It’s the holidays, and there’s a good chance that Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark is playing on TV, with Dr Jones digging for the Ark of the Covenant in the sands of Egypt.
Oddly enough, this movie is surprisingly relevant to the world of science – the University of Birmingham has announced its own stunning archaeological discovery beneath the very same desert landscape. It is, however, unlikely to contain face-melting demons.
Researchers are reporting that they’ve found “compelling evidence” of a new tomb at Qubbet el-Hawa. In a statement released on Facebook, the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities report that a 2-meter-high (6.6 feet) wall within the West Aswan cemetery hints that a pharaoh or two may be hidden under the sand.
The site is already famous for its rock-cut tombs for the ancient elite of the Old Kingdom, whose rulers and settlements date back to the third millennium BCE – and whose innovations represented an early peak in the civilizations of the lower Nile Valley.
This mysterious new wall is thought to have been an architectural support for varying tombs, including those above and below a terrace. This suggests that new tombs lie in wait, to be discovered.
Whether they contain the remains of the upper echelons of Ancient Egyptian society, or in fact one of the long-lost monarchs themselves, is not clear at this point.
“The findings are dramatically altering our understanding of the funerary landscape in this area during the Old Kingdom and First Intermediate Period in 2278-2184 BCE,” Carl Graves, a PhD student working on the excavation, said in a statement. “I don’t think anyone yet knows who the tombs might have belonged to.”
The stone wall was dated by shards of pottery embedded within the mortar used to construct it. The pottery itself appears to have been forged in the style typical of the reign of King Pepi II, a ruler of the Sixth Dynasty.
It’s been a good few months for archaeology in Egypt. Just this November, the Ministry announced that a 7,000-year-old city had been located along the River Nile. Although the evidence is still being gathered, it appears that it was part of the very first capital of one of the earliest Egyptian empires.