History

57 Ancient Egyptian Tombs with Mummies Unearthed

57 ancient Egyptian tombs with mummies were unearthed. Learn more about 57 ancient Egyptian tombs with mummies that were unearthed in this article.

THE GIST

- Most of the tombs contain an intricately painted sarcophagus with a mummy inside.

- The oldest tombs date back to around 2750 B.C. during the period of Egypt's first and second dynasties.

Archeologists have unearthed 57 ancient Egyptian tombs, most of which hold an ornately painted wooden sarcophagus with a mummy inside, Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities said Sunday.

The oldest tombs date back to around 2750 B.C. during the period of Egypt's first and second dynasties, the council said in a statement. Twelve of the tombs belong the 18th dynasty which ruled Egypt during the second millennium B.C.

The discovery throws new light on Egypt's ancient religions, the council said.

Egypt's archaeology chief, Zahi Hawass, said the mummies dating to the 18th dynasty are covered in linen decorated with religious texts from the Book of the Dead and scenes featuring ancient Egyptian deities.

Abdel Rahman El-Aydi, head of the archaeological mission that made the discovery, said some of the tombs are decorated with religious texts that ancient Egyptians believed would help the deceased to cross through the underworld.

El-Aydi said one of the oldest tombs is almost completely intact, with all of its funerary equipment and a wooden sarcophagus containing a mummy wrapped in linen.

In 31 tombs dating to around 2030-1840 B.C, archeologists discovered scenes of different ancient Egyptian deities, such as the falcon-headed Horus, Hathor, Khnum and Amun, decorating some of the tombs.

The council said the findings were unearthed at Lahoun, in Fayoum, some 70 miles south of Cairo.

Last year, some 53 stone tombs dating back to various ancient periods were found in the area.

This painted wooden sarcophagus was discovered in Lahoun, south of Cairo.

A young, short man with a slight resemblance to Michael Jackson, a woman with an elaborate hairstyle and an older woman who could slip, unnoticed, into today's society -- all died some 2,000 years ago but now facial reconstructions of the ancient Egyptians have brought them back to life.

The reconstructions were unveiled today at McGill University's Redpath Museum.

"People are amazed by mummies, but never more so, I've found, when they can see the face," said anthropologist Andrew Wade of Western University.

The high tech process, involving CT scanning and multiple scientific disciplines, recreates what the three individuals looked like as they were laid to rest nearly 2,000 years ago.

Here, a mummy is set to go into a CT scanner.

Mummies of a young male, a young female and an older woman were virtually unwrapped using CT scanning. Models of their bone structure were then created.

Barbara Lawson, a curator at the Redpath Museum who also worked on the project, added that all three mummies were scanned at the Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital as part of Western University's IMPACT Radiological Mummy Database Project.

Forensic artist Victoria Lywood undertook the actual reconstruction work, which was based on the 3-D high-resolution images along with ultrasonic images and anthropological research.

A step in the process involved sketching what the individuals would have looked like.

Some have detected a facial resemblance, at least from the front profile, with the late pop star Michael Jackson. Jackson was, in fact, very interested in Egyptian history, which might have influenced some of his personal style.

The Theban male died between the ages of 20-30. His mummy was purchased in Thebes, his likely place of death.

The young man was "relatively short in stature," according to Wade.

Lywood is one of the world's leading experts on such recreations.

"I reconstruct modern-day skulls, archaeological remains and fragmentary skulls," she told Discovery News. "The oldest I have constructed was from 6,000 years ago found in Israel. While there were people of all sizes throughout the ages, my experience is that skull size was much smaller than modern populations."

This Ptolemaic female was a "late adolescent girl or young woman of average height and elite status," Wade said. "Her age at death is estimated at between 18 and 24 years."

Her mummy was found "in a tomb pit in the solid rock near Hawara el-Makta in Fayum (Lower Egypt) and acquired in Egypt towards the end of the 19th century and donated to the Redpath Museum in 1895," Lawson said.

Clearly ancient Egyptians prized fashionable coifs, given the complexity of the young woman's hairstyle.

Her hair must have been fixed before mummification, perhaps in hopes of sending her off to the next life looking her best.

The hairdo of a young ancient Egyptian female was reconstructed on a modern woman.

The reconstructed young woman is shown here without her wig. Clearly her hair was a big part of her look.

The oldest individual of the three was this woman -- likely a tall, upper middle-class adult between the ages of 30 and 50 years old.

If she were alive today, this woman (at least based on her physical appearance) would probably fit right in with modern society.

As Wade said, "Humans have been physically pretty much the same for the last 2,000 years...That's not to say that evolution has stopped working on us, but the time frame of 2,000 years is just a drop in the bucket for noticeable physical changes and we've reduced the need for physical changes by adapting culturally."

The three ancient Egyptian people died at somewhat different times and never knew each other. But, as reconstructions, the early Egyptians will spend even more time together, because they will star in a new display in the Redpath Museum's World Cultures gallery starting in February.