Ancient Egyptian Tomb With Dozens of Human Remains, Child Mummies and 'Soul of the Deceased' Statuette Discovered

Tomb stairs, Ancient Egypt
Stone steps lead to an ancient rock-cut tomb in the west bank, in Aswan, Egypt. Archaeologists discovered dozens of mummies at a site in southeast Egypt. Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities

Archaeologists discovered an ancient tomb containing dozens of mummies at a site in southeast Egypt. Cut into rock and hidden behind a stone wall, the tomb contained the bodies of both adults and children stored across multiple burial chambers.

As well as human remains, Egyptian and Italian researchers found artifacts including vases, coffin fragments, intricately decorated masks, cartonnages and a statuette, Egypt's Ministry of Antiquities reported Tuesday.

The main room of the tomb contained about 30 mummies, including the remains of several young children tucked into a recess on one side of the chamber.

Archaeologists also found tools of the funerary trade in the room, including a mummy-transporting stretcher made from palm wood and pieces of linen, several jars of bitumen, a lamp and a painted statuette of the Ba-bird: a part-bird, part-human figurine depicting the "soul of the deceased," the Egyptian ministry explained.

The room was also home to several painted and unpainted cartonnages and partial funerary masks. Similar to papier-mâché, ancient Egyptians made funerary masks and cartonnages from layers of papyrus and plaster. They painted these decorative items with bold, colorful designs.

Artifact, Ancient Egypt
A painted fragment of cartonnage discovered at the west bank, in Aswan, Egypt. Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities

The researchers found more mummies elsewhere in the tomb, two of whom were concealed in a painted cartonnage. Archaeologists think these could be the bodies of a mother and a child. The team also found four other mummies in a structure containing several jars still holding food.

Ancient Egypt, Mummies
Two ancient Egyptian mummies were discovered in a tomb near the Mausoleum of Aga Khan, in the west bank, in Aswan, Egypt. Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities

Fragments of painted wood from coffins indicated the tomb belonged to someone called Tjit, who lived around the end of the time of the Pharaohs and the start of the Graeco-Roman period (332 B.C.E-395 C.E.). Painted wooden coffin fragments revealed the name of the owner and honored certain gods, Egypt's Ministry of Antiquities reported.

The tomb is located near the Mausoleum of Aga Khan in Aswan's west bank, an area that is home to dozens of gravesites. The Egyptian-Italian archaeological mission has mapped about 300 tombs, 25 of which have been excavated over the last four years, lead archaeologist Patrizia Piacentini said in a statement.

Statuette, Ancient Egypt
An ancient statuette found in a tomb near the Mausoleum of Aga Khan, in Aswan’s west bank, in Egypt. Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities

Egypt has been keen to share news of recent archaeological discoveries in an effort to entice visitors back to the country in the wake of the Egyptian Revolution of 2011 and subsequent political unrest.

Recent announcements have included the discovery of a palace dedicated to Ramesses the Great, several intricately-decorated sarcophagi and a massive haul of about 800 tombs at a large grave site to the south of Cairo.