A cachette of 17 mummies that date back to the late period of ancient Egypt and the Greco-Roman period have been discovered at Tuna al-Gabal, an archaeological site on the edge of the western desert near Minya, some 250km south od Cairo.
“The mummies were found through excavation works by a mission from Cairo University’s Faculty of Antiquities,” Egypt’s Antiquities Minister Khaled Enani announced during a conference held at Tuna al-Gabal. Attending the conference were Minya Governor Essam al-Bedeiwy; President of Cairo University Gaber Nassar,; as well as the ambassadors of Germany, Serbia, Hungary, and Belgium; and top officials from the Antiquities Ministry and Cairo University.
Mr Enani said the find was significant in that it is the first made in the area since the discovery of the birds and animals necropolis by Egyptologist Sami Gabra in 1931 – 1954.
“Six sarcophagi, two clay coffins, two papyri written in Demotic script as well as a number of vessels were also discovered at the site,” Mr Enani said.
According to Salah al-Khouli, head of the excavation mission, the cachette includes 17 non-royal mummies wrapped in linen and very well preserved. It was found by chance through a GPR radar survey carried out in 2016 by experts from Cairo University’s Faculty of Science. The survey revealed the presence of hollow spots in the ground. Upon excavation, it was found that these spots were sites of tunnels and passageways that finally led to the find.
“One of the clay sarcophagi is in good condition, but the other is partly damaged.” Mr Khouli said. “The two Demotic-language papyri include gold feather-shaped ornamentation which could denote have been a hair dress decoration of one of the deceased.”
The papyri will be transferred to the Grand Egyptian Museum for restoration.
Dr Nassar expressed his gratitude to the Faculty of Science for its part in the work which resulted in reducing the excavation work to a mere two months. He said that the Cairo University is collaborating with the Antiquities Ministry in developing a number of archaeological sites in Minya. Not only that, he said, but Cairo University is also upgrading the museum of Taha Hussein (1889 – 1973), the Minya-born [blind] writer, educator, and figurehead of Egypt’s 20th-century enlightenment movement, and will turn it into a cultural centre.
“Preserving antiquities and cultural heritage should not be the responsibility of the Antiquities Ministry alone,” Dr Nassar said, “but can very much benefit from collaboration between the Ministry and Cairo University,”
Governor Bedeiwy announced that Minya governorate has signed a protocol with Cairo University and the Antiquities Ministry to develop the heritage sites of Tuna al-Gabal, al-Bahnassa, and al-Ashmounin, sites rich in monuments that go back to ancient Egypt’s Greco Roman period.