A new discovery in Egypt sounds like it belongs in a major Hollywood production: a single cemetery is making headlines thanks to one recent estimate that it contains over a million mummies.
“We are fairly certain we have over a million burials within this cemetery. It’s large, and it’s dense,” Project Director Kerry Muhlestein, an associate professor in the Department of Ancient Scripture at Brigham Young University.
In case you didn’t catch it, that’s 1,000,000.
Researchers, in an effort to perhaps tone down the sensationalism, took pains to explain that the graveyard’s residents aren’t wrapped in (anything that resembles) toilet paper:
The deceased’s internal organs were rarely removed; instead, it was the arid natural environment that mummified them. “I don’t think you would term what happens to these burials as true mummification,” Muhlestein said. “If we want to use the term loosely, then they were mummified.”
Still, archaeologists are managing to turn up some good discoveries:
The stories that these million mummies tell appear endless. The Brigham Young team has excavated more than 1,000 of the mummies over the past 30 years, and Muhlestein admits the team has a publishing backlog.
One discovery that hasn’t been published is of a mummy who is more than 7 feet (2 meters) tall. “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,” he said.
But thirty years seems like a long time to dedicate to a single site. What motivates the team’s dedication?
The team is in the early stages of creating a database of all the mummies it has excavated.
Oh, right, it’s run out of Brigham Young University.