Ancient Egyptian Tombs Discovered Dating Back Before the Pyramids

Egyptologists working at the Koum el-Khulgan archaeological site, which is located northeast of Cairo, have discovered 110 tombs, including 73 that predate the time of the pharaohs. The find represents "an important historical and archaeological addition to the site," Mustafa Waziri, the secretary-general of Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities, said.

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In a Facebook post, the Egyptian Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities provided a comprehensive overview of the ancient artifacts the archaeologists had managed to recover from the tombs.

68 were constructed during the Buto 1 and 2 civilizations, which began in 3300 B.C.; five were constructed during the Naqada III civilization, which preceded the unification of Egypt in 3000 B.C.; and the remaining 37 were constructed during the "transition era" known as the Hyksos period, when Western Asian nomads wrested control of the country from the pharaohs between 1650 B.C. and 1500 B.C., according to Al Jazeera.

"This is an extremely interesting cemetery because it combines some of the earliest periods of Egyptian history with another important era, the time of the Hyksos," Salima Ikram, an Egyptologist at the American University in Cairo, told Reuters. "[Scholars] are working to understand how the Egyptians and the Hyksos lived together and to what degree the former took on Egyptian traditions."

Interestingly, the tombs differ in shape and the corpses within are positioned depending on their age. The 68 Buto tombs and the five Naqada tombs, which are oval, contain corpses that are curled in the fetal position and facing sideways, Ayman Ashmawi, the head of the Egyptian antiquities sector at the Supreme Council of Antiquities, said in the Facebook post.

Two of the Naqada tombs were covered in a layer of clay. By comparison, the 37 Hyksos tombs, which are "semi-rectangular" and buried at a depth of between 20 and 85 centimeters, contain corpses that are stretched out on their backs and facing up, Nadia Khader, head of the Central Department of lower Egypt in the Supreme Council of Antiquities, said.

Not all the corpses were adults. Both the Buto and Hyksos tombs contained babies buried in pots—a common internment practice that has been the source of much confusion among archaeologists, according to the Smithsonian.

In addition to human remains, the tombs contained a variety of funerary objects, including a kohl bowl; a sealing stone inscribed with hieroglyphs; the remnants of a building foundation; spherical and cylindrical pots; jewelry such as rings, earrings, and scarab amulets; and kitchenware such as stoves and ovens, according to Egypt Today.

Sayed Al-Talhawi headed the archaeological team that made the discovery.

Ancient Egyptian tombs found by archaeologists
Three ancient Egyptian tombs that were uncovered by archaeological excavations. MOHAMED EL-SHAHED/Getty Images