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Excavation Reveals Regular Citizens Who Really Ran Ancient Egypt

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

And now in seventh century news - a team of archaeologists from Brigham Young University has unveiled a trove of discoveries from their excavation of an ancient Egyptian cemetery. Not the grand graves of pharaohs, but what the scientists say might be upwards of a million mummies of the ordinary citizens who really ran ancient Egypt.

Excavation's been going on for more than 30 years. BYU researcher Kerry Muhlestein presented his team's findings at The Society for the Study of Egyptian Antiquities Scholars Colloquium in Toronto. The cemetery is named Fag el-Gamous, or way of the water buffalo. The mummies seem to range from the period of Roman rule or the Byzantine Empire in Egypt.

One of the bodies is of a male who was over seven feet tall; another is an infant who was about 18 months old when he died. Many were not buried in coffins. A few had keepsakes or possessions. They were not preserved like pharaohs, but by the hot, dry, desert climate. The excavators try to work quickly because the population is expanding in that part of Egypt and farmers want to plant crops in those ancient sands. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.