Valley of the Golden Mummies
The Discovery of the Valley of Golden Mummies
Bahariya has turned into a world-renowned oasis over the last few decades. Once the Roman necropolis was discovered there, it put Bahariya on the map. This necropolis became known as the Valley of the Golden Mummies because of the gold decorations in it.
In 1999, the news about this discovery was released for the first time. This was actually three years after Ashry Shaker, an antiquities inspector, notified Dr. Zahi Hawass about the discovered mummies. Archaeologists estimate this golden cemetery to be 2,000 years old. The discovery was made accidentally after an antiquities guard on a donkey walked along the side of the road and got caught in a hole. This was 6 kilometers away from the town of Bawiti, close to the Temple of Alexander’s ruins.
Dr. Zahi Hawass directed a team of Egyptian excavators to search the necropolis. They found approximately 108 mummified bodies in four tombs during their initial investigation. Upon the opening of the first tomb, gold could be seen shining as the sunlight hit it for the first time in centuries. Dr. Hawass believes that over 10,000 mummies in total are likely in the cemetery.
The tombs were of Roman families who lived in Bahariya. They had multiple chambers with multiple rows in them. Surprisingly, grave robbers never found the tombs because the burials were found in their original condition. There were mummies inside of painted coffins and gilded coffins. Some of the mummies had jewelry and golden masks on them. Around the mummies were lots of burial items, such as coins, wine jars, amulets, and pottery.
In 2000, another series of excavations took place which discovered seven new tombs as well as 103 new mummies. These mummies were also found with decorative coffins and masks. Stelae were discovered too, and they were shaped like temples. Their decorations contained representations of classic funerary gods like Horus, Osiris, and Anubis.
In 2000, more excavations discovered three additional tombs and 22 mummies. The total number of burials found by this point was 233. Tomb 54 was the most lavish burial because the mummy had on a golden mask which contained a uraeus, which was a royal symbol and looked like a spitting cobra.
The mummies of the necropolis were found in four varying styles. The first style was the mummies found with gilded masks on their faces and gilded deity-inspired decorations on their chest. The second style was cartonnage coffins with funerary scenes painted in bright colors. The third style was mummies inside of anthropoid pottery coffins without any decorations on the outside. The final style consisted of mummies covered with linen wrappings, which was likely from burials of the New Kingdom era.
The tombs are quite unique due to the number of burials in them. Some of the bodies were placed side by side, which were probably families of a man, woman, and their children. The architectural style of each tomb was unique as well. When you look at each mummy, it had different decorations than other mummies. The number of rooms in the tombs were different. Some had more rooms than others.
One tomb that was excavated early on resembled the Graeco-Roman catacombs in Alexandria at Kom El-Shugafa. A second excavated tomb featured a big shaft with walls that had niches cut in them. These were done for the purpose of burials. None of the tombs was decorated either.
All of the mummies that were discovered in Bahariya up until now have told researchers a lot about the way people lived in this area during the age of the Romans. We know more about the ancient mummification methods than ever before. It is also clearer what the Romans were like in Bahariya.
The population of the oasis appeared to have enough money to afford lavish burials. Six mummies were moved out of the necropolis and shown to the rest of the world. All of the other mummies have been kept in the necropolis in order to honor their final resting place.
The next step is for archaeologists to preserve the remains of the mummies and attempt to restore the tombs by giving them new ceilings. They want to continue excavating each year for at least one season. There is no telling how long the excavations will last, whether its ten years or fifty years. There is much to be discovered in the oasis.
If you’re looking for extravagant events in Bahariya, then you’re probably not going to find them. However, you can still enjoy the relaxing hot springs or trek the white desert and see some beautiful scenery. If you’re the adventurous type, then you will love the activities in which Bahariya has to offer.
Visit Valley of The Golden Mummies With Our Local Guide
Updated On May 04, 2020