Egypt has always been a great place to go looking for archaeological discoveries, but they’ve been happening at a greater pace than ever before within the past two years. That’s not down to any accident. After a difficult few years of strife and conflict in the country, the Egyptian authorities are keen to rebuild the tourism industry that was once so crucial to the country’s economy. They know that the country’s rich history fascinates tourists – especially western tourists – so they’re approving and providing funding for archaeological digs wherever research teams want to make them.
We’ve already seen a few remarkable Egyptian finds in the past year or so, including a burial shaft full of wooden coffins in Saqqara and a site in Abydos that’s purported to be the world’s oldest brewery. They’re exciting finds and offer us new insight into the way that our ancient ancestors conducted themselves thousands of years ago. If you’re one of the many millions of people around the world who enjoy the recent trend for craft beer, you might have the ancient Egyptians to thank! They were all pleasant discoveries for the archaeologists and historians who made them to come across. While they were fascinating, they didn’t contain anything that would stop a seasoned archaeologist in their tracks. Our next find, though, is a little different.
In March 2021, Dr Martina Bardonova was excavating one of many burial chambers that have recently been unearthed in the historic city of Aswan, sat on the banks of the world-famous River Nile. She was specifically hoping to find something connected with Hatshepsut, Egypt’s first female pharaoh. While battling against a sandstorm, Martina and her team made a discovery deep inside one of the tombs. Although the burial chambers appeared to have been looted more than once during times of antiquity, the robbers had missed something. There, hiding in the dark, was a sarcophagus that still contained a mummy. This wasn’t like any mummy that Martina had seen before, though. In fact, despite all of her many years of experience and her lack of superstitious sensibilities, something about the sight of the mummy made her want to run away.
According to the archaeologist, the poor condition of the terracotta coffin gave her a sense of foreboding before she even opened it. By her estimation, the sarcophagus had been hiding in the dark for four thousand years before she and her team disturbed it. The lid was heavy, and inside it, she found what little remained of the mummy it once contained. It seemed to her eyes that the mummy hadn’t been well-bandaged when it was laid to rest, and so it looked like something from a horror movie. Martina has seen many mummies during her time in Egypt, but this is the first one that ever scared her on sight. Very little of the flesh remains. Instead, she found little more than a skeleton in a mysterious black shroud. Further investigation revealed that these are the remains of a woman who was probably a little over seventy years old when she passed away. That would be an astonishing age to reach for someone living four thousand years ago. Some estimates place the average life expectancy of the time as low as 25 and perhaps even lower than that for women because they often passed away during childbirth.
While there are written records of some individuals reaching advanced ages in ancient Egypt, direct physical evidence is rare. There’s also some debate over what would be classed as an advanced age by ancient Egyptian record-keepers. Rather than specifying the age of someone deemed too old to contribute physical labour, record-keepers tended to refer to them simply as “elders.” The little information that we have suggests that they were respected and valued but weren’t afforded any special status. So far, the experts haven’t been able to confirm the identity of the woman in the tomb. Whoever she might be, she’s not Hatshepsut. Her remains were confusingly discovered in the tomb of a woman believed to have been her wet nurse in 2009. The circumstances of the queen’s body ending up in such an unlikely place are mysterious, and the mystery will probably never be solved.
Discoveries like the ones made by Dr Bardonova help us to understand the true nature of Egypt’s past, which can sometimes be sensationalised or made cartoon-like by the way it’s represented in popular media. The “Mummy” action movies of the late 1990s and early 2000s haven’t helped with that. Some blame can probably be apportioned to the popularity of Egyptian-themed online slots, too. The theme is a big hit with players, which is why there are so many Egyptian-themed slots at Rose Slots but relies on stereotypes to get its message across. If you travel to Cairo, you’ll be impressed by its magnificence, but you won’t find it looks anything like the “Caravan to Cairo” slot. Nor does anything in Egypt look quite as Disneyfied as the “Cleo’s Wish” slot or the “Legend of Cleopatra” slot. We’re not suggesting that anyone does look or should look to online slots for a balanced representation of reality, but it’s always good to have a dose of reality to go with all the fiction.
Archaeological digs are scheduled to continue in Egypt for the remainder of 2021 and well into 2022 as experts continue to look for new discoveries. The tombs of a surprising number of former pharaohs have still never been found, and new chambers are still being discovered beneath existing tombs. There’s even been a recent suggestion of a hollow chamber inside the Great Pyramid of Giza, identified using sonar technology. The Egyptian government is currently reluctant to give the go-ahead for the pyramid to be broken into, but that might change if tourism figures continue to stagnate. If you’ve never been to Egypt but you’ve always wanted to see the country and its famous landmarks with your own eyes, this might be the best time to go. Prices are low, and tourism industry professionals will genuinely be very pleased to see you. Who knows – you might even make an incredible discovery of your own while you’re there!