Late Period Burials
March 4, 2009
The excavations at Giza are off to a roaring start. One of the challenges of excavating the Lost City at Giza is that there are hundreds of Late Period burials (747-525 BC; see A Girl and Her Goddess) above the 4th Dynasty layers.
They’re fascinating to study but they slow us down, as each one must be excavated and recorded. The osteology team, led by Jessica Kaiser, is very busy, as you’ll see from the excerpts below of team member Scott Haddow’s field report of but two of many excavated burials.
The burials mostly cover an area of our main dig site near the Wall of the Crow. We also find them in the excavations at KKT, the town built around the monument of Khentkawes, northwest of the Lost City. Last week the osteology team excavated a couple of interesting burials.
At KKT, Burial 461 was a skeleton that had several pathological lesions, including a severe case of osteomyelitis (a deep infection of the bone, usually resulting from a penetrating wound) involving the entire left tibia, and several cervical vertebrae with signs of degenerative joint disease on the vertebrae.
Based on the appearance of the reactive bone on the infected tibia, it appears the lesion was active perimortem (at the time of death) and may have led to the death of the individual through septicaemia (blood poisoning). In any case, such an injury would have made life very difficult for this person.
We originally believed this skeleton was a male, based on how robust the long bones and the mastoid process were. We now think, however, the individual was female, given the morphology of the pelvic bones and the mandible. Based on a quick field assessment we estimate she was between 20-30 years of age.
To end on a mysterious note, a small piece of chipped limestone was found tightly gripped in the right hand of this individual.
At present, it is still difficult to assess when this skeleton was buried here. There were no artifacts found in direct association with the body, although several coins dating to the 8th century CE were found in a deposit near the skeleton.
On the main dig site, Burial 467 was oriented east-west and had a sort of double coffin consisting of a partially-fired rectangular box with an anthropoid lid or inner coffin made of mud and painted with several registers of geometric shapes and symbols in white, blue, red and yellow.
At present, the coffin is still only partially excavated as the painting is extremely delicate and requires a lot of patience and care (based on Scott Haddow’s field report).