Reported to contain over a million mummified remains, the sprawling ancient cemetery in the Fagg al-Gamous district of Fayoum Governorate continues to puzzle Egyptologists and historians, and is currently being investigated.
Dating back 2,000 years, this cemetery is reported to include the bodies of commoners, as opposed to the usual mummified bodies of nobles, along with their artifacts and jewellery.
The pyramid near Fagg al-Gamous was built during the rule of Old Kingdom Pharaoh Sneferu (who ruled circa 2613 BC to 2589 BC), although the nearby small town of Philadelphia is said to have been built during the reign of Ptolemy II Philadelphus. These sites are located over 150 kilometers southwest of Cairo.
Citing the estimates of the archaeologists at Fagg al-Gamous, the Live Science portal reports that this mysterious cemetery and its remains date back to the first century AD through the seventh century. Questions abound as to where this large population of deceased individuals originated from, and why they were buried in this particular cemetery.
Ongoing excavations by a team of American archaeologists from the University of Brigham Young (in the State of Utah) indicate that the bodies of more than one million individuals have been buried in a massive plot of land.
Explored and excavated over the last 30 years, the Fagg al-Gamous Cemetery is not a new discovery in and of itself. However, many of the clues left behind amongst the loosely-mummified remains are new.
Live Science, quoting the American team’s chief archaeologist, Kerry Muhlestein, reports that around 1,700 of these bodies have been unearthed from the burial site over the past 30 years — the vast majority of the remains have not yet been excavated, however.
According to Muhlestein’s findings, these excavated bodies are described as “loosely mummified,” as they did not undergo the formal mummification process, which only the wealthy nobility and royalty could afford.
Instead the bodies were buried in the earth without coffins, grave goods, and without the removal of their internal organs. The bodies were mummified by the arid nature of the land.
According to the findings of the archaeologists from Brigham Young University, posted on their Facebook page, “There was some evidence that they tried much of the full mummification process.”
Bodies recently unearthed include that of an 18-month-old baby (believed to be a girl) and estimated to have been buried in this cemetery some 1,500 years ago. The baby’s body was wrapped in a tunic and laid to rest with a necklace around its neck and two bracelets on each arm.
Muhlestein told Live Science, “A lot of their wealth, or the little that they had, was poured into these burials.”
More puzzling are burial plots within the cemetery in which the bodies of redheaded and blond individuals were laid to rest. The archaeologists believe these burial plots may have been designated to certain families, indicating genetic, hereditary and perhaps dietary traits.
Another one of the bodies unearthed belongs to that of a man measuring over seven feet (more than 213 centimeters) in height. According to Muhlestein, this giant’s body “was far too tall to fit into the shaft, so they bent him in half and tossed him in.”
Teams of American and Egyptian archaeologists are currently looking into the many mysteries of the Sneferu-era pyramid, as well as the Fagg al-Gamous Cemetery, in the hope of better identifying its history and that of the bodies buried within in.