Ancient Egyptian tomb found containing 3,800-year-old mummy

Ancient Egyptian tomb found containing 3,800-year-old mummy

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Ancient Egyptian tomb found containing 3,800-year-old mummy

A tomb containing Shemai’s mummy, a younger brother of a powerful governor in Egypt, was discovered  near Nile River near Aswan, Egypt. The structure has been in existence for over 3,800 years, archeologists said.

In Egypt, approximately 14 members of Shemai’s larger family have been identified so far, with recent studies finding that women played a crucial role in this family as “bearers of legitimacy,” one Egyptologist said.

The newly found tomb structure appears to hold multiple burials, as archaeologists discovered two coffins, at least one mummy, and wooden models of boats and people.

Alejandro Jiménez-Serrano, an Egyptologist at the University of Jaen in Spain who leads the group which excavated the grave, also said that part of the structure was robbed in ancient times and that part of the tomb has not been excavated.

 An inside look of a discovered tomb in Egypt’s Aswan.
An inside look of a discovered tomb in Egypt’s Aswan.

An inscription on one of the coffins says that it contained the burial of Shemai, who was a younger brother of Sarenput II, a governor of Elephantine and a military general during the reigns of pharaoh Senwosret II (reign circa 1887–1878 B.C.) and pharaoh Senwosret III (reign circa 1878–1840 B.C.).

“We have found the mummy-body of Shemai, but we left him in his original position, in his coffin. The next year, we will have the opportunity to look [at] his face,”  said Jiménez-Serrano.

The structure was found at Qubbet el-Hawa, which translates to “Hill of the Wind,” and was located near the southern border of Egypt in ancient times. A necropolis for nobles of the ancient city of Elephantine (on Elephantine Island in the Nile River) was erected at Qubbet el-Hawa. The mummified body of Sarenput II’s second daughter, Sattjeni, was also found at the site.

While surviving historical texts record the life of Sarenput II, little information has survived about Shemai. The discovery is important “not only for the richness of the burial, but [also because it] sheds light on those individuals who were under the shadow of the power,” the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities said in a statement.

In 2018, the archaeological team will return to the tomb to continue excavations and study of the coffins, said Jiménez-Serrano. He told Live Science he hopes the upcoming season will yield more information about what role Shemai played in the history of Egypt.

Large family

Finding so many family members at the site has been a boon for archaeologists: “Such high numbers of individuals provide a unique opportunity to study the [living] conditions of the high class in Egypt more than 3,800 years ago,” said the Ministry of Antiquities.

Examination of the 14 family members has revealed that, even though ancient Egypt is often regarded as being a patriarchal(maledominated society, woman played an important role in this family, Jiménez-Serrano said.

“Under my point of view, the most exciting find from this family is that women played a fundamental role in the family. They were the bearers of the legitimacy, which was coming from a deified ancestor. Thus, they had divine blood in their veins,” Jiménez-Serrano said.

DNA analysis of the 14 family members could reveal a great deal of additional information, Jiménez-Serrano said, but to date, the Egyptian antiquities ministry has declined to authorize such a study.

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P. Natasha Covers Classical Archaeology news and has been with Histecho since 2017. She has a Master's degree in MA Archaeology from New York University's Science, Health and Environmental Reporting program. A California native, she also holds a Bachelor of science in molecular biology and a Master of Science in biology from the University of California, San Diego.

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