Monday, November 21, 2005

Zahi Hawass: Mr X's Journey

Zahi Hawass's Egyptian Gazette column, reproduced here in full because it will be deleted from the site in a couple of days: "Tomb 55 is a ten foot shaft tomb in which we found four burial chambers, one on each side of the shaft. The entrance to the northern and western chambers had been carved, with pylons and cornices on each entrance, and the western chamber was blocked by a piece of sandstone.Inside the western chamber we discovered four mummies in poor condition, pottery vessels and a terra-cotta statue of Bes, the god of pleasure.The northern chamber contained three skeletons, pottery vessels, a copper anklet and a faience-beaded necklace with a wedjet-eye amulet (eye of the falcon god Horus) in the center.The southern and eastern chambers had not been finished or used, but we found a well-preserved mummy at the bottom of the shaft.At the end of our season, Mr. X travelled to Cairo for examination and x-rays which would ascertain causes of death, types of diseases, deformities, and dental practices during different periods of ancient Egyptian history.We prepared a wooden box for transit and packed the mummy well. It was a very emotional moment. Many questions were in my mind: Did he or she ever visit the pyramids? Is he or she unhappy about leaving home for a strange new place?On the day of our departure, Mansour asked me ÒDoctor! What will we name it? Does it already have a name?" No, I realised, it didn't. There are no inscriptions in Graeco-Roman tombs and it needed a name before the journey. So, I decided to call it Mr or Mrs X.ÓNormally, the trip from Bahariya to Cairo takes three hours but our trip took eight. Our driver carefully avoided potholes and other hazards as he carried the precious cargo.Dr Azza Sarry e-Din, a physical anthropologist for the National Research Centre examined the mummy. The mummy was a male, who died at age 35-40 years old. He has two molars removed proving that dentistry was still actively practised during the Graeco-Roman Period. After the examination of Mr. X, I got an x-ray machine for the Bahariya site in order to carry out further studies there".

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