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Archeologists Discover Ancient Burial Site of Infants, Scorpions and Crocodiles

Archeologists Discover Ancient Burial Site of Infants, Scorpions and Crocodiles



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A group of archaeologists excavating an ancient site in Egypt have uncovered tombs and crypts – dating to the reigns of Pharaohs Thutmose III and Amenhotep II – containing intact remains of infants, goats, cats and scorpions, as well as a mysterious crocodile skeleton.

The Secrets of the Tomb Were “Hiding” for Nearly 3,400 Years

A team of archaeologists from Lund University, Sweden – one of northern Europe's oldest, largest and most prestigious universities – made the discovery in Gebel el Silsila, a site 65km (40 miles) north of Aswan, Egypt. The excavation site was in a quarry where the same group of researchers also uncovered ancient sandstone sculptures in 2015. The graves are carved into rock faces, and each contain one or two burial chambers. It is believed the people buried at the site were members of the upper middle-class, rather than pharaohs, "So far we have excavated 26 rock-cut tombs dating back to 3,400 years ago. From these burials we have recovered more than 80 individuals of varying ages and sex," Lund University archaeologist Maria Nilsson, director of the Gebel el Silsila Survey Project, told Seeker . The findings include three crypts also cut into the rock, two niches possibly used for offerings and one tomb containing the intact remains of three infants, sheep, goats and a cat. Interestingly, all thee infants appear to be buried in different styles: One was resting in a crypt cut into the rock; the second in a shallow grave covered with stone, while the third infant was wrapped in textile and placed within a wooden coffin with a necklace of beads and an amulet of the god Bes, protector of children.

Some of the skeletal remains found in the recent excavation. Credit: Ministry of Antiquities

Mysterious Crocodile Skeleton Found in the Middle of a Courtyard

Furthermore, the team found a crypt with a dozen sheep and goats, and a couple of Nile perch. Nilsson suggests that the fish remains could have been possibly brought in with a Nile inundation, but she can’t be sure about all the sheep and goat remains found within the crypt, "One possibility is that sheep and goats were used in sacrificial offerings in the necropolis," she speculates. Even more mystery surrounds the skeleton of an almost complete adult crocodile which was discovered resting on the floor in the courtyard immediately outside the crypt. "Its tail was orientated towards the south while its head, which was missing, would have been in the north," associate dig director John Ward said. Additionally, Nilsson and Ward found another crocodile a little further north laying in a similar position, even though in this case the tail was pointing north and the head, again missing, lay toward the south. "We cannot verify that these crocs were deliberately placed within the necropolis, or whether they died of natural causes. But to find two in similar circumstances is worthy of further research and analysis," Ward told Seeker .

Photo showing the entrance to one of the tombs. Credit: Ministry of Antiquities

Findings Offer a lot of New Information

It is now hoped the newly-discovered burial sites will assist historians to understand better ancient Egyptian healthcare and give a boost to Egypt's struggling tourism industry, which has been beset by political upheaval and militant attacks since the unseating of autocrat Hosni Mubarak in 2011. Lund University wrote in a press release , “The new finds add exciting new components to the necropolis, changing yet again the perceived function and apparent appearance to the site of Gebel el Silsila, and with further fieldwork the team look forward to increasing their understanding of the overall function and role of the area during the New Kingdom.” Further studies are expected to reveal further information about the social rankings of those buried there, and exactly what purpose the uncovered cemeteries served.


    Archeologists discover 'vampire burial' for child at ancient Roman site

    TUCSON, Ariz. — Archeologists from the University of Arizona and Stanford University along with archeologists from Italy have discovered a 10-year-old's body at an ancient Roman site suggesting the child was given a "vampire burial" to prevent the child coming back from the dead.

    The skeletal remains included a skull with a rock intentionally inserted into the mouth. Researchers believe the stone may have been placed there as part of a funeral ritual to contain a disease like malaria.

    "I have never seen anything like it. It's extremely eerie and weird," said David Soren, a Univeristy of Arizona archeologist.

    The discovery was made at La Necropoli dei Bambini, or the Cemetery of the Babies.

    The cemetery dates back to the mid-fifth century when a deadly malaria outbreak swept the area, killing many young children and babies.

    Until now, archeologists believed the cemetery was designed for infants, toddlers and unborn fetuses. In previous excavations, a 3-year-old girl was the oldest child found.

    Now, archeologists are looking into whether the cemetery was used for older children too.

    "There are still sections of the cemetery that haven't been excavated yet, so we don't know if we'll find older kids," said Jordan Wilson, a bioarcheologist with the University of Arizona.

    In previous excavations, archeologists found signs of witchcraft, including toad bones, raven talons and bronze cauldrons.

    "We know that the Romans were very much concerned with this and would even to the extent of employing witchcraft to keep the evil — whatever is contaminating the body — from coming out," Soren said.

    Although the body will undergo DNA testing, the child had an abscessed tooth, which is a side effect of malaria, that suggests the child may have died because of the disease.

    Archeologists believe the rock was intentionally inserted after death because of the position of the jaw.

    These types of burials are called "vampire burials" since they are associated with the belief that the dead could rise again.


    Infants found buried in Ecuador were wearing ‘helmets’ made from other children’s skulls

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    Salango is located on the coast of central Ecuador, and archaeologists recently made an astonishing find there: Two infants who had been buried approximately 2,100 years ago wearing “helmets” made from the skulls of other children.

    “The archaeologists who excavated the burials between 2014 and 2016 recently published the details of their findings in the journal Latin American Antiquity.

    “The team says this is the only known case in which children’s skulls were used as helmets for infants being buried. The scientists don’t know what killed the infants and children.”

    />One of the infant skulls found with a “helmet” made of another child’s skull (Via Sara Jeungst/UNC Charlotte)

    What exactly is the meaning of this bizarre discovery? Why would children be buried wearing the skulls of other children? And what killed these children in the first place?

    The questions were almost endless, but now we’re finally starting to get some answers to help explain what was found in Ecuador.

    The Ecuadorian dead

    Though there’s certainly nothing unusual about unearthing skulls when excavating a burial site, in South America those skulls are usually the remains of adults who died in battle. Children are not usually the victims, Ancient Origins notes:

    “The discovery of children is much less common, which makes these two children extra special.”

    Salango is on the coast of Ecuador and has a history that dates back some 5000 years (Via Wikimedia Commons)
    The helmeted children

    A closer look at the children’s skulls provided more information about the “helmeted” children.

    One of the infants died at 18 months old. The second was 6 to 9 months old at death, and both had the skull helmets:

    “(The older child) was discovered wearing the modified cranium of a 4-12 year old juvenile in a ‘helmet-like’ fashion around its own head. The second infant … was found with a skull helmet made from another infant who had died between 2-12 years old.”

    But what does it mean that the children had these skull helmets attached to them?

    Discovery of the “helmeted” infants has led to endless questions. (Via Sarah Jeungst/UNC Charlotte)

    Protecting ‘wild souls’

    Sara Juengst of the University of North Carolina, Charlotte, along with others on the team that found the skulls in Ecuador, came up with a fascinating theory regarding the skull helmets:

    “Juengst and colleagues suggest these unusual symbolic burials at Salango might have been an attempt to ensure the protection of what the researchers called ‘pre-social and wild’ souls. And the act of burying their children with carved stone ancestor figurines may have been a way of ‘further empowering” their heads, providing protection for the prematurely deceased children.'”

    Guangala ancestor figurine used in Ecuadorian burial rituals (Via Wikimedia Commons)
    Gruesome preparation

    And then there’s the matter of how the skull helmets were attached to the deceased infants, and it’s certainly not for the fainthearted, Live Science notes:

    “The helmets were placed tightly over the infants’ heads, the archaeologists found. It’s likely that the older children’s skulls still had flesh on them when they were turned into helmets, because without flesh, the helmets likely would not have held together, the archaeologists noted.

    “One infant’s ‘face looked through and out of the cranial vault’ — the space in the skull that holds the brain — the archaeologists wrote.”

    Lesions were found on the remains of both of the infants (a and d), suggesting the baby suffered some kind of bodily stress, perhaps from malnutrition. One of the skull helmets can be seen in photos b and c (Via Sarah Jeungst/UNC Charlotte)
    Cause of death

    The question that remains is what exactly killed these young children.

    Prior studies in the area have been able to determine that a volcanic eruption covered the area in ash shortly before the children were buried. And that has led some to suggest that may have had a dramatic impact on the entire region around Solango:

    “‘This eruption may have affected food production, and the newly discovered bones suggest the infants and children suffered from malnutrition,’ the researchers said.

    “It’s possible that ‘the treatment of the two infants was part of a larger, complex ritual response to environmental consequences of the eruption,’ the archaeologists wrote, noting that ‘more evidence is needed to confirm this.'”

    Darker forces?

    However, given the history of ancient South America, a darker explanation for the skull helmets may also be plausible.

    Just two years ago, a burial site in Peru was unearthed that contained the remains of 140 children who had been ritually sacrificed in some sort of bizarre appeasement of deities the Peruvians worshiped:

    “Preliminary DNA analysis indicates that both boys and girls were victims and isotopic analysis indicates that they were not all drawn from local populations but from different regions of the Chimú Empire.”

    The Peruvian burial site where hundreds of children’s bodies were unearthed (Via PLOS.org)
    More research needed

    As with the bodies found the Peruvian mass grave, a great deal more research is needed to fully explain the meaning of the helmeted skulls in Ecuador:

    “Juengst noted that other tests, such as those using DNA and strontium isotopes (variations of an element with different numbers of neutrons), may help to identify the owner of the bones.”

    But all of the research in the world may never completely explain exactly what thought process went into placing skulls atop the heads of deceased children prior to burial. As with many things from the ancient world, some secrets are never revealed.

    For more on the subject of cranial modification in ancient times, watch this video:


    Gebel el Silsila

    "The size and elaborate style of the tombs, including the rich variety of burial goods preserved, indicate that they were of a higher status than 'simple' workers," Nilsson says.

    The tombs may "house" Egyptian officials and foremen who had been involved in quarrying operations at Gebel el Silesia. But many of the dead may rank a lot higher.

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    Other discoveries at Gebel el Silsila include obelisk ships (ships used to transport obelisks) and cenotaphs, which are monuments (or empty tombs) built to commemorate people whose remains lie elsewhere. The First Kingdom's high officials, viziers and architects of the pharaohs were buried in Thebes, but many had commemorating cenotaphs - false tombs - at Gebel el Silsila. Maybe some lie there too.

    "Many seem to believe that Gebel el Silsila was simply a stone quarry, while it in fact contained so much more, including a thriving community,” said Nilsson and added “Again, this shows the importance of the site during this time,”

    The burial goods include beads and amulets, mummy wrappings and fragments of detailed mud plaster, which could be an indication of decorated coffins. Yet again the findings hint that these tombs belonged to people of high social strata.

    Beer jugs and Thutmose III

    The finds at the Gebel el Silsila burial site indicate that the deceased were probably well-to-do locals from the town of Kheny. The finds of storage vessels, beer jugs, and a selection of votive vessels further support this theory.

    Temples to Ramses II and Merenptah cut directly into the rocks at the Silsileh quarrying site. Wikimedia Commons

    Bones of men, women and children of all ages have been identified. Even crocodile scutes were found next to the human remains– though whether they been deposited as grave offerings with the dead, were buried themselves, or if they ended up there with the flooding together is difficult to tell.

    An especially intriguing find was that of reversible seal ring bearing the cartouche of Pharaoh Thutmose III (Men-kheper-re), and a scarab also bearing the pharaohs name.

    Although the stratigraphic contexts at the necropolis have been badly disturbed by the annual flooding of the river Nile, the site can be firmly dated thanks to these two items bearing Thutmose III's name, as well as ceramic materials identified as traditional funerary ware known from the 18-19th dynasties.

    Thutmose III is regarded as one of the greatest pharaohs in the history of Egypt. He is credited with bringing the Egyptian Empire to its zenith. (Some believe he is the pharaoh associated with the Israelites' Exodus). Thutmose III launched several campaigns into Canaan during his reign, and may be most famous for his victory at the battle of Megiddo, where his forces defeated an army of 10,000 Canaanites.

    Shrine to the afterlife

    A small rock-cut shrine on the east bank of Gebel el Silsila, directly by the Temple of Sobek, includes two open chambers facing the river and an inner doorway crowned with a winged solar disc. Based on its position, the shrine may be connected with Egyptian beliefs of the dead being carried into the afterlife.

    “We are currently studying the various aspects of the shrine and how it relates to the burials. Due to the annual flooding of the Nile, the shrine - which opens to the west - has seen considerable damage to its interior and exterior, and its archaeology cannot be firmly dated, since the Nile would have brought in material each year," Nielsson admits.

    his statue of Sobek was found at the mortuary temple of Pharaoh Amenemhat III, who was a true believer in the somewhat benevolent crocodile God. Graeme Churchard, Wikimedia Commons

    The expedition in Gebel el Silsila will continue exploring the necropolis and its relationship with the nearby Temple of Sobek, which is also still being explored. The team will also continue working on what is evidently an administration building dating to the period of Emperor Tiberius, and studying rock art graffiti dated rather later, mainly showing feet, boards game, and animals. Including crocodiles.


    In a Roman villa in Pompeii, a team of archaeologists found remarkable paintings of ancient Egypt. The portraits reveal the enormous influence the Egyptian culture had on Roman society at the beginning.

    Experts speculate that some of the paintings could possibly underscore an early form of Globalization.

    The river Nile paintings were located in a beautiful garden in a luxurious ancient villa in Pompeii. Experts are optimistic that these paintings show several secrets as to how ancient Egypt influenced the early Roman Empire.

    Complex diagrams of the Casa dell’Efebo – one of the city’s largest households before sustained serious damage during the 79 Mount Vesuvius eruption – present a series of Nilotic murals with hippopotamuses, crocodiles, lotuses and short-statured men battling with vicious beasts.

    Caitlin Barrett from the department of Classics at Cornell University claimed that the drawings give the house a cosmopolitan touch and outlines how the Romans were influenced by the ancient Egyptian culture such as religion.

    Representations of sexual activity, music and alcohol consumption are often central to these paintings Egyptian fauna and flora, including crocodiles, hippopotamuses and lotuses are a common theme of the work

    “The paintings from the Casa dell’Efebo were created after Egypt was incorporated into the Roman Empire, but several generations after Augustus’ initial conquest of Egypt. Some researchers have turned to explanations emphasizing religion: maybe paintings of Egyptian landscapes have to do with an interest in Egyptian gods,”

    she told IBTimes of UK . And added, “Others have interpreted these paintings as political statements: maybe this is about celebrating the conquest of Egypt. I suggest that instead of trying to apply a one-size-fits-all explanation, we should look at context and individual choices.”

    It’s no secret that Pompeii was famous for its intense sexual life and wild parties. As a result of this lifestyle, many paintings discovered from that era are extremely graphic, including strong doses of excessive sexual content.

    Let’s not forget that when the city was rediscovered in 1599, the city became buried again (thanks to censorship) for nearly another 150 years before the king of Naples, Charles of Bourbon, ordered the proper excavation of the site during the late 1740s.

    Barrett said: ‘Maybe paintings of Egyptian landscapes have to do with an interest in Egyptian gods’

    As DHWTY reports in a previous Ancient Origins article , despite the erotic nature of these images, it has been suggested that they were merely an idealized version of sex.

    Thus, it has been postulated that the lives of the prostitutes at the most famed bordello in Pompeii, Lupanare, was far grimmer than the erotic images suggest. So, it shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone that the main theme of the recently discovered paintings is sex and alcohol consumption.

    Despite the obvious themes of the paintings, Barrett also argues that they could underscore how the Romans interacted with the outside world thus a form of globalization.

    The study, which was published in the American Journal of Archaeology, appears to share its views with Barrett’s suggestions and also proclaims that artifacts discovered around the garden of the household and the building’s elaborate architecture such as water installations mimic the diverse nature of the Roman Empire.

    Barrett stated as Daily Mail reports , “In this particular assemblage, rather than solely trying to make some kind of statement about Isiac rituals or Roman politics, the owner of this house seems to be asserting a cosmopolitan identity as a citizen of the Empire.

    Archaeologists also say the drawings could be about celebrating the conquest of Egypt

    In Pompeian houses at this time, when people are representing faraway lands in domestic art, they are also trying to figure out what it means to them to be participants in the Roman Empire.”

    The study adds that the paintings of the Nile in the Pompeian villa provided its owners with a unique chance to come in contact with shifting local and imperial Roman identities and to reproduce a microcosm of the world they lived in, “People sometimes imagine phenomena like globalization to be creations of the modern world.

    In fact, if you look at the Roman Empire there are lots of parallels for some of the cross-cultural interactions that are also very much part of our own contemporary world” the researcher of the study concludes at the end.

    Barrett also argue the paintings could underline how the Romans interacted with the outside world, a form of globalization Some of the pictures also show short-statured men fighting with wild beasts Barrett said: ‘I suggest that instead of trying to apply a one-size-fits-all explanation, we should look at context and individual choices’

    Divine favour

    To win favour with their animal-associated divinities, ancient Egyptians would often turn to their mortal counterparts. Mummified birds and beasts have been found by the thousands at archaeological sites across Egypt. Many were considered votive objects and offered by pilgrims at local temples during religious festivals.

    In 2018 archaeologists found dozens of cat mummies and 100 statues of Bastet in a 4,500-year-old tomb in Saqqara. Mummified ibises, the bird associated with Thoth, god of wisdom and writing, were found by the scores at Abydos, the burial ground of Egypt’s earliest rulers. Archaeologists are still finding large numbers of these mummified birds in sites across Egypt.


    Archeologists discover 'vampire burial' for child at ancient Roman site

    TUCSON, Ariz. — Archeologists from the University of Arizona and Stanford University along with archeologists from Italy have discovered a 10-year-old's body at an ancient Roman site suggesting the child was given a "vampire burial" to prevent the child coming back from the dead.

    The skeletal remains included a skull with a rock intentionally inserted into the mouth. Researchers believe the stone may have been placed there as part of a funeral ritual to contain a disease like malaria.

    "I have never seen anything like it. It's extremely eerie and weird," said David Soren, a Univeristy of Arizona archeologist.

    The discovery was made at La Necropoli dei Bambini, or the Cemetery of the Babies.

    The cemetery dates back to the mid-fifth century when a deadly malaria outbreak swept the area, killing many young children and babies.

    Until now, archeologists believed the cemetery was designed for infants, toddlers and unborn fetuses. In previous excavations, a 3-year-old girl was the oldest child found.

    Now, archeologists are looking into whether the cemetery was used for older children too.

    "There are still sections of the cemetery that haven't been excavated yet, so we don't know if we'll find older kids," said Jordan Wilson, a bioarcheologist with the University of Arizona.

    In previous excavations, archeologists found signs of witchcraft, including toad bones, raven talons and bronze cauldrons.

    "We know that the Romans were very much concerned with this and would even to the extent of employing witchcraft to keep the evil — whatever is contaminating the body — from coming out," Soren said.

    Although the body will undergo DNA testing, the child had an abscessed tooth, which is a side effect of malaria, that suggests the child may have died because of the disease.

    Archeologists believe the rock was intentionally inserted after death because of the position of the jaw.

    These types of burials are called "vampire burials" since they are associated with the belief that the dead could rise again.


    Archeologists discover 'vampire burial' for child at ancient Roman site

    TUCSON, Ariz. — Archeologists from the University of Arizona and Stanford University along with archeologists from Italy have discovered a 10-year-old's body at an ancient Roman site suggesting the child was given a "vampire burial" to prevent the child coming back from the dead.

    The skeletal remains included a skull with a rock intentionally inserted into the mouth. Researchers believe the stone may have been placed there as part of a funeral ritual to contain a disease like malaria.

    "I have never seen anything like it. It's extremely eerie and weird," said David Soren, a Univeristy of Arizona archeologist.

    The discovery was made at La Necropoli dei Bambini, or the Cemetery of the Babies.

    The cemetery dates back to the mid-fifth century when a deadly malaria outbreak swept the area, killing many young children and babies.

    Until now, archeologists believed the cemetery was designed for infants, toddlers and unborn fetuses. In previous excavations, a 3-year-old girl was the oldest child found.

    Now, archeologists are looking into whether the cemetery was used for older children too.

    "There are still sections of the cemetery that haven't been excavated yet, so we don't know if we'll find older kids," said Jordan Wilson, a bioarcheologist with the University of Arizona.

    In previous excavations, archeologists found signs of witchcraft, including toad bones, raven talons and bronze cauldrons.

    "We know that the Romans were very much concerned with this and would even to the extent of employing witchcraft to keep the evil — whatever is contaminating the body — from coming out," Soren said.

    Although the body will undergo DNA testing, the child had an abscessed tooth, which is a side effect of malaria, that suggests the child may have died because of the disease.

    Archeologists believe the rock was intentionally inserted after death because of the position of the jaw.

    These types of burials are called "vampire burials" since they are associated with the belief that the dead could rise again.


    Archaeologists Discover Infants Wearing Skull Helmets, In Unique Ancient Burial Practice

    Two infants unearthed in ancient burial mounds in Salango, Ecuador were buried wearing helmets crafted from the skulls of other children, in what researchers believe was a unique practice perhaps intended to protect the infants’ souls during their journey to the afterlife.

    “This has literally not been seen before, to our knowledge. We think this is a totally novel burial practice,” says bioarchaeologist Sara Juengst, an assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology at UNC Charlotte.

    The research team – composed of UNC Charlotte’s Juengst and Abigail Bythell and Richard Lunniss and Juan José Ortiz Aguilu of Universidad Técnica de Manabí in Ecuador – published their findings in November in the journal Latin American Antiquity. The paper has attracted worldwide attention, including in major news outlets such as The Washington Post, Nature, CNN, and the Smithsonian online magazine.

    The infants were among 11 burials discovered between 2014 and 2016 at a ritual burial complex dated to approximately 100 BC. The mounds likely were built by the Guangala, a culture that existed on the southwest coast of Ecuador at that time.

    The Universidad Técnica de Manabí researchers recovered the heads and surrounding soil to help preserve the bones. Juengst and Bythell, who completed her master’s degree in anthropology in May 2019, traveled to Ecuador to separate the cranial layers and assess the burials.

    Study co-author Abigail Bythell (left) works with two Ecuadorian students in the lab. Bythell completed her anthropology master’s degree in May 2019.

    In one case, they found that the skull of a child who was between 4 and 12 years old was removed and placed on the head of an infant believed to be approximately 18 months old at death. In the second instance, the skull of a child who may have been as young as 2 was placed on the head of an infant believed to be between 6 and 9 months old at death.

    The researchers describe the cranial coverings as helmets because they extend to the back and sides of the heads, with the face of the infant wearing the helmet looking out of the other child’s skull. Analysis shows that skin and tissue likely held the skulls together.

    Between the two skull layers in one instance, they found a small shell and a small hand bone that appear to have been placed intentionally. The archaeologists also found stone ancestor figurines near the skeletons, which could be further indication of a desire to protect the infants’ souls.

    Two infants were found in ancient burial mounds in Ecuador, buried wearing helmets crafted from the skulls of other children.

    Human heads are known to be potent symbols for many cultures in South America and elsewhere, and they have long been linked with rituals and symbolic power. In particular, children have received careful treatment during burial as a way of controlling the universe, because of the belief that children’s souls acted as benefactors to the living, the researchers wrote.

    While nothing so far indicates the children were sacrificed to obtain their skulls, the researchers cannot rule this out. The burial site was found above a layer of volcanic ash, which might suggest a connection with an eruption and a response to food shortages, but more research is needed to explore a possible link to the volcanic eruption. All the skulls show lesions, either from malnutrition, disease or other stress.

    The researchers expect that DNA and isotope analyses will help them understand the relationships among the children, and that radiocarbon dates will give insights into the chronology of the burial practice.

    “In future research, we would like to place these burials within the context of the larger mortuary complex of these particular mounds and other sites more broadly,” Juengst said.

    It could be that the motivations of the people who conducted the rituals will remain a mystery. Juengst does think about the emotions of those who conducted the rituals, drawing some comfort from her suspicion that the rituals were intended as protection from further harm or a way to link to ancestors.

    “We cannot know for sure what was in the minds of the people who performed these rituals,” Juengst said. “We think we know a lot about the past, and then we have discoveries like this.”

    Funding and logistical support were provided by a Faculty Research Grant from UNC Charlotte and by the Universidad Técnica de Manabí.

    Top image: Bioarchaeologist Sara Juengst is in a lab at UNC Charlotte, with elements of the UNC Charlotte teaching collection, used to train students in bioarchaeological and forensic analysis.

    Words and Image of Juengst in a UNC Charlotte lab: Lynn Roberson | Other images: Courtesy of Juengst.


    Tomb Toxin Threat?

    In recent years, some have suggested that the pharaoh's curse was biological in nature.

    Could sealed tombs house pathogens that can be dangerous or even deadly to those who open them after thousands of years—especially people like Lord Carnarvon with weakened immune systems?

    The mausoleums house not only the dead bodies of humans and animals but foods to provision them for the afterlife.

    Lab studies have shown some ancient mummies carried mold, including Aspergillus niger and Aspergillus flavus, which can cause congestion or bleeding in the lungs. Lung-assaulting bacteria such as Pseudomonas and Staphylococcus may also grow on tomb walls.

    These substances may make tombs sound dangerous, but scientists seem to agree that they are not.

    F. DeWolfe Miller, professor of epidemiology at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, concurs with Howard Carter's original opinion: Given the local conditions, Lord Carnarvon was probably safer inside Tut's tomb than outside.

    "Upper Egypt in the 1920s was hardly what you'd call sanitary," Miller said. "The idea that an underground tomb, after 3,000 years, would have some kind of bizarre microorganism in it that's going to kill somebody six weeks later and make it look exactly like [blood poisoning] is very hard to believe."

    In fact, Miller said, he knows of no archaeologist—or a single tourist, for that matter—who has experienced any afflictions caused by tomb toxins.

    But like the movie mummies who invoke the malediction, the legend of the mummy's curse seems destined never to die.


    Watch the video: 11,500 year old grave of fetus and infant discovered in Alaska (August 2022).