10,000 Mummies Found in Remote Egypt

Article excerpt

In a remote desert oasis in Egypt, archaeologists literally have stumbled upon a treasure trove of as many as 10,000 mummies that promises to shine a brilliant spotlight on the period 2,000 years ago when Roman legionaries ruled the land of the pharaohs.

Preliminary surveys suggest that the cemetery site contains the largest concentration of mummies not only in Egypt, but in the world. Teams of researchers have excavated 105 mummies -- many of them sheathed in gold -- from four tombs in the newly discovered cemetery in the Bahariyya Oasis, more than 200 miles from the pyramids and temples of Egypt's Giza Plateau.

But sheer numbers are only part of the story. Some of the unusually well-preserved mummies -- mostly children -- are covered completely in a thin layer of gold. Others wear gilded gypsum masks, extending all the way to their midriffs, with "magnificent designs of ancient Egyptian divinities on their chests," said Zahi Hawass, director general of the Giza site as well as the monuments at Saqqara on the Nile River.

Others are housed in clay sarcophagi painted with human faces, while the remainder are simply wrapped in linen "like the mummies of Hollywood horror movies," he said. "I never expected to find something like this so far from the shadows of the pyramids."

Hawass will discuss the findings publicly for the first time today at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County. Hawass, who is also an adjunct professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, has close ties with the Southern California chapter of the American Research Center in Egypt.

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The site also has yielded dramatic statues, pottery, jewelry and other artifacts suggesting that the region was much more prosperous than researchers had believed.

The Bahariyya Oasis and its capital city of el-Bawiti are in the barren interior of Egypt, a three-hour drive southwest of Cairo. …