Ancient cemetery in Fayum could contain up to 1 million ‘mummies’

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Archaeologists have reportedly uncovered a cemetery in Fayum that could contain the bodies of up to one million people.

“We are fairly certain we have over a million burials within this cemetery. It’s large, and it’s dense,” said project leader Kerry Muhlestein, who is also an associate professor in the Department of Ancient Scripture at Brigham Young University.

“The cemetery is very large, and so far seems to maintain that kind of burial density throughout,” Muhlestein said. “Thus the math suggests that there are over a million mummies in the cemetery.”

The remains of two children and two adults (photo: BYU)

So far, over 1,700 bodies have been unearthed at the 1,500 year-old burial site, which is thought to contain the remains of common Egyptians, as opposed to the many royal burial tombs Egypt is famous for.

“A lot of their wealth, as little as they had, was poured into these burials,” Muhlestein said.

Muhlestein also described some of the bodies found at the site.

“We once found a male who was over 7 feet tall who was far too tall to fit into the shaft, so they bent him in half and tossed him in,” Muhlestein said, adding that some of the bodies uncovered were those of children.

A skeleton found buried in an unusual triangle shaped vault (photo: BYU)

“As a father of six, each time I see one of these children I have to wonder about what that child’s family went through as they buried the child,” Muhlestein said. “These children often received such delicate care. It is easy to see that a lot of love was poured into the grave with these little ones.”

Youssef Khalifa, the head of the Ancient Egypt Department at the Ministry of Antiquities, has denounced media headlines that described the remains found at the site as “mummies”.

“What was published in the newspaper is not true,” Khalifa said. “There are no million mummies, a mummy definition to begin with means a complete mummified body and there is only one mummy found at the site of Fag Al-Gamous in 1980 which is at the Egyptian museum since then.”