Archaeology Odyssey 3:5, September/October 2000


Emissaries of the golden age

By Zahi Hawass

We all know about mummies. According to ancient Egyptian religious beliefs, the heart/soul of the deceased is placed on a scale and weighed against the feather worn by Maat, the goddess of truth and justice. If the scale tips one way or the other, a huge animal will devour the deceased. But if the scale is balanced, the god Horus will escort the deceased to Osiris and Isis, the gods who preside over the afterlife. Ancient Egyptians mummified their dead to prepare them for their final journeys.

I remember the day, four years ago, when I learned of Egypt’s most recent—and most spectacular—mummy find. While excavating the tombs of the pyramid builders at Giza,a I was told that a visitor awaited me in the excavation tent. It was Ashry Shaker, the chief antiquities inspector of the Bahariya Oasis, which is located about 235 miles southwest of Giza. His voice trembling, Ashry told me that just the day before, an antiquities guard had been riding his donkey about 4 miles south of el-Bawiti, the site of Bahariya’s ancient capital, el-Qasr. The donkey stumbled after striking the edge of a tomb. Looking into the tomb, the guard saw mummies.

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