Archaeologists Sift Through Soup of Human Remains in                Waterlogged Mass Grave in Egypt
Water enters the tomb from a natural fissure that has opened since it was first constructed around 3,500 years ago.
Credit: Copyright Gebel el-Silsila Project, 2018

A desert tomb became a watery grave for some 50 to 60 ancient Egyptians at the ancient Nile quarry site of Gebel el-Silsila, in Upper Egypt.

Archaeologists announced the discovery of the mass grave Dec. 13. They discovered the tomb almost two years ago, but the excavation has been painstaking. The two chambers are filled with briny water from a naturally occurring spring, and the remains inside are jumbled. To excavate the tomb, archaeologists must run pumps to remove enough water so they can sit and gently hand-sift the mud for bones and artifacts.

"We're actually sitting in this soup, so to speak, of human remains," said John Ward, the assistant mission director of the Gebel El-Silsila survey project, which is headed by his wife, Maria Nilsson. "You can't see in the water at all, so everything is done by touch." [See Photos of Artifacts from the Watery Grave]