tomb in the city's El-Shatby district. Written By/ Nevine El-Aref.

During excavation work at a site in the El-Shatby neighbourhood of Alexandria, an Egyptian archaeological mission from the Ministry of Antiquities discovered a rock-hewn tomb that can be dated to the Hellenistic period (323-30 BC).

Mahmoud Afifi, head of Ancient Egyptian Antiquities at the ministry, told Ahram Online that studies on the architectural style of the tomb’s decorative elements and pottery sherds found at the site show that the tomb dates to the time of Greek occupation in Egypt.

The tomb is composed of four halls with burial shafts decorated with geometric, coloured designs as well as funerary prayers written in ancient Greek.

Mustafa Rushdi, director-general of Antiquities of the Western Delta and Alexandria told Ahram Online that the mission found around 300 artefacts within the tomb’s hall. 

Among the objects were pottery vessels, a terracotta statue and lamps made of clay.

During the next archaeological season, the mission plans to study the funerary phrases written on the tombs to identify their owners.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

News, Cairo: Domes of Al-Ashraf Khalil and Fatma Khatoun in Al-Khalifa Area to be Restored

The Ministry of Antiquities starts conservation and development of both Al-Ashraf Khalil and Fatma Khatoun located on Al-Ashraaf Street in Historic Cairo. Written By/ Nevine El-Aref.

Al-Ashraf Khalil Dome
Fatma Khatoun Dome was originally a mausoleum and once part of Al-Madrasa Al-Khatuniya and Madrasa Umm Al-Saleh. During the Ottoman period, it was used as a Sufi hostel. The madrasa (school) no longer exists.

It is located on Al-Ashraf Street near As-Sayyida Nafisa mausoleum. It was founded by Al-Sultan Qalawun for his wife Khawand Khatoun. The mausoleum is composed of an inner square, a minaret, and two rows of stalactites within an outer arch.

The mausoleum of Al-Ashraf Khalil was founded in 687 AH / 1288 AD by Al-Sultan Al-Ashraf Salah El-Din Khalil Ibn Qalawun. The lower part of the mausoleum is built with stone crowned stalactites, while the dome is built with brick.

Mohamed Abdel Aziz, director general of the Historic Cairo Rehabilitation Project, explained that the development project aims to preserve both domes from water damage by installing a new drainage system. It will also decrease the level of humidity, consolidate the walls and repair cracks.

The open area in front of the domes, he added, is to be converted into a public park, including an open-air theatre, cafeteria, a library and a playing area for children. An administrative building is to be provided.

Abdel Aziz pointed out that this project is part of a long term plan to develop Al-Khalifa area, both archaeologically and urbanely, in a step towards upgrading its residents’ living standards as well as promoting tourism.

The project is carried out in collaboration with Al-Athar Lina Initiative (The Antiquity Is For Us) and Built Environment Collective (Mogawra).

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Short Story: Documentation Work Begins

State-of-the-art technology is being used to document the Esna Temple south of Luxor and the Tanis archaeological site in the Delta. Written By/ Nevine El-Aref.

In a step towards scientifically documenting all archaeological sites and monuments in Egypt, the Antiquities Documentation Centre (ADC) of the Ministry of Antiquities has started to document the Esna Temple south of Luxor and the Tanis archaeological site in the Sharqiya governorate in the Delta.

Director of the ADC Hisham Al-Leithi told Al-Ahram Weekly that the documentation of the Esna Temple had started in 1993 but had stopped due to the high level of subterranean water that had leaked inside the temple and the beginnings of the restoration work

The whole project to document all the archaeological sites in Egypt was also stopped in the aftermath of the 25 January Revolution due to budgetary problems. Al-Leithi said that the ministry had resumed the documentation project earlier this year and had started with the Esna Temple and the Tanis site.

The documentation project, he explained, aims to register every inch of every monument in Egypt according to the most up-to-date scientific and archaeological techniques.

“The actual documentation methods will consist of computer-data sets, plans and sections, as well as photographs, drawings and illustrations, recording forms, logbooks, site notebooks, diaries and dive logs,” Al-Leithi said. He added that GIS systems, 3D reconstructions, applications that support on-site recording processes, modern measuring techniques and data-processing software used in geophysical research would also be used.

The Esna Temple is located in the town of Esna roughly 50km south of Luxor. Its history goes back to prehistoric times, although Esna was first mentioned in the Pharaoh Thutmose III’s annals when it was part of the Upper Egyptian region extending from Al-Kab in the north to Armant south of Luxor.

During the ancient Egyptian Middle Kingdom, Esna was an important centre for trade, as it was the focal point of trading convoys from Sudan going to Thebes. During the Graeco-Roman period, Esna was called Latopolis in honour of the Nile perch that was worshipped there. In 1971, a necropolis dedicated to the Nile perch was uncovered west of the town.

The Esna Temple is one of the most important archaeological sites in Esna, Al-Leithi said, adding that the temple goes back to the reign of the 18th-Dynasty Pharaoh Thutmose III and was built on top of the remains of a Saite temple. The present temple, he continued, was built during the Ptolemaic era, although most of its engravings and decorations go back to the Roman period.

The temple is dedicated to the god of the Nile, as well as other deities such as the ancient goddess of war and weaving Neith, god of magic Heka, goddess of the Nile Satet, and the lion goddess Menhet.

The temple was built almost nine metres below ground level and was completely uncovered in 1843 during the reign of the khedive Mohamed Ali. Earlier the area had hosted French soldiers during the French expedition to Egypt in 1799. “The names of some of the soldiers are engraved on the upper surface of the Temple,” Al-Leithi said.

Some masonry blocks attesting to the construction during the reign of Thutmose III were reused at the site, and the oldest complete part of the temple is the back wall of the hypostyle hall, built during the Ptolemaic period and showing scenes depicting Ptolemy VI Philometer and Ptolemy VIII Euergetes.

The rest of the temple was built by a series of Roman emperors, including Claudius, and Decius. The hypostyle hall is decorated with 24 pillars beautifully carved and painted with different floral designs. 

Texts describing the religious festival that once took place at the temple and depicting Roman emperors standing before ancient Egyptian deities are also inscribed on the pillars.

On the northern wall of the hall, the pharaoh is depicted catching wild birds or conquering evil spirits. The decorations also include a number of calendars, while the ceiling is decorated with Egyptian astronomical figures on the northern side and Roman zodiacal signs on the southern side.... READ MORE.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

New Discovery, Aswan: Ten Late Period Tombs Uncovered in Aswan

The tombs were uncovered on Aswan's West Bank. Written By/ Nevine El-Aref.

During excavation work in the area neighbouring the Agha Khan mausoleum on Aswan’s west bank, an Egyptian mission from the Ministry of Antiquities stumbled upon ten rock-hewn tombs.

Mahmoud Afifi, dead of Ancient Egyptian Antiquities at the ministry, said that the tombs can be dated to the Late Period and early studies reveal that the site is probably an extension of Aswan necropolis on the west bank where a collection of tombs belonging to Aswan overseers from the Old, Middle and New kingdom are found.

Nasr Salama, director-general of Aswan and Nubia Antiquities told Ahram Online that the tombs have similar architectural design. they are composed of sliding steps leading to the entrance of the tomb and a small burial chamber where a collection of stone sarcophagi, mummies and funerary collection of the deceased were found.

He said that during the next archaeological season which starts in September, the mission will continue the excavation and begin comprehensive studies and restoration work on the funerary collection uncovered to learn more about who the tombs contain.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Short Story: Who’s Your Mummy? Genetic Secrets of Ancient Egypt Unwrapped

DNA from mummies found at a site once known for its cult to the Egyptian god of the afterlife is unwrapping intriguing insight into the people of ancient Egypt, including a surprise discovery that they had scant genetic ties to sub-Saharan Africa.

Scientists on Tuesday said they examined genome data from 90 mummies from the Abusir el-Malek archaeological site, located about 115 km south of Cairo, in the most sophisticated genetic study of ancient Egyptians ever conducted.

The DNA was extracted from the teeth and bones of mummies from a vast burial ground associated with the green-skinned god Osiris. The oldest were from about 1388 BC during the New Kingdom, a high point in ancient Egyptian influence and culture. The most recent were from about 426 AD, centuries after Egypt had become a Roman Empire province.

“There has been much discussion about the genetic ancestry of ancient Egyptians,” said archeogeneticist Johannes Krause of the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History in Germany, who led the study published in the journal Nature Communications.

“Are modern Egyptians direct descendants of ancient Egyptians? Was there genetic continuity in Egypt through time? Did foreign invaders change the genetic makeup: for example, did Egyptians become more ‘European’ after Alexander the Great conquered Egypt?” Krause added. “Ancient DNA can address those questions.”

The genomes showed that, unlike modern Egyptians, ancient Egyptians had little to no genetic kinship with sub-Saharan populations, some of which like ancient Ethiopia were known to have had significant interactions with Egypt.

The closest genetic ties were to the peoples of the ancient Near East, spanning parts of Iraq and Turkey as well as Israel, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon.

Egypt, located in North Africa at a crossroads of continents in the ancient Mediterranean world, for millennia boasted one of the most advanced civilizations in antiquity, known for military might, wondrous architecture including massive pyramids and imposing temples, art, hieroglyphs and a pantheon of deities.

Mummification was used to preserve the bodies of the dead for the afterlife. The mummies in the study were of middle-class people, not royalty.The researchers found genetic continuity spanning the New Kingdom and Roman times, with the amount of sub-Saharan ancestry increasing substantially about 700 years ago, for unclear reasons.

“There was no detectable change for those 1,800 years of Egyptian history,” Krause said. “The big change happened between then and now.”