An amazing cache of mummies has been found in Egypt near one of the world’s oldest pyramids. Polish archaeologists discovered several hundred of them at the site. The unearthing of the mummified bodies is expected to help researchers better understand a very important site and also the religious beliefs of ordinary ancient Egyptians.
The mummies were discovered by a team of Polish archaeologists from the Department of Egyptology at the University of Warsaw’s Faculty of Oriental Studies that were led by Dr. Kamil Kuraszkiewicz. They had been working in the area near Djoser Pyramid , close to the ancient capital of Memphis in Lower Egypt.
The University’s experts have been investigating the location for almost 20 years and they have made numerous important discoveries. In recent years, they found the ‘graves of noblemen from the era of the 6th dynasty, dating to the 24th-21st century BC,’ according to Poland. In .
Finding the Djoser Pyramid Mummies
The Polish team found the mummified corpses in the Saqqara necropolis, adjacent to the world’s oldest pyramid. This was a burial area that was believed to have been the necropolis for the inhabitants of Memphis.
The best-known monument in this cemetery is the Djoser pyramid, which is a step-temple, reportedly designed by the legendary vizier Imhotep. It dates to the 27th century BC and is commonly regarded as the first pyramid ever built.
The mummified cadavers were found last September in a location between the ancient step-pyramid and ‘the so-called “dry moat”, a deep ditch surrounding the pyramid’s sacred area’’ according to the First News website . In ancient Egyptian beliefs, the dry moat (trench) was a type of symbolic path or structure that the pharaoh had to traverse on his route to immortal life. Some of the burials were found in this symbolic ditch or ‘moat’.
Hundreds of Mummies
The archaeologists discovered several dozen, or possibly hundreds, of mummies’ that are in a poor state – their wooden coffins and other organic material has largely decayed. According to First News , ‘the majority of the mummies they discovered were laid to rest with only modest arrangements’’. This is in contrast to the elaborate burials of members of the elite and it would indicate that those buried at the site came from lower down in the social hierarchy.
The fragments remaining of the caskets indicate that they were not very well made. And the mummies had only been embalmed in a very basic way and wrapped in bandages before being deposited in graves dug into the sand. First News reports that a symbol of the ‘Blue Anubis, believed to be a protector of graves, was found on the base of the coffins’.
There is none of the ornamentation and decorations that are associated with the burials of nobles, bureaucrats, and Pharaohs.
Interestingly, the archaeologists found a very poorly written hieroglyph on one of the caskets. Poland. In reports that the inscription was probably ‘created by someone who couldn’t write since it makes no sense and some of the signs aren’t found in any other place’. Dr. Kuraszkiewicz is quoted by First News as stating that the craft person who ‘painted it apparently could not read and perhaps tried to reproduce something that he had seen before’.
The Djoser Pyramid Mummies up to 2,600 Years Old
It appears that at some date in the past a sculpted funerary mask was stolen by grave robbers from the same casket. The mummies that were unearthed have all been provisionally dated to period from the 6th century BC to the 1st century AD.
The find of the mummified cadavers will allow researchers to understand the evolution of Egyptian funerary practices and beliefs about the afterlife. The mummies would seem to suggest that the poorer classes shared many of the same funerary practices as the rich and powerful but expressed them in a more modest and humble manner.
This discovery also shows how important the Saqqara necropolis was and that it was used by all classes for burials over a period of many centuries.
Top image: Most of the Saqqara mummies were poorly preserved and had decayed coffins. Source: J. Dąbrowski / PCMA