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New Excavation Season Begins at Unusual Egyptian/Nubian Site

Photo courtesy Michele Buzon
Heart scarab with a human head from Tombos. Photo courtesy Michele Buzon

National Geographic explorers Michele Buzon and Stuart Tyson Smith are co-directors at Tombos, an archaeological site located at the Third Cataract of the Nile River in modern-day Sudan. Tombs dating to the New Kingdom (mid-18th Dynasty) through the Napatan period are present, documenting the interaction and entanglement of Egyptian colonists and local Nubians during these major sociopolitical changes in the region.

By Michele Buzon

As we head back to Tombos for our next field season, we are excited to return to our unfinished tomb excavations. We will focus on a New Kingdom pyramid complex that yielded many exciting finds last season like the fully intact burial of an elderly woman with an Egyptian-style coffin and many beautiful artifacts, such as a heart scarab with a human head (pictured above), amulets, a bowl with juniper berries and cosmetic tools.

Will we be fortunate enough to find another undisturbed burial where we can see exactly how a person was laid to rest?

Photo courtesy Michele Buzon
Juvenile basket burial from Tombos. Photo courtesy Michele Buzon

We are also eager to uncover more burials of younger people. Before excavations in this particular pyramid complex, we had very few burials of children. We have now uncovered an area with many juvenile burials, some buried in baskets (pictured above). Discovering more burials of the younger segment of the Tombos community will provide much needed information about health in the population as well a clearer understanding of how children were treated in death and what these mortuary practices tell us about the relationships between Egyptians and Nubians in this entangled community.

In addition, we hope to learn more about the ancient settlement of Tombos. While most of the ancient town is below the modern town, our work has provided evidence for a substantial subterranean structure. What was the function of this building that appears to be more than a hundred meters in length? Continuing excavations will give us additional clues.