Mummy Maze uncovered at Saqqara

Brian G Turner

Fantasist & Futurist
Staff member
Nov 23, 2002
Archaeologists have discovered an underground maze in Egypt crammed with more than 50 mummies.

The buried network was unearthed in Saqqara, 25 kilometres south of Cairo, by a team of Egyptian and French researchers. They hope studying the contents and layout of the site will reveal new information about the culture of the first millennium BC.

"It's a maze of corridors with mummies everywhere, right and left, up and down. When people came, there was no more space so they put the coffins in the wall, or they cut another shaft, or they put a mummy above a mummy," said Zahi Hawass, head of Egypt's Supreme Antiquities Council, speaking to Reuters.

The team believes the site was used from about 660 BC to 30 BC, a span that began with an Egyptian cultural renaissance and lasted until the end of the Ptolemaic period, when a succession of 15 Greeks ruled Egypt following Alexander the Great's conquest in 332 BC.

The mummies are wrapped in linen and encased in wooden or stone coffins - and some are exquisitely preserved. "I have never seen ... a mummy from the Ptolemaic period that is so unique, that is well preserved. The linen is covering it in a beautiful way," said Hawass.



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Ewwwww...... yukky yuk. Sorry, but I hate mummies. Hmm, they seem to have really liked that particular tomb... sadly I suppose we can't take it for evidence of human sacrifice, due to the time period...
Actually, I've always loved mummies. When I was 7 years old, my family visited Montezuma Castle National Monument in Arizona (which has nothing do do, of course, with either Montezuma or castles, but is arranged around a cliff dwelling high up a quite tall cliff). They had the mummy of a baby on display in the museum there (quite politically incorrect now, of course, but that was in the spring of 1964, when things were very different). I was intrigued by that - it was all wrapped up, but there was a bit of red hair sticking out of the wrappings, which made it all that much more of an individual to me. From then on, I read all I could find on archaeology.

And then, a year or two later, on my first visit to the Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History, I saw an Egyptian mummy on display, which just deepened my interest in archaeology, and in mummies. (It was on that same visit that I became enraptured with the coelacanth when I saw the preserved speciment of that fish on display there.)

But I think in actuality, my interest in mummies probably really started when I was five years old and saw the film "The Mummy" (the original, with Boris Karloff) on television for the first time. My cousins tried to make me leave the room because they thought I was too young and would be frightened by the film. I refused to leave, and to this day that is one of my favorite films of all time.

So, of course, this new find is fascinating to me.
Human sacrifice in the Ptolemaic period?? I would certainly be surprised. What I love, though, is that it's at Saqqara - I'm always hoping for more discoveries relating to the step period there. :)
I need a few case studies for human sacrifice, but so far I've only got Ur and Copan. Ur is pretty good though. Have you ever seen the stuff from there at the BM?

I used to be obsessed with mummies, but I saw a programme about witches which had tollund man on when I was younger and it really scared me.
Esioul said:
I need a few case studies for human sacrifice, but so far I've only got Ur and Copan. Ur is pretty good though. Have you ever seen the stuff from there at the BM?
What about the Aztecs? I know that Copan was also in central America, but weren't those who lived at Copan Maya? The Aztecs did human sacrifice on a huge scale, if the literature is to be believed. Certainly, there is some archaeolgoical evidence of their practices, I would think. I don't think the written evidence, via their Spanish conquerors, is terribly accurate - one would think that they probably exaggerated the practice for political and religious reasons. But still, I don't think there is any question that the Aztecs did engage in human sacrifice.

If you are interested in looking at the Aztecs, you might look under that name in indexes, and also under "Tenochtitlan", which was their capital city (now Mexico City). You also might find some useful information in literature about work at the city of Teotihuacan, which was a quite large city, also in Mexico, that is pre-Aztec. If I recall my Ancient Mexico course correctly, they people who lived at Teotihuacan also practiced human sacrifice (and indeed, it is believed by some scholars that that is where the Aztecs got the idea to practice human sacrifice from).
Further in the article, Nigel Strudwick of the British Museum points out that this sort of mass burial may have been a common thing , perhaps a common burial area for a particular guild - but something we have not observed before because of centuries of grave robbers obscuring the traces. Certainly, this is a unique find and it will be intersting to see what conclusions detailed research brings up.

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