New discoveries always make headlines and reveal more secrets of the ancient Egyptians. Over the last few weeks, three new discoveries have been uncovered in Egypt at the Assasif Necropolis in Luxor, in ancient Heliopolis, and in the Delta city of Damietta, reports Nevine El-Aref.
At the Assasif Necropolis on Luxor’s west bank, a French-Egyptian mission from Strasbourg University in France led by Egyptologist Frédéric Colin unearthed three 3,500-year-old wooden painted coffins from the 18th Dynasty during excavation work carried out in the courtyard of tomb TT33.
Fathi Yassin, director of antiquities at Luxor, explained that the coffins were found in a very well-preserved condition and decorated with paintings and hieroglyphic texts. They belong to three women, and their lengths range from 180 to 195 cm.
The first coffin belongs to a woman named Ti Abo, and the second bears the name of a woman named Rau and is painted yellow and bears a hieroglyphic inscription on a white painted background. The third coffin is 180 cm in length and is covered with a layer of plaster with scenes showing brown columns and white colours. There are no inscriptions on it.
The 18th Dynasty (1550-1295 BCE) was the first of the New Kingdom of ancient Egypt when it achieved the peak of its power.
The Assasif Necropolis includes a group of individual tombs dating back to the 18th, as well as the 25th and 26th Dynasties. Some tombs dating back to the 5th Dynasty have been discovered as well. The area was also used as a royal cemetery during the second half of the 11th Dynasty.
Some of the tombs in the Necropolis are not painted, but the majority have walls featuring scenes showing religious rituals, daily life, agriculture and hunting, as well as dancing.
The second discovery was made in ancient Heliopolis where an Egyptian-German mission from the George Steindorff Egyptian Museum of the University of Leipzig and the University for Applied Sciences in Mainz in Germany uncovered the remains of Middle Kingdom royal sculptures as well as a variety of moulds for the manufacture of faience amulets and fragments of the reused capitals of palm columns dating to the Old Kingdom.
Ayman Ashmawi, head of the Ancient Egyptian Sector at the Ministry of Antiquities and head of the Egyptian side of the mission, said that it had uncovered the remains in debris during excavation work focused on the south-western section of the precinct where a small graveyard dating to the 11th century BCE was discovered in April 2019.
“It came as a surprise that these layers directly overlay a stratum of the prehistoric settlement of Heliopolis, as three trenches yielded evidence for very early mud brick architecture as well as a type of brewery construction known from Tell Farkha and other sites,” Ashmawi said.
He added that numerous lithic artefacts and debris, as well as an abundance of pottery from the Lower Egyptian Culture with signs of contact with the Naqada Culture of Upper Egypt from around 3,500 BCE, had also been found.
Dietrich Rau, head of the mission from the German side, said that excavation work had been carried out in area 234 close to the sections of the workshop area dating from the seventh to the second century BCE revealing a portion of a paved street about one metre below the surface.
“The pottery finds point to a date in the Third Intermediate Period. A number of later Hellenistic-early Roman pits are also in this section,” Rau said, adding that two of them contained debris from temple reliefs of the Pharaoh Ramses II, among them an especially well-preserved slab presenting the kneeling Ramses II in front of the sun god Ra-Horakhty, the ruler of Heliopolis.
A painted coffin
Another pit contained fragments of two royal sculptures. “One can be identified as the base of a statue of the kneeling king Seti II (1200-1194 BCE) made of brown quartzite. The second sculpture is made of red granite. It represents either the goddess Isis or Hathor or a queen of Ramses II,” Rau said.
More excavation work will now continue.
Meanwhile, in Damietta an Egyptian mission unearthed a collection of seven gold Byzantine coins along with ushabti figurines engraved with the cartouche of the 26th Dynasty king Psamtik II.
Nadia Khedre, the head of the mission, explained that the coins were engraved with the name of Konstantinoupolis, the Byzantine name for Constantinople, the city where the coins were fabricated. She said the coins bore the name of the Byzantine emperors Focas, Heraclius Augustus and Constantine II.
The mission also uncovered a collection of human remains mixed with amulets and scarabs depicting the ancient Egyptian udjat eye, the djed sign and the Isis knot.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 19 December, 2019 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly.