The Discoveries That Never Were

Today Ethan talked about the archaeological site of Heit el-Ghurab, the Lost City of the Pyramids. After learning more about it, it was discussed how the Royal Administrative Building in the site had been subject to damage in some places and complete destruction in others. I found this intriguing and wondered whether or not this issue of the destruction of potential archaeological discoveries was present in modern day society. My thought was that due to the policies set in place to protect discoveries and potential discoveries in areas like Egypt that these things would not happen, at least in those areas.

Earlier this month Daily News Egypt published an article on the discovery of two new mummies in a village near Minya. The mummies had been found in tombs, but unfortunately they had been found in their sarcophagi floating in sewage. These conditions led to the disintegration of the mummies, which are now in desperate need of restoration which will still be futile in restoring the mummies to their former glory. The reason for the destruction of these mummies was believed to be due to illegal digging by members of the village who discarded the mummies because of restrictions present within the country’s laws. Now the mummies have lost much integrity and possible cultural revelations that could have been made may be lost forever with the destruction of these finds.

Seeing as destruction to culturally significant pieces such as mummies is still present today, it made me wonder just how many pieces have been destroyed or damaged beyond recognition. Just exactly how many potential discoveries have been permanently prevented due to ignorance and a lack of care have there been, and how much information have we lost? If it still does not seem to be uncommon today, just imagine how common it must have been in the old world. So many ancient cities and clues to the past must have been destroyed by the building of new cities, by war, and by unintentional ignorance, and with them so many possibilities to learn about our world’s culture throughout the ages. For all we know currently, the missing links and gaps through history as we understand and see it today may never be uncovered to us. It is quite possible that all remnants of these gaps may have been destroyed by simple carelessness. It makes me wonder how archaeologists must feel, wondering if that crucial piece to the puzzle they may be looking for could potentially be forever lost and never to be discovered.

The Daily News Egypt article can be found here if you are interested:

2 thoughts on “The Discoveries That Never Were

  1. I think this is a very interesting point! Illegal digging and excavation as well as destruction of historic places is very common in today’s society. There is a big issue around the world with there being a lack of protection for historical sites, particularly in the Middle East and areas of conflict and war. People who believe a historical site to be against their religion, or want to hide information that conflicts with their ideas, often destroy historical sites and the important knowledge of the past they contain. Historical places and archives are also often destroyed simply because they are located in an area of conflict and come under fire or bombings even though they are not actually being targeted.

    Your point that we also don’t know what has been destroyed in the past is also a big issue in archaeological research. In Egypt particularly, there have been countless artifacts unable to be found because of grave robbers and looters throughout the centuries. As we discussed in class, almost no artifacts were recovered from the Great Pyramids because everything had been stolen hundreds, or even thousands, of years before research began at these sites and people started to protect them as part of the archaeological record. We will never be able to know exactly what was buried in these temples or why these items were significant because people in the past were ignorant of the items’ historical values, and simply wanted to sell them for money. As you said, these clues to the past may never be found and there is important historical information that may never be uncovered.

  2. I found your blog post to be very thought provoking. I find it very surprising that two new mummies were discovered so recently. I would have thought that most findings as grand as this would have already been discovered by now, but it just goes to show that we live in a world where there is constant mystery and discovery taking place. I wrote my blog about the Sphinx, and I learned that archaeologists found remains of a large mud-brick wall surrounding the statue in 2010. It is hypothesized that Pharaoh Tuthmosis IV built it to protect the Sphinx from desert winds. This simply goes to show that there are constant archaeological findings being made and also that we are unsure about the context surrounding each of these discoveries. This sense of perplexity ignites archaeologists with a feeling of curiosity that drives them to do the great extents of work that they do in order to provide us with more information and to fill in the gaps of history as best as possible.
    As you mentioned, it is quite astonishing that many of these remains that are being discovered have been damaged to various extents. It makes me wonder just how much of what we have learned from these discoveries is actually true. While we have been told what has happened throughout history through our history classes and textbooks, are we justified to just believe what is being said is 100% true? How exactly can we be certain that these events or findings are legitimate, considering that we are learning new things and making grand discoveries incessantly. I think that there are many gaps in our knowledge, and we may never know the complete truth on what has happened throughout time.

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