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Inscriptions discovered at ancient amethyst mine in Egypt’s Eastern Desert


Archaeologists in Egypt have uncovered ancient inscriptions on rock and stelae a well as ostraca at an amethyst mine at Wadi el-Hudi in Egypt’s Eastern Desert, east of Aswan. In antiquity it was a site of mines and settlements, where amethyst, gold, copper and granite were extracted.

Inscriptions discovered at ancient amethyst mine in Egypt’s Eastern Desert
One of the stelae found at Wadi el-Hudi written in the name of Usersatet, the viceroy of Kush
[Credit: Wadi el-Hudi expedition/LiveScience]
More than 100 inscriptions carved into rock were discovered overall, along with 14 stelae and 45 ostraca. Some of the inscriptions are about 3,900 years old, while the ostraca date back about 2,000 years. Amethyst was very popular in Egypt at the time of the Middle Kingdom and was used in jewellery.


Although the site has undergone excavations in the past the Wadi el-Hudi expedition has discovered many inscriptions that had not been spotted earlier. The team conducting the research used several techniques such as 3D modelling, reflectance transformation imaging (RTI) and photogrammetry. Remains have been mapped and previously uncovered inscriptions have been re-analyzed.

Inscriptions discovered at ancient amethyst mine in Egypt’s Eastern Desert
3D model of Site 5 at Wadi el-Hudi [Credit: Wadi el-Hudi expedition/LiveScience]
Inscriptions discovered at ancient amethyst mine in Egypt’s Eastern Desert
Site 4 at Wadi el-Hudi [Credit: Wadi el-Hudi expedition/LiveScience]
Inscriptions discovered at ancient amethyst mine in Egypt’s Eastern Desert
An ancient administrative building located at Wadi el-Hudi
[Credit: Wadi el-Hudi expedition/LiveScience]
Researchers believe that the inscriptions will offer an insight into the reality of Wadi el-Hudi at ancient times, since very little is known of the conditions the miners were working at the site and it is not clear whether they were workers or prisoners.


Some of the inscriptions indicate that the miners were proud of their work but others show groups of soldiers looking down at the mines; it is not clear whether these soldiers were protecting the site and the workers or guarding them. Also, it has not been clear to archaeologists how water was transferred to the miners. It is probable that water was carried from the Nile, 30 km away.

Inscriptions discovered at ancient amethyst mine in Egypt’s Eastern Desert
In addition to over 100 written inscriptions, many petroglyphs were also found.
The soldier shown spearing a cow was drawn around 3,900 years ago, while
the cow was drawn several centuries earlier, researchers found
[Credit: Wadi el-Hudi expedition/LiveScience]
Inscriptions discovered at ancient amethyst mine in Egypt’s Eastern Desert
A scene showing two soldiers wrestling. One of the soldiers has grabbed the other by the neck.
An inscription on it reads: "Iqer who casts down the Asiatic "
[Credit: Wadi el-Hudi expedition/LiveScience]
Inscriptions discovered at ancient amethyst mine in Egypt’s Eastern Desert
Wadi el-Hudi expedition director Kate Liszka surveying the top of Site 5
[Credit: Wadi el-Hudi expedition/LiveScience]
Inscriptions discovered at ancient amethyst mine in Egypt’s Eastern Desert
Bryan Kraemer and Omer Farouk photographing a newly found stele
[Credit: Wadi el-Hudi expedition/LiveScience]
Inscriptions discovered at ancient amethyst mine in Egypt’s Eastern Desert
A member of the expedition team setting up a total station at dawn
[Credit: Wadi el-Hudi expedition/LiveScience]
Another discovery which has puzzled archaeologists is that of a 3,400-year-old stele bearing the name of a senior official, Usersatet (viceroy of Kush in the south) dating back to a time that no mining activity took place at Wadi el-Hudi and the site was no longer in use.

Researchers hope that further analyses and research of the new discoveries will shed more light to the above questions raised by archaeological evidence or lack of them.

The team’s work is rather urgent as works at gold mines in the area today are damaging archaeological evidence.

Source: Archaeology and Arts [March 28, 2019]

TANN

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