Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The Golden Mummies

The story goes that in 1996, a donkey was walking with its owner near the Bahariya Oasis when the donkey's foot fell into a hole.  That hole lead to the discovery of hundreds of golden mummies.  Excavation revealed about 250 mummies and about 34 tombs in what turned out to be a massive burial site.

The archeologist who unearthed this site estimates there could be as many as 10,000 mummies in this area in total.  Many of the mummies were brought to the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, some were kept in the ground where they were found and some were brought to a museum in the Bahariya Oasis.  We went to that museum after getting back from the Black Desert.
The museum was a bizarre and interesting experience.  We were able to find it because the guide for our White Desert safari had pointed it out to us.  When we got to the museum, we discovered it was under construction. (see photos below).   

When you walk into the museum, the interior of the building is also under construction.  There were a few men in the building, but it was vacant of tourists.  
One of the men in the museum motioned for us to follow him to a room down a dusty concrete hallway.  I asked, "Mummies?", since this didn't look like museums I've been to.  The man nodded  and took us to a room that was chained shut.  He unlocked the chain to let us in.  This is what we saw.
The mummy room.

These mummies were buried more than 2,000 years ago.  Sometimes whole families were found together.  In one corner, a wife mummy's face was turned facing her husband with a look of affection. 

The reason bodies were buried as mummies was because it was believed that those who died would need their bodies for a life after death.  People were sometimes buried with things they would need in that afterlife:  their best jewelry and personal items.  Even pets such as beloved cats were mummified sometimes.  Here's a photo of a cat mummy I found online:

Here are more photos I took at the Mummy Museum.
Child mummy.

Here's a link telling more about this area that has come to be known as the Valley of the Golden Mummies.   I found it really interesting to scroll down toward the end of the link to see photos of where exactly the mummies were found and how they looked in their natural habitat.

It's pretty amazing how enormous archeological finds are still surfacing in our time.  I found this article printed this last October discussing the discovery of an entire hidden city further south in the Western Desert where the Golden Mummies were found.

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