Archaeology Magazine Archive

A publication of the Archaeological Institute of America

Special Introductory Offer!

Archaeologists excavating ahead of the construction of a youth center in Egypt's Bahariya oasis have found 14 tombs likely dating from the era of Roman rule in Egypt (30 B.C. to A.D. 395). Some 200 miles southwest of Cario, the area—also known as the "Valley of the Golden Mummies"—is best known as the site of the 1996 discovery of 2,000-year-old gilded sarcophagi.

One of the oasis's newly discovered tombs held a mummy coffin with a startling woman's portrait, right. Covered in plaster that was once painted bright red, the figure depicted on the three-foot-long coffin wears a fancy dress, headscarf, bracelet, and necklace. But the most striking feature is her eyes, made of inlaid blue stones. Excavation director Mahmoud Afifi has not yet been able to date the tomb precisely and the coffin remains unopened.

Other tombs at the site contained a sheet of gold embossed with images of the falcon god Horus's four sons—whom the Egyptians believed protected the organs of the deceased—coins, clay and glass vessels, and a plaster mask, left, which probably decorated a mummy's face. Afifi believes the tombs indicate the existence of a large necropolis in the area, which will continue to be excavated by Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities.