Sunday, May 1, 2016

Ancient Egyptian Hairballs

     Kevin Cahill of the University of Pennsylvania gave a lecture (entitled “Elite Tomb or Family Burial Vault? Report on Recent Excavations at South Abydos, 2015 – 2016”) at the annual ARCE convention that takes the prize for the oddest discovery of the 2015 - 2016 excavation season (see the final paragraph below).    

      Several New Kingdom tombs were excavated at Abydos near the funerary temple of Senwosret III. One tomb (from early Dynasty 19) was for the “Scribe” and “Overseer of Stables” Horemhab. Tomb TC.16 was probably used for two burials and contained a Mycenean stirrup jar. Another tomb had a couple of ushabtis, which were carved with texts, except that one of them had the name of the owner written on it in ink, rather than carved. Obviously it was an “off the shelf” ushabti.

     Tomb TC.17 was of mud brick construction with a vaulted roof. It had a stairway and two chambers, all on a straight line. The main chamber was loaded with bones from an estimated 32 persons (15 females, 14 males and 3 persons whose sex is uncertain). Some of the bones had arthritis and some showed signs of anemia at a young age. The tomb also contained some “Cross Line” bowls which date to the Late Middle Kingdom to the end of the Second Intermediate Period. A biconical vase probably dates to the reign of Tuthmose I. The tomb also had sixty very odd objects called :hair balls" by the excavator. These are balls of mud containing human hair and their exact purpose is unclear. A small limestone face was also found which might have been part of one of the Second Intermediate Period “micro-face” masks. The rear chamber had some fragments of what might have been a Rishi coffin.

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