The mystery of the elaborate Aswan tombs: 3,400-year-old necropolis and shrine may have belonged to a unknown group of wealthy Egyptians
- Dozens of tombs were found in Gebel el- Silsila area in Aswan, Egypt
- No inscriptions have been found, but tombs are elaborate, having stairs
- Archaeologists found human remains and artefacts such as a seal ring
- Ring bears cartouche of Thuthmosis III who ruled from1479 BC to 1425 BC
While all eyes may be focused on whether secret chambers in King Tut's tomb may hold incredible riches, another less flashy necropolis has been discovered in Aswan, Egypt.
Dozens of rock-cut tombs and a small shrine have been found that contain the remains of mummies, decorated coffins and artefacts such as amulets, beads and an intricate seal ring.
While experts believe the tombs must have been the final resting place of high status individuals, their identity is currently a mystery, with no inscriptions found.
Dozens of rock-cut tombs (pictured) and a small shrine have been found in Aswan, Egypt containing remains of mummies, decorated coffins and artefacts such as amulets, beads and an intricate seal ring
The 3,400-year-old necropolis was discovered at an ancient quarry at the East Bank, Gebel el- Silsila area in Aswan, according to Egypt's Ministry of Antiquities.
The group of New Kingdom 18th Dynasty tombs may not be impressive from the outside, but are still revealing secrets.
'So far we have documented over 40 tombs, including a small shrine on the banks of the Nile,' Maria Nilsson, director of the Gebel el Silsila Survey Project and an archaeologist at Lund University, Sweden, told Discovery News.
A seal ring (pictured) bearing the cartouche of Pharaoh Thuthmosis III 'Men-kheper-re' and a scarab with his name on, has been found among the tombs, along with New Kingdom storage vessels and jugs
'So far we have documented over 40 tombs, including a small shrine on the banks of the Nile,' said Maria Nilsson, director of the Gebel el Silsila Survey Project and an archaeologist at Lund University, Sweden. A map showing the location of the site is shown above
Gebel el-Silsila, meaning 'the place of rowing' in Egyptian lies 40 miles (65km) north of Aswan.
It was used as a major quarry site on both sides of the Nile from at least the 18th Dynasty to Greco-Roman times.
Many New Kingdom temples and cenotaphs were built using sandstone from the quarry.
The use of sandstone allowed for larger and more impressive monuments.
She said many of the tombs are in bad condition, having been damaged by erosion and water.
Most consist of one or two undecorated rooms and bare of inscriptions, meaning the people laid to rest there cannot be identified.
But the tombs also have one or more crypts cut into the stone floor.
More intriguingly, they also had stairs leading to a square room with a main entrance with slots either side of the doorway, perhaps meaning it was sealed by a huge stone.
Nasr Salama, General Director of Aswan and Nubia Areas, said this is the first time that tombs with stairs have been discovered in the area - a feature that emphasises the importance of this discovery.
Head of Ancient Egyptian Antiquities Sector, Dr Mahmoud Afify, said the tombs contain the bones of men, women and children of different ages. But images have not yet been released.
While experts believe the tombs (one shown) must have been the final resting place of high status individuals, their identity is currently a mystery, with no inscriptions found
The seal bears the cartouche of Pharaoh Thuthmosis III who was the sixth Pharaoh of the Eighteenth Dynasty. He created the largest empire Egypt had ever seen, waging 17 war campaigns, conquering from Niya in North Syria to the Fourth Cataract of the Nile in Nubia
PHARAOH THUTHMOSIS III
A seal ring bearing the cartouche of Pharaoh Thuthmosis III 'Men-kheper-re' and a scarab with his name on has been found at the site.
Thuthmosis III was the sixth Pharaoh of the Eighteenth Dynasty and reigned alongside his stepmother and aunt, Hatshepsut for 22 years.
After her death, he created the largest empire Egypt had ever seen, waging 17 war campaigns, conquering from Niya in North Syria to the Fourth Cataract of the Nile in Nubia.
Officially, Thutmose III ruled Egypt for almost 54 years, and his reign is usually dated from April 24, 1479 BC to March 11, 1425 BC.
He was buried in the Valley of the Kings as were the rest of the kings from this period in Egypt.
Because the tombs are quite elaborate in style, the experts believe they are the final resting place for relatively high rank individuals, rather than quarry workers at the site, who would have quarried stone blocks used to build ancient Egypt's temples.
'However, the higher officials, viziers and such that were active at Silsila were buried in Thebes, so it is likely that the people entombed in the rock-cut graves belong to the level just below the officials,' Dr Nillson said.
The team has found fragments of painted plaster, which may come from decorated coffins, as well as pieces of mummy bandages, beads and amulets, reinforcing the idea that the tombs belonged to important people.
A seal ring bearing the cartouche of Pharaoh Thuthmosis III 'Men-kheper-re' and a scarab with his name on, has also been found, along with New Kingdom storage vessels and jugs, which would have been needed in the afterlife, according to beliefs at the time.
The team also discovered a small chapel at the side, which is a small rock-cut structure containing two rooms with an entrance that's decorated with a winged sun disk.