CLOSE
CFEETK-CNRS-MoA: J. Maucor / Antiquity 2017
CFEETK-CNRS-MoA: J. Maucor / Antiquity 2017

Egyptian Priests Buried These Sacred Statues of Gods More Than 2000 Years Ago

CFEETK-CNRS-MoA: J. Maucor / Antiquity 2017
CFEETK-CNRS-MoA: J. Maucor / Antiquity 2017

An Egyptian statue "grave" filled with figurines of deities and mythical creatures ranging from sphinxes to monkeys is providing archaeologists with new insights into ancient religious practices, according to the International Business Times. These findings were recently published online in the journal Antiquity.

Archaeologists in Luxor discovered the cache in 2014, while excavating a temple dedicated to Egyptian creator god Ptah. Ptah's temple is situated in the precinct of Amun-Re, a central section of the massive religious complex of Karnak that was devoted to the male god, who was associated with the ancient city of Thebes, as Luxor was known in antiquity. Other sections of the sprawling site celebrate Amun-Re's wife, the Egyptian mother goddess Mut, and the war-god Montu.

Behind an edifice of Thutmosis III—the 18th-dynasty pharaoh who's remembered for conquering all of Syria, giving ancient Egypt unprecedented global power—archaeologists discovered an oval pit about three feet deep and wide.

A total of 38 objects—statuettes, figurines, statue fragments—were found inside the pit, which researchers refer to as a favissa, defined by Antiquity as "an intentionally hoarded assemblage of religious objects in a pit." Most were broken, but some had well-preserved details. The sacred objects were crafted at different times, but were all buried during the second half of the Ptolemaic period, which spanned between the 2nd century BCE and the middle of the 1st century BCE.

Along with a large lower piece taken from a seated statue of Ptah—an artwork that had likely sat in the god's Karnak temple for years—the trove included one sphinx; two statuettes of Mut (one complete with hieroglyphic inscriptions); a head and a partial statuette featuring the cat goddess Bastet; 14 statues and figurines of Osiris, the god of rebirth; and three baboon statuettes, which represent Thoth, a deity of the Moon, learning, and writing. (Thoth's sacred animals were the ibis and the baboon.)

Statue bases, slabs, and inlay fragments were also found, the last of which included body parts like an iris, a cornea, and a false beard.


Main artifacts discovered: top left: male head; top right: lower part of the limestone statue of the god Ptah; bottom left: limestone sphinx; bottom right: small statue of Osiris.
(© CFEETK-CNRS-MoA: J. Maucor

Egyptian religious statues were considered to be alive, and were regularly washed, clothed, and fed by priests. The artifacts discovered in the pit may have had a shelf life as ritual objects, and were ceremonially buried after they were no longer useful, researchers say.

"We can consider that when a new statue was erected in the temple, this one [of Ptah] was set aside in a pit," said Christophe Thiers, the study's co-author and director of the French-Egyptian Centre for the Study of the Temples of Karnak, according to Live Science. "The other artifacts were also previously damaged during their 'lifetime' in the temple, and then they were buried with the Ptah statue" to symbolically protect it.

The priests likely lowered the fragment of Ptah statue's down into the pit first, before placing down a wooden effigy of Osiris and surrounding it with other objects. The pit was covered with a layer of backfill, and topped with a small limestone sphinx. It then received a second layer of earth, and was topped with a gilded protective statue of a male head—only for researchers to dig up the elaborate arrangement more than 2000 years later.

[h/t International Business Times]

nextArticle.image_alt|e
arrow
Stones, Bones, and Wrecks
3500-Year-Old Mummy Discovered in Forgotten Egyptian Tomb

As the site of the ancient city of Thebes, the modern-day Egyptian city of Luxor is filled with archaeological treasures. But until recently, two forgotten tombs—both located in the necropolis of Dra' Abu el-Naga, an important non-royal cemetery—hadn’t been fully explored. Now, National Geographic reports that experts have finally excavated these burial sites and discovered a 3500-year-old mummy, along with ornate funerary goods and colorful murals.

While excavating one of the two tombs, known as Kampp 150, experts found linen-wrapped remains that Egypt's Ministry of Antiquities believes belong to either "a person named Djehuty Mes, whose name was engraved on one of the walls ... [or] the scribe Maati, as his name and the name of his wife Mehi were inscribed on 50 funerary cones found in the tomb's rectangular chamber."

In addition to the mummy, archaeologists discovered wooden statues, masks, earthen pots, a cache of some 450 statuettes, and around 100 funerary cones—conical mud objects, which were often positioned outside a tomb's center, and could have served as identifying markers or as offerings—inside Kampp 150.

The Associated Press reported that the second tomb, known as Kampp 161, is thought to be approximately 3400 years old—about 100 years newer than its neighboring chamber—as its design is characteristic of other such structures dating back to the reigns of Amenhotep II and Thutmose IV.

Inside Kampp 161, archaeologists discovered wooden funerary masks, a decorated coffin, furniture shards, and the mural of a festival or party depicting the tomb's unknown resident and his wife receiving ceremonial offerings.

German scholar Friederike Kampp-Seyfried surveyed and numbered both tombs in the 1990s, which is how they got their names, but she did not fully excavate nor enter either one.

Officials celebrated the rediscovery of the tombs on Saturday, December 9, when they publicly announced the archaeological finds. They hope that discoveries like these will entice foreign travelers to visit Egypt, as political unrest has harmed the country's tourism industry in recent years.

“It’s truly an exceptional day,” Khaled al-Anani, Egypt's antiquities minister, said in a statement. “The 18th dynasty private tombs were already known. But it’s the first time" anyone's ever entered them.

Check out some pictures of the newly revealed relics below.

Mustafa al-Waziri, director general of Luxor's Antiquities, points at an ancient Egyptian mural found at the newly discovered 'Kampp 161' tomb at Draa Abul Naga necropolis.
Mustafa al-Waziri, director general of Luxor's Antiquities, points at an ancient Egyptian mural found at the newly discovered 'Kampp 161' tomb at Draa Abul Naga necropolis on the west Nile bank of the southern Egyptian city of Luxor, about 400 miles south of the capital Cairo, on December 9, 2017.
STRINGER/AFP/Getty Images

An Egyptian archaeological technician restores artifacts found at the newly discovered 'Kampp 161' tomb at Draa Abul Naga necropolis in Luxor, Egypt.
An Egyptian archaeological technician restores artifacts found at the newly discovered 'Kampp 161' tomb at Draa Abul Naga necropolis on the west Nile bank of the southern Egyptian city of Luxor, about 400 miles south of the capital Cairo, on December 9, 2017.
STRINGER/AFP/Getty Images

An Egyptian laborer stands next to an ancient Egyptian mural found at the newly discovered 'Kampp 161' tomb at Draa Abul Naga necropolis in Luxor, Egypt.
STRINGER/AFP/Getty Images

Ancient Egyptian wooden funerary masks and small statuettes found in and retrieved from the newly discovered 'Kampp 150' tomb at Draa Abul Naga necropolis in Luxor, Egypt.
A picture taken on December 9, 2017 shows ancient Egyptian wooden funerary masks and small statuettes found in and retrieved from the newly discovered 'Kampp 150' tomb at Draa Abul Naga necropolis on the west Nile bank of the southern Egyptian city of Luxor, about 400 miles south of the capital Cairo.
STRINGER/AFP/Getty Images

[h/t National Geographic]

nextArticle.image_alt|e
AFP, Stringer, Getty Images
arrow
Stones, Bones, and Wrecks
The Most Complete Fossil of an Early Human Relative Goes on Display
AFP, Stringer, Getty Images
AFP, Stringer, Getty Images

Twenty years after it was discovered in an African cave, one of the most important fossils in the quest to demystify human evolution is finally on display. As Smithsonian reports, Little Foot, an Australopithecus specimen dating back more than 3 million years, was revealed to the public this month at the Hominin Vault at the University of the Witwatersrand’s Evolutionary Studies Institute in Johannesburg, South Africa.

Paleontologist Ron Clarke discovered the first bone fragments from the fossil in 1994. The pieces came from the remains of a young female’s feet, hence the nickname. Clarke and his team spent years excavating Little Foot bit by bit from the Sterkfontein cave system in South Africa until the bones were fully removed in 2012. The shattered remains had been embedded in a concrete-like material called breccia, making them incredibly tricky to recover. But the sum of the parts is monumental: Little Foot is the most complete Austrolopithecus fossil known to science.

The hominid genus Austrolopithecus played an essential early role in the chain of human evolution. Lucy, another famous hominid fossil, is a member of the same genus, but while Lucy is only 40 percent complete, Little Foot retains 90 percent of her skeleton, including her head. It’s also possible that Little Foot surpasses Lucy in age. Most paleontologists agree that Lucy lived about 3.2 million years ago, while one analysis places Little Foot’s age at 3.67 million years.

Austrolopithecus is believed to have spawned Homo, the genus that would eventually contain our species. The discovery of Lucy and other fossils have led scientists to designate East Africa as the cradle of human evolution, but if Little Foot is really as old as tests suggest, then South Africa may deserve a more prominent point in the timeline.

Following Little Foot’s public debut, the team that’s been studying her plans to release a number of papers exploring the many questions her discovery raises.

[h/t Smithsonian]

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER