History Files


Ancient Egypt

Ancient Necropolis Discovery

Edited from BBC News, 21 April 2005

Archaeologists in 2005 announced the discovery of the largest funerary complex yet to be uncovered, one which dated from the earliest era of ancient Egypt, the pre-dynastic or 'Archaic Period', which ended around 3100 BC with the unification of north and south Egypt into one single kingdom.

The necropolis was discovered by a joint US and Egyptian team in the Kom al-Ahmar region, around six hundred kilometres to the south of the capital, Cairo. Inside the tombs, the archaeologists found a cow's head which had been carved from flint, along with the remains of seven people.

They believed that four of the people had been buried alive as human sacrifices.

Excavations at the site started in 2000 under the leadership of Egyptologist Barbara Adams, who died in 2002. The site contains some of the earliest examples of mummification found in Egypt.

The remains survived despite the fact that the tombs were plundered in ancient times. Egypt's chief archaeologist, Zahi Hawass, said the discovery would add greatly to knowledge of the elusive pre-dynastic period, when Egypt was first forming into a single nation.

The complex was thought to belong to a ruler of the ancient city of Hierakonpolis of around 3600 BC, when it was the largest urban centre on the River Nile.

Egyptologists said the city probably extended its influence northwards, defeating rival entities along the way, especially the smaller but still powerful rival centre in Lower Egypt (nearer the Nile Delta and the Mediterranean).

The unification of Upper and Lower Egypt was engineered by the earliest pharaohs, relatively minor rulers who were not at all on a par with the later great pharaohs, whose lives are generally a mystery, and in some cases whose names are doubtful or open to question. This was a period in which there were very sudden advances in craftsmanship and technology which was filtering down from southern Mesopotamia's booming Sumerian civilisation.



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