A huge Egyptian necropolis close to the village of Lisht has been lying in wait in the desert for 4,000 years and archaeologists have announced that 802 tombs that date back to the Middle Kingdom have been discovered in the swirling sands that sit along the edge of the Sahara.
As National Geographic reports, a major expedition that was fielded by the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities and the University of Alabama-Birmingham has led to the remarkable discovery of these 802 Egyptian tombs, and even Egyptologists were completely unaware of their existence, according to a statement that was issued by Khaled El-Enany, the minister of Antiquities.
Professor Sarah Parcak, who works at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, led the recent expedition in Lisht and explained, “What we have at the site is one of the largest corpuses of Middle Kingdom tombs in the entire country of Egypt.”
Despite the fact that a fairly large amount of looting has taken place over the years before this expedition took place, archaeologists were still able to gain a better understanding of life in the Middle Kingdom period of Egypt when these ancient burials would have taken place 4,000 years ago in what was once a city called Itj-Tawy.
The Middle Kingdom period of Egypt can be dated from between 2030 to 1650 BC, and Parcak noted that when it came to high culture, “You see this blossoming during the Middle Kingdom.”
The ancient cemetery is no secret, but many of the site's tombs have long been concealed under feet of sand—until now https://t.co/c16GnpiiqK
— National Geographic (@NatGeo) September 11, 2018
Our understanding of Lisht has mainly come to us from previous excavations that began in earnest after the 1900s by the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Most of the attention of the Metropolitan here was to document and map the two famous pyramids that were constructed for Senusret I and Amenemhat I, yet as the discovery of the 802 Egyptian tombs has clearly shown, there is still a treasure trove of history buried here.
Boston University archaeologist Kathryn Bard, who it should be noted was not involved with the most recent expedition, has stated, “From this area, there really aren’t very many tombs that are known, except for the royal tombs there. That’s why this cemetery is important.”
The start of the most recent archaeological excavations began after Parcak used satellite images to spot signs of serious looting in the area outside of Lisht and realized that there must be something quite important hidden there. Thanks to funding from National Geographic, it was eventually determined that the holes that were seen through satellite images were actually vast pits that were connected to tombs. With some Egyptian tombs that could hold the remains of eight people inside of them, this was clearly a burial ground of immense size.
According to Parcak, “They used all the space they could get their hands on. Many would have been reused by families or grandchildren, or great-grand children, or third cousins three times removed.”
In northern Egypt, more than 800 tombs were lying beneath the sand pic.twitter.com/uhjwoqLT1U
— National Geographic (@NatGeo) September 12, 2018
While looters had sadly taken the remains out of many of the Egyptian tombs that were located here, most Egyptologists believe that the expedition was still a wholly worthwhile venture.
And despite the looting that has taken place outside Lisht over the years, there are still plenty of discoveries just waiting to be unearthed in these 802 Egyptian tombs.