1. One of the rock-cut tombs found at Gebel el Silsila in Upper Egypt.

Family tombs

A dozen rock-cut tombs dating from the reigns of the New Kingdom kings Thutmose III and Amenhotep II, have been discovered at Gebel el Silsila in Upper Egypt by the Swedish excavation mission from Lund University, led by Dr Maria Nilsson and John Ward.

They also uncovered three crypts cut into the rock, two niches that were possibly used for offerings, one tomb containing multiple animal burials, and three individual infant burials, along with other associated material. Nasr Salama, the General Director of Aswan Antiquities, said that the individual tombs excavated in Gebel el Silsila this season have revealed multiple burials within the same chamber or crypt, possibly complete families, individuals of varying ages and genders. In addition, the newly discovered child burials show another aspect of the cemetery, clearly indicating family life at Silsila.

2. The almost complete fossilised crocodile.

Dr Nilsson explained that three different styles of burials have been documented. They include: a crypt (64cm x 32cm x 32cm) cut into the rock; a shallow grave covered with a stone; and one infant wrapped in textile and placed within a wooden coffin. Two of the three children were secreted within the overhangs of the natural sandstone bluffs.

Burial gifts include amulets (one of the protective god Bes), necklaces, ceramics, worked flint and coloured pebbles. Fossilised sheep, goats, two Nile perch and an almost complete crocodile were also found, together with sandstone sarcophagi, sculpture, painted cartonnage and pottery coffins, textile and organic wrapping, as well as an array of jewellery, amulets and scarabs.

Dr Nilsson says that the large amount of human remains in the necropolis shows that individuals were generally healthy. At this time, there is very little evidence of malnutrition or infection. Fractures of the long bones and increased muscle attachments among skeletal remains indicate an extremely labour-intensive environment and occupational hazards. But many of the injuries appear to be in an advanced stage of healing, suggesting effective medical care.

Further work is needed by the team to establish the overall function of Gebel el Silsila during the New Kingdom.
Lindsay Fulcher