The doorway of Tomb 14 (all photos courtesy the Gebel el Silsila Project)

Swedish archaeologists have discovered a 3,400-year-old necropolis in Egypt that dates to the New Kingdom and holds dozens of tombs containing remnants of ancient artifacts. The team from Sweden’s Lund University, which has been surveying the area of Gebel el Silsila since 2012, previously found a group of well-preserved rock-cut statues in shrines. The newly discovered necropolis, along the Nile’s west bank, has unfortunately suffered damage from erosion and been looted multiple times — despite the probable presence of a portcullis-like security feature at its entrance — but still yields some significant findings.

Headed by Dr. Maria Nilsson and Associate Director John Ward, the team has so far documented over 40 tombs, including a small shrine. The chambers consist of crypts that workers during the early 18th dynasty cut into the bedrock ground; some are preserved with fragments of their original lids. While intricate carvings on the previously discovered shrines offered detailed information about their owners, these are undecorated, so the identities of those once buried in them remain unknown. The archaeologists believe that some of the tombs were reused throughout the 19th dynasty.


The scarab amulet (click to enlarge)

Surviving bones indicate that the necropolis was a resting ground for men, women, and children of all ages. Detailed, painted mud-plaster fragments as well as scraps of mummy wrappings, beads, and amulets also suggest that a number of the deceased were individuals of high status. Much of the discovered material consists of animal remains and funerary wares, such as storage vessels, beer jugs, and a number of votive vessels. The most significant objects to emerge are a reversible seal ring and a scarab-shaped amulet, both featuring a low-relief carving of the cartouche of Pharaoh Tuthmosis III.

“Importantly, this indicates a more permanent habitation at Gebel el Silsila than previously thought,” the archaeologists said.


The exterior of Tomb 2


The interior of Tomb 14


The entrance to the necropolis would have facilitated a portcullis-type of closure.


A crypt in Tomb 15 partially covered by its lid

Seal ring

The seal ring

crocodile scutes

Crocodile scutes

Claire Voon is a former staff writer for Hyperallergic. Originally from Singapore, she grew up near Washington, D.C. and is now based in Chicago. Her work has also appeared in New York Magazine, VICE,...