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Petros Giannakouris/AP

Mummies Discovered at Egypt’s Lahun Pyramid Shed New Light on Egyptian History

April 28, 2009 07:00 AM
by Liz Colville
Egyptian archaeologists unearthed wooden sarcophagi decorated with images of gods. The findings could be from an era thousands of years before the 12th dynasty.

Excavation at Little-Known Pyramid

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The mummies, found at the mud-brick pyramid at an oasis called Fayoum, are believed to be about 4,000 years old and are well preserved. The tombs containing the sarcophagi and mummies were carved into rock and are the “first to be found” at the site, according to Reuters.

View pictures of some of the elaborately painted sarcophagi at National Geographic’s site.
The discovery helps “shed light on the traditional funeral customs and architecture of the time,” Doctor Abdel-Rahman el-Ayedi, head of the excavation site and the supervisor for Middle Egypt antiquities, told the U.K.’s Channel 4 News.

Other objects were found with the mummies, including “pottery, amulets and statues.” Egyptologists believe that Senusret II, the fourth king of Egypt’s 12th dynasty, established the site. But el-Ayedi suggested to reporters that this theory could soon be refuted by one of this weekend’s discoveries. “I think we are going to change this theory, and soon we will announce another discovery,” he said.

The teams “had made a discovery dating to before the 12th dynasty,” Reuters added, “but gave no details on what it was and said an official announcement could be made within days.”

Background: King Senusret II and Lahun

The reign of Senusret II took place during Egypt’s Middle Kingdom period of 1975-1640 B.C., which was considered its “[c]lassical period of art and literature,” according to the BBC. View the BBC’s timeline for a synopsis of the various periods in ancient Egyptian history and their significance.

Lahun is a so-called “pyramid town” associated specifically with the reign of Senusret II. According to the online guide to Egypt, Tour Egypt, Lahun has “provided considerable information to archaeologists and Egyptologists on the common lives of Egyptians. Pyramid towns were communities of workmen, craftsmen and administrators that grew up around a king's pyramid project."

Recent Developments: 30 mummies discovered in Egyptian tomb

In February, a team of Egyptian archaeologists uncovered 30 mummies in a 2,600-year-old tomb in the necropolis of Saqqara, one of the most fertile grounds for the discovery of mummies. Most of the findings date back to 640 B.C.E., though one limestone sarcophagus is thought to date back 4,300 years. Saqqara has yielded many discoveries over the past 150 years, though tomb robbers have raided many tombs.

Related Topic: Searching for Cleopatra's tomb

Egyptian archaeologists have lately been looking for the tomb of Cleopatra. Zahi Hawass, director of Egypt’s Superior Council for Antiquities, told reporters that “there was evidence to suggest that Cleopatra and Mark Antony were buried together in the complex tunnel system underlying the Tabusiris Magna temple, 17 miles from the city of Alexandria,” The Times of London reported.

The mummies of nobles from the same time period have been discovered at the site. This gives the archaeologist teams, who hail from the Dominican Republic and Egypt, hope of finding the pair, who were buried together, according to “the writing of Roman chroniclers.”

Reference: Mummification

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