Golden Mummies valley yields new riches

Expert says findings offer insights on beliefs

September 11, 2000|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

After a year of further excavations at the Valley of the Golden Mummies, Egyptian archaeologists have opened seven more tombs and found 102 more mummies, including members of elite and middle-class families and a woman with a wooden tablet at her feet that depicts the scene of what appears to be her resurrection.

They also found the tomb of a powerful adviser to one of the late dynasties of pharaohs.

The first discoveries in the ancient cemetery at Bahariya Oasis, 230 miles southwest of Cairo, were announced in the summer last year and hailed as one of the most spectacular archaeological finds in Egypt in several decades. The first four tombs to be explored yielded 105 mummies, many of which were decorated with gilded masks and elaborately painted scenes.

Zahi Hawass is director of excavations at the ancient cemetery, estimated to hold several hundred tombs and as many as 10,000 mummies. He has given detailed descriptions and interpretations of the first finds in his new book, "Valley of the Golden Mummies," being published next month by Harry N. Abrams Inc. Hawass, a visiting professor at the University of California at Los Angeles, said last month that the newer findings, made since the book went to press, are possibly more important and fascinating than those first ones.

"We have found many more styles of tombs, more types of mummies and interesting inscriptions and art dealing with mummification and the blessings of gods," Hawass said. "This has advanced our knowledge of ancient beliefs in the afterlife."

Most of the burials found in the cemetery are from the period of Roman rule in Egypt.

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