Ancient Egypt: Archaeologists Discover Child Graves Containing Jewelry and Amulets in Temple Quarry

Archaeologists in Upper Egypt discovered four intact children’s graves at a quarry that once provided stone for the temples and tombs of the 15th century B.C. The youngest of the children was 2 or 3 years old at the time of death, according to Live Science.

The child graves aren’t the first to be discovered at the quarry, which is known as Gebel el-Silsila. Over the last couple of years, researchers have recorded 69 tombs at the site, most of which had been long since looted, as Live Science reported. The four new children’s graves, however, stand apart because they’re intact.

"The team is excited about continuing the osteological analysis of the remains, which will hopefully provide us with more specific details regarding nutrition and the general health and well-being of the children," lead archaeologists Maria Nilsson and John Ward of Lund University in Sweden told Live Science over email.

Gebel el-Silsila was in use during the Thutmosid period, according to Live Science, which began around 1493 B.C. with the reign of Thutmose II and lasted through the reign of his grandson Amenhotep II around 1401 B.C. (The mummy of Thutmose II is covered in mysterious and rather icky-sounding cysts, and according to Archaeology News Network is the only body of an 18th dynasty pharaoh to be so afflicted.)

Swedish and British archaeologists last year discovered the quarry's massive necropolis, or lavish cemetery, dating to the 18th dynasty, according to Haaretz. That’s where the new researchers discovered more graves earlier this year, including the three more cared-for of the children; the fourth was found in a different part of the quarry, according to Live Science. Nilsson told the BBC that more than half the graves there have yet to be excavated.

childgrave1 The remains of the first of four children found at Gebel el-Silsila. The Gebel el-Silsila Project 2017

The child in the first of the four graves likely died somewhere between the ages of 6 and 9. The rotted remains of the coffin contained various forms of tableware including beer jars and wine vessels, according to Live Science. The child’s skeleton, meanwhile, featured bronze bracelets, ornate scarabs, a bronze razor and an amulet to symbolize happiness and luck. The second tomb was carved into rock, according to the BBC. It held the remains of the youngest child, wrapped in linen and likely no more than 3 years old, according to Live Science. Nothing was found buried with the body. The third contained the remains of a child aged approximately 5 to 8, along with three scarab amulets.

The fourth grave also contained the remains of a child aged 5 to 8, but, according to Live Science, the researchers said the burial didn’t show the signs of care that marked the others, and that the body showed more signs of injury. It’s conceivable that the first three were wealthier.

Join the Discussion