Archaeologists are reporting that they have found an ancient “Roman” cemetery with about a million mummies.
Certainly, the scientists from Brigham Young University have got their holidays mixed-up a bit; an announcement like this surely would have more impact around Halloween than Christmas. Regardless, the cemetery called Fag el-Gamous, which means “Way of the Water Buffalo,” is a massive burial cite dating to the time of the Roman or Byzantine Empire’s control over Egypt. That control latest from 1st century to the 7th century A.D.
“We are fairly certain we have over a million burials within this cemetery. It’s large, and it’s dense,” said Project Director Kerry Muhlestein, an associate professor in the Department of Ancient Scripture at Brigham Young University. For many mummies conjure up images of epic Brendan Frasier battles in film or the riches discovered in the tomb of King Tut, but this find suggests that this site was the final resting place for “regular” folks.
Million mummy necropolis: Natural mummification
The arid environment in the Fag el-Gamous cemetery presented a natural mummification environment so traditional mummification techniques like the removal of organs were not used. “I don’t think you would term what happens to these burials as true mummification,” Muhlestein said. “If we want to use the term loosely, then they were mummified.”
That said, speaking of a mummified child they unearthed, the researchers wrote on the project’s Facebook page that they tried their best. “There was some evidence that they tried much of the full mummification process. The toes and toenails and brain and tongue were amazingly preserved. The jewelry makes us think it was a girl, but we cannot tell.”
“She was buried with great care, as someone who obviously loved her very much did all they could to take care of this little girl in burial,” the researchers wrote. It’s “very sad, but they succeeded. It was a beautiful burial.”
Million mummy necropolis: Why bury them here?
The announcement was made last month by Muhlestein in Toronto when he presented his paper at the Society for the Study of Egyptian Antiquities Scholars Colloquium.
While the researchers were able to explain a lot about the site, it’s unclear why there are a so many buried here. There is only a small village around the site and the ancient town of Philadelphia, no typo, which was nearby has its own burial sites.
“It’s hard to know where all these people were coming from,” said Muhlestein in an interview with Live Science.