Friday, January 20, 2017

12 new tombs discovered!

The Swedish led archaeological mission at Gebel el Silsila in Upper Egypt continues to change the perception of history in the ancient quarried landscape of Silsila.

In 2015 the Swedish led Gebel el Silsila project reported on the discovery of a series of tombs located in the north of Gebel el Silsila east bank, in the area immediately to the north of the famous stele of Amenhotep IV and stretching westwards to the Nile. While the tombs had been described by a few previous visitors to the site, no comprehensive survey, neither any proper archaeological work had been conducted until 2015. 

overview of ST31 at sunrise

The tombs are under an immediate threat caused by the rising water table combined with the natural salt in the ground steadily eroding the natural cliffs in the northern part of Gebel el Silsila (similar/identical to those at Kom Ombo Temple area), and the site is in risk of losing important information about what has proven to be an extensive cemetery.

collapsed ceiling of ST32

courtyard to ST32

scull(s) and cross bones ST13

During the initial survey, 43 tombs were identified, and five tombs were chosen to be cleared of sand and the damaging layer of salt in order to study their subsequent conservation. Returning to site eight months later, the previous work proved successful as both external and interior walls and to some extent also the ceiling, have become stabilized and secured by exposing them to the sun, drying previous wetness.

ST25 and ST45 with niche



In the initial clearing process the team was successful in identifying various architectural markers, including 1-2 rock-cut chambers, external courtyards, and dressed portcullis – slot-cuts into the door jambs by the entry to the tombs, into which a (stone-) slab would have been placed to seal the door after burial. During the ongoing winter season, the team has discovered another 12 rock cut tombs, three crypts cut into the rock, two niches possibly used for offering, one tomb containing multiple animal burials, and three individual infant/child burials, along with other associated material. 

baby burial

inside ST30

The majority of the tombs excavated so far – with the main exception of two infant burials – have been plundered already during antiquity, and then been left neglected and without further disturbance, and since covered by up to 3m of Nile silt, blown in sand, and fallen quarry spoil and debris. These readily identifiable stratifications have given a wealth of information with regards not only the manner in which the spoil and silt have been deposited, but also provided a rudimentary chronological overview for the area.  

crypt ST48

sandstone lid

The individual tombs excavated so far this season reveal multiple burials within the same chamber or crypt, possibly complete families, and individuals of varying ages and sex. In addition, the newly discovered infant/child burials present another aspect to the cemetery, clearly indicating family life at Silsila. Three different styles of infant burials have been documented so far, including a crypt (64 x 32 x 32 cm) cut into the rock, a shallow grave covered with stone, and one infant wrapped in textile and placed within a wooden coffin. Two of the three children were placed secreted within the overhangs of the natural sandstone bluffs. They were placed on their side oriented in either a north-south direction, face towards the east, alternatively east-west direction, and facing north. Burial gifts include amulets (including the figure of Bes), necklaces, ceramic vessels, worked flint and coloured pebbles.

one of many scarabs

crocodile no 2

Moamen and Rebecca with the croc

Among the animal burials, ST29 presented a single chamber room with a crypt containing a dozen of ovicaprids (sheep/goats) and a couple of Nile perch (Lates niloticus). Two ovicaprids were placed in a north-south orientation (facing east) at the entrance of the tomb, and skeletal remains of several more were found scattered among outside debris as a result of looting. Also, an almost complete adult crocodile was discovered resting on the floor in the courtyard immediately outside ST27. The crocodile was oriented in a north-south direction, with the head pointing to the north. Further studies are required. 

3D image of crocodile no 1 (headless)

Maria and John clearing a cat burial (ST54)

The archaeological material produced from the newly discovered tombs and burials chronologically correlate with those excavated previously, so far limited to the reigns of Thutmosis III and Amenhotep II. In addition to the tombs themselves, the excavation has revealed finely dressed sandstone sarcophagi, sculptured and occasionally painted pottery coffins, painted 'plaster' and wood, textile and organic wrapping, ceramic vessels and plates, as well as an array of jewellery, amulets and scarabs. 

inhumation at ST56
some help to get out of this tomb?

The vast amount of human remains so far recovered from the necropolis indicates the individuals were generally healthy.  At this time, very little evidence of malnutrition and infection has been discovered.  Fractures of the long bones and increased muscle attachments amongst the skeletal remains indicate behaviors related to occupational hazards and an extremely labor intensive environment. Furthermore, many of the injuries appear to be in an advanced stage of healing, suggesting effective medical care.  

part of the Silsila team outside ST32

Maria outside ST25

Tricia and Nils figuring out ST45

The new finds add exciting new components to the necropolis, changing yet again the perceived function and apparent appearance to the site of Gebel el Silsila, and with further fieldwork the team look forward to increasing their understanding of the overall function and role of the area during the New Kingdom. 
John and Khaled

Reis Shihad


Huib and Rebecca

The team members would like to express their gratitude to the MoA and the local inspectorates of Kom Ombo and Aswan, led by Mr Abdel Menum and Mr Nasr Salama respectively, as well as to our sponsors without whom the Silsila Project would not be made possible!



Abdala - the one and only, whom we could not survive without!


the gorgeous sunrise at Silsila!

Donations to the Gebel el Silsila Project goes directly towards employing more workers, which allows the team to discover more monuments and tombs in the Necropolis, and study more ground breaking information about the ancient past at Gebel el Silsila!

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Friday, November 25, 2016

Searching for knowledge by uncovering the past

The following post was written by one of the project's wonderful supporters; his and his family's encouragement and genuine support inspired us to share his words here.

The original 'opinion piece' was published by Samuel Strait on November 19, 2016 at 

Searching for knowledge by uncovering the past

– So often as we enter the holiday season we are inundated with requests for some form of charity from groups near and far.  Very often we are hesitant, not knowing exactly how that donation is to be spent and whether or not “good works” will come of our donation.  It is a luxury then to be able to donate to those nearer to home and witness first hand those good works.

For those that have broader horizons in their wish to donate to good works, there is a long list of groups of people doing things in the far corners of this world that further our knowledge of the progress of mankind throughout history.  To those that are interested, money can be donated to support such good works all over the world.  Many are reputable and connected to University’s and College’s which send researchers far and wide to scour the planet in search of knowledge which can make the world a better place.  Often these groups are underfunded and in constant need for donations which will aid them in the quest for knowledge.

For the past eight seasons, this group has gathered on this site to preserve and learn from the discoveries made.  During this particular season, I have the privilege of being related to one of the members of this group who has given her time to further the rewards gained from learning about the past at this particular archaeologic site.  Because Egyptology in this area has not the claim to fame that site’s in and around Cairo, the three Great pyramids, the Sphinx, or even the temple complex at Abu Simbel, money to fund the season’s digs must come from the charity of people who wish to contribute to a very worthwhile cause that so often goes unrecognized and overlooked.

What is unique about this particular group is that they will continue to do good work with whatever comes to them and are grateful for any small amount people wish to contribute.  They, the Directors, Maria Nilsson and John Ward, keep donors up to date on progress made at the site as well as acknowledging each donation with a personal message.  For those that wish to donate, they have a web page,, or if you just want to live vicariously through their blogspot, it can be found at  This is a unique opportunity for those that wish to make a donation in a non traditional way, and know that you are contributing to the knowledge of the world and a very good cause.  And, yes, my wife and I have made a small contribution, feel better for it and feel more like citizens of the world, many of which visit our small corner of the world.


Thank you dear Samuel and to your entire family, and all amazing people who continues to show their support and encouragement! The Gebel el Silsila Project is deeply thankful and forever grateful!

some of this year's team members, including some of our amazing workers!
Donations to the Gebel el Silsila Project goes directly towards employing more workers, which allows the team to discover more monuments and tombs in the Necropolis, and study more ground breaking information about the ancient past at Gebel el Silsila!

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Egypt's Treasure Guardians on National Geographic Channel

During season 8, the Gebel el Silsila team was visited by members of the London-based production company DSP, filming on behalf of the National Geographic Channel. We would like to share with you a few 'behind the scenes' images captured during their stay!

Surveying the land
Doctoral student Moamen explaining his work
Rock art and Middle Kingdom inscriptions
Snippets of what was recorded is now aired all over the world, and had its start in Australia, followed by the UK, US, and eventually in the individual countries broadcasting NG. Later this year, a longer version of this first program will be aired on American PBS. If successful and well greeted, who knows, there may be more snippets released...

Documenting a newly discovered game board

Connecting Silsila with the Temple of Kom Ombo
Meet the team
Egypt's Treasure Guardians
The city of Karnak

More Rock Art
Surveying the land
The glorious Nile Stelai
Explaining rock art

It has been a great honor for the Silsila team to be included among other great scholars, scientists and people who all are connected in the task of safekeeping Egypt's heritage. We hope you will enjoy the program as much as we did recording it!

Viewing the gorgeous landscape
Doctoral student Moamen Saad
Didi filming

Prof. Salima Ikram and John discussing bone matters...

The team on site during filming

see you soon...