Catacombs Full Of Mummies Uncovered In Massive Egyptian Necropolis


Robin Andrews

Science & Policy Writer

A mummy from another site. The excavations at the new catacomb in Tuna el-Gebel have just begun in earnest. Andrea Izzotti/Shutterstock

Archaeology in Egypt is going through a spectacular renaissance right now, with lost cities, pharaonic tombs, and secret burial chambers being unearthed like they’re going out of fashion. Now, a team of researchers exploring the corridors of an ancient cemetery in Tuna el-Gebel have stumbled across a catacomb filled with mummies.

With echoes of Indiana Jones, the death bunker can only be accessed via a very narrow shaft that leads intrepid explorers underground. The path splits at a certain point, revealing plenty of passageways containing plenty of mummified corpses. Chambers contain slender pieces of pottery, lamps, coins, and extremely vibrant coffins.


This discovery has just been made, however, and excavations on this new section are barely underway – so information is a little sparse right about now. The historical significance of Tuna el-Gebel has been known for at least 80 years, however, when it was initially found.

The site is the necropolis of Hermopolis, a major city and provincial capital since the Old Kingdom period, which dates back to the third millennium BCE. Its original name means “eight-town”, which is named after the Ogdoad, a group of eight deities that were present prior to the creation of the world.

The topography of the city is unusual, in that the necropolis was segregated from its inhabitants by a river. Archaeologists have previously suggested that the dead were shipped to their final resting places via boats across the river, rather than in coffins over land.

Plenty of high-profile figures have been found in the tombs, including a 4th-century high priest named Petosiris. This curious collector of animals appears to have taken his fondness for falcons, baboons, and irises to the grave, as plenty of mummified remains of them can be found nearby.


A wealthy young woman named Isadora is also buried here in a prominent tomb. This particular lady died while crossing the Nile as she sailed over to visit her lover, and her distraught father mummified her and buried her in Tuna el-Gebel. Her tomb is engraved with 10 melancholy lines of Greek elegiac couplets, a form of poetry.

[H/T: LiveScience]


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