Unusual-ology: Strange 6,500-year-old Neolithic Burials Discovered in Egypt.

Unusual-ology: Strange 6,500-year-old Neolithic Burials Discovered in Egypt.

A team of archaeologists, led by Jacek Kabaciński from the Polish Academy of Sciences, have discovered the burials of sixty adults in a cemetery in Gebel Ramlah, Egypt.

Egypt Neolithic Burials

The unusual thing about these burials is the discovery of a grave that contained the skeletal remains of two individuals, one of which has deliberate cuts on their femur. These cut marks have not been seen in other Neolithic burials that have been unearthed in North Africa. But this particular grave wasn’t the only odd one they found. Kabaciński’s team found another two unusual graves one which was found to be lined with stone slabs, but it’s the third burial they discovered which is the oddest.

In the third grave, the skeletal remains of a man were found to be covered in pottery fragments, stones and lumps of red dye. Near his head a fragment of a Dorcas gazelle skull was found, which may have been used as a ceremonial headdress. The skeletal remains also showed signs of abnormal bone adhesions and fractures, leading Kabaciński to believe this man may have performed hunting rites.

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Unusual-ology: Wasn’t Curiosity That Killed The Baboon… – Ancient Egyptian Pet Cemetery Found.

A team of archaeologists in Hierakonpolis have unearthed an ancient Egyptian animal cemetery, which has uncovered the remains of numerous exotic animals. The skeletal remains of numerous baboons, hippos, and other animals, have depicted a dark past for these companions of the ancient Egyptian elite.

The skeletal remains of the pets, thought to have been buried more than five thousand years ago, revealed numerous broken bones and fractures, which points to them having received harsh beatings. At least two of the baboon skeletons that were discovered had parry fractures, a common fracture of the ulna, caused when a victim is trying to shield their heads from damaging bones.

The skeletal remains of the pets, thought to have been buried more than five thousand years ago, revealed numerous broken bones and fractures, which points to them having received harsh beatings.  ©Renee Friedman

The skeletal remains of the pets, thought to have been buried more than five thousand years ago, revealed numerous broken bones and fractures, which points to them having received harsh beatings. ©Renee Friedman

The skeletal remains of a hippo calf showed evidence of a broken leg, which is thought to have been caused from the animal trying to free itself from a tether. This isn’t the only tether related injury that was discovered at the site; an antelope and a cow also showed similar injuries. The excavations at the Hierakonpolis site also revealed the remains of two elephants, two crocodiles, a leopard, and nine other exotic species. It is thought that the burial ground near to the Nile is the only archaeological evidence of such a wide assortment of zoo animals within ancient Egypt.

Wim Van Neer, a zooarchaeologist from the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences, noted that the ancient zookeepers “clearly had difficulty maintaining these animals”. The analysis of the skeletal remains showed that “the practical means of keeping animals in captivity were not so sophisticated as nowadays,” which would account for the numerous injuries sustained by the animals. The animals’ injuries showed signs of healing, which suggests that they were kept in captivity for a further several weeks or longer, rather than being killed immediately after obtaining them.

It is thought that the burial ground near to the Nile is the only archaeological evidence of such a wide assortment of zoo animals within ancient Egypt. ©Renee Friedman

It is thought that the burial ground near to the Nile is the only archaeological evidence of such a wide assortment of zoo animals within ancient Egypt. ©Renee Friedman

It is argued by Richard Redding, an archaeologist of the University of Michigan’s Kelsey Museum, that the animals’ struggle whilst being captured could have led to the injuries. Van Neer agrees that some of the injuries could have been caused by the struggle, but the forty-plus broken hand and feet bones observed on the baboon remains are just “too numerous to be due to capture”. Van Neer also pointed out that an escaping baboon would have been more likely to break the long bones rather than the metatarsals and metacarpals, whilst escaping the capturers. It is also stated that the baboon remains from more recent tombs display fewer signs of harsh treatment, which may be due to the ancient zookeepers developing better animal keeping techniques.

References:

Van Neer, W. 2015. International Journal of Osteoarchaeology, 25:3. Pg 253-374.

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Ancient Egyptian Brewer Tomb Unearthed.

A magnificent painted tomb belonging to an ancient Egyptian brewer has been discovered on the west bank of the Nile.

The painted T-shaped tomb is said to belong to Khonso Im-Heb, who is documented as being the head of granaries and beer-brewing for the worship of the Egyptian goddess, Mut.

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Khono Im-heb, bare-headed, and his wife depicted in two rituals with Egyptian gods: Osiris (top left), and Anubis (top right).

The images that line the walls of the tomb illustrate numerous scenes of daily life, giving us an insight into the activities that occurred 3,000 years ago. The paintings colourfully show Khonso Im-Heb interacting with his wife and children, and their ritual practices for their worship of Mut.

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Khonso Im-Heb and his wife being presented with an offering from their son.

The burial chamber was found in El Khokha, in the Valley of the Kings near the royal tombs. The tomb was unearthed by Japanese archaeologists, led by Jiro Kondo, from the Waseda University in Tokyo in December 2007.

 

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Ancient Egyptian Physician’s Tomb Discovered.

A tomb dating back to 4,400 years ago, which is believed to have belonged to an Ancient Egyptian doctor has been discovered in Abusir, south of Cairo.

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The false door to Shepseskaf-Ankh’s tomb, discovered in Abusir, south of Cairo.

The tomb has been linked to a physician known as Shepseskaf-Ankh, whose name means “Shepseskaf is living”, due to the hieroglyphs which decorated the false door to the tomb. It is thought that Sheoseskaf-Ankh worked as the Head of Physicians of the Upper and Lower Egypt, whose duties included serving the royal household during the fifth dynasty, and has been linked to the king Niuserre, who reigned over Egypt for at least a decade.

The limestone tomb was discovered by a team of Czech archaeologists, led by Miroslav Bárta, from the Czech Institute of Egyptology. Bárta, has expressed how pleased he is concerning the historical details that the tomb contains as well as the high level of architectural preservation.

“Niuserre followed the policy of marrying some of his daughters to his top officials to keep their ambitions at bay. This is exactly the moment when the empire starts to break down due to rising expenses and increasing independence of powerful families,” explained  Bárta.

Abusir is part of the ‘great royal cemetery’ that’s found within a desert, west of the Nile, between Giza and Saqqara. The discovery of Shepseskaf-Ankh marks the third physician’s tomb to be found within this burial site. Other court officials as well as high-level priests were also buried in this site, keeping them close to their kings and rulers they served.

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Unusual-ology: Ten Year Old Boy Finds ‘Egyptian Mummy’ In Grandmothers Attic.

Alexander Kettler, a ten year old boy from Diepholz in northern Germany, had a startling discovery in his grandmother’s attic when he stumbled upon what appears to be an Egyptian mummy in a mysterious wooden chest. The wooden box, which is covered in ancient hieroglyphs, was apparently bought in Africa around during the 1950’s by his late grandfather. But this Egyptian mummy isn’t all he found in the wooden chest. The chest also contained a death mask and a canopic jar, where the organs removed during the mummification process are stored.

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Image of the suspected Egyptian mummy in the hieroglyph covered sarcophagus.

The boy’s father now plans to take the mysterious box to Berlin to get it examined by experts to see whether this is a genuine mummy or a fake. He believes that the sarcophagus and jar are fake but the mummy might prove to be the real deal as it’s not “something you could buy at a shop around the corner”.

If the mummy is sent off for verification it will be subjected to MRI and CT scans, which may come back negative as mummies tend to be so dehydrated that there is a lack of hydrogen atoms – which the scans rely on. The use of carbon dating will be fundamental in identifying whether this is a true Egyptian mummy or a fake.

There are lots of problems occurring in the archaeological world, from fake mummies or mummies being wrongly labelled as something there not. One such example is my Unusual-ology post focusing on the topic of a lecture I had during my undergraduate degree. The lecture explored the past of a decapitated head which had preserved soft tissue, that was on display in a Wiccan and witchcraft museum under the guise of an execution victim, which was later stored in a decorated wooden box in a Church.

References:

BBC. 2013. German boy finds ‘a mummy’ in grandmother’s attic. BBC News. Available here. 

Daily Mail. Mummy there’s a mummy in grandma’s attic! Boy discovers ‘Egyptian body’ inside an old wooden chest. Available here. 

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Unusual-ology: Lettuce, an ancient Egyptian sex symbol?

Unusual-ology is a new post type which focuses on weird new articles/science areas that have cropped up and caught my eye.

Can this key ingredient to salads actually be considered a sex symbol? Well Salima Ikram, an Egyptologist from the American University of Cairo, has claimed that lettuce was viewed as an aphrodisiac by ancient Egyptians, where they also used it as a phallic symbol.

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Min – the Egyptian god of fertility and lover of lettuce.

So how did a distant species of our modern day lettuce become a sexy vegetable? On numerous tomb walls, dating back to 2,000BC, there are images of lettuce which have been connected to the Egyptian god of fertility – Min, who can be found depicted with an erect penis on numerous hieroglyphs. It is thought that lettuce was Min’s favourite food, and this vegetable helped him perform sexual acts without becoming tired. Many ancient Egyptians wouldn’t have utilised lettuce in meals like we commonly do, but often as an aphrodisiac.

References:

Daily Mail. 2013. The land where LETTUCE was a sex symbol: Leafy vegetables were taken as an aphrodisiac in ancient Egypt and considered a delicacy of the god of fertility. Daily Mail Online. Click here for the article!

Ikram, S. 2012. Food, drink, and feasting (Egypt). The Encyclopaedia of Ancient History. Blackwell Publishing. Can be viewed here in .pdf– if you have a Wiley Online account.

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