History Files


Ancient Egypt

Burial Ground of the Golden Mummies

Edited from BBC News, 14 June 1999

Archaeologists in Egypt were able to announce in 1999 the discovery of at least two hundred mummies, some of them with golden masks, which were contained in a huge cemetery in Egypt's Western Desert.

The burial ground, which lay near a desert oasis, was believed to contain more than ten thousand mummies, making it the biggest haul to have been uncovered so far, according to Egypt's Middle East News Agency.

The area, which fell within the borders of the city of Bawiti, three hundred kilometres (185 miles) to the south-west of Cairo, had been renamed the 'Valley of the Mummies', according to the news agency.

Fifty mummies were found in each of four rooms in the cemetery which was 9.6 kilometres long (six miles) and dated back to the early Greco-Roman era of just over two thousand years ago.

This was the time at which the Hellenic Ptolemies were losing their power in the face of increasing Roman domination of the Middle East and Africa. The mummies included wealthy people and some rulers, reported Gaballah Ali Gaballah, head of Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities.

Cairo and Giza antiquities director, Zahi Hawass, said the first two hundred mummies were uncovered after a four-year excavation. At the time at which the discovery was reported, he told the news agency that some of the mummies wore golden masks 'with magnificent designs of ancient Egyptian divinities on their chests'.

Others were coated in plaster or covered with linen and some lay in terracotta sarcophagi bearing representations of the human head.

Mr Hawass said work would continue until the rest were uncovered, even though it seems that Egypt already had so many mummies that the antiquities department sometimes struggled to keep up.



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