Our experts John & Maria can finally reveal the details of their latest discovery at Geb el Silsila, an intact multiple burial shaft tomb! Further details & press contacts here https://t.co/8j1KsgT31b
Follow @johnwardkt & @DrMariaNilsson for the latest updates! #Egypt pic.twitter.com/JVzzAdcTku
— Nigel J.Hetherington (@Pastpreservers) December 14, 2018
John Ward and the team with one of the sarcophogi. Photo: Gebel El Silsila Project
Maria Nilsson, Researcher in Classical Archeology at Lund University, told Sweden’s TT newswire that although her group had so far dug through less than half of the grave site, they had already found a large number of human remains.
“It’s just skeleton after skeleton after skeleton,” she said. “We haven’t yet finished the first chamber, but we have so far taken up 50 adults and 25 children.”
Nilsson and her British husband John Ward, who is the project’s Assistant Director, announced the discovery in a video after it was announced by the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquity on Thursday.
The group discovered the shaft last year, but only realised its full significance when they started digging this October. The shaft was found five metres under ground and leads to two chambers, each filled with water, sand and sludge.
View to the south-east of chamber 1. Photo: Gebel el Silsila Project
The grave is thought to date from Egypt’s 18th dynasty, making it around 3,400 years old. As well as bodies, the archeologists have found burial goods, such as scarabs, amulets, and different types of pots, coming from three generations of pharoahs: Thutmosis II, III och Amenhotep II.
Writing in her blog, Nilsson, said that no similar mass grave had been found as part of the dig.
“No other tomb documented at Gebel el-Silsila previously has contained such a high number of entombed individuals,” she wrote.
“One of the more important results of the discovery at Gebel el-Silsila is the amount of buried children and women, indicating that there was a complete society with entire families living and working in ancient Kheny.”
Men-Kheper-Re scarab. Photo: Anders Andersson
“What we can see from the burial goods and the actual architecture of the tomb is that they belonged to the upper middle-class,” Nilsson said. “For various reasons, we believe that they were involved in quarry work.”
The archeologists have several theories for why so many bodies were collected in the same place.
Perhaps it was a kind of temporary morgue where Egypt’s priests kept bodies while waiting for grave sites to become available. Perhaps there had been an epidemic.
In February Maria Nilsson and John Ward are returning to Sweden, and will be returning to the burial place next autumn.
View from the shaft into chamber. Photo: Anders Andersson