Archaeologists have found remains of a mummified infant who was buried 1,500 years ago in what is now called the Fag el-Gamous in Egypt. The child was not a historically significant person. Neither was her final resting place the burial grounds of royalty, but the discovery is special because Fag el-Gamous, an ancient cemetery in Faiyum Governorate, is also the grave of more than a million individuals who died many centuries ago.
Archaeologists from Brigham Young University have been excavating the cemetery for about three decades and have unearthed mummies that date back between the 1st century and 7th century when the Byzantine Empire ruled Egypt. About 1,700 bodies had been found so far, including a male who was over seven-foot tall, but experts believe there are many more in the ancient burial ground.
"We are fairly certain we have over a million burials within this cemetery. It's large, and it's dense," Kerry Muhlestein from Brigham Young University's Department of Ancient Scripture, said in a paper presented at the Society for the Study of Egyptian Antiquities Scholars Colloquium last month.
The researchers likewise said that the people who were laid to rest at the centuries-old cemetery were of low status. They did not have grave goods and coffins, and their internal organs were rarely removed.
Regardless of the status of the dead, however, they had with them some beautiful items, such as colorful booties for a child, glass and linen. The mummified infant, they have found, for instance, estimated to be about 18 months old at the time of death and believed to be a girl, wore a necklace and two bracelets for each of her arms.
There also appears to be attempts to mummify the child as some parts of her body, including her brain and tongue, were preserved. Muhlestein, however, pointed out that the burial did not involve true mummification process, and the arid environment could be attributed to mummifying the bodies.
Researchers have yet to determine where these mummies came from because the nearby village appears to be too small to have such a large cemetery and, while an ancient town called Philadelphia was not so far away, it had its own burial sites. A small pyramid was also nearby, but the researchers noted that it was built more than two millennia before the ancient cemetery was first used.