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History Mystery: A Million Mummies Unearthed in Egypt

A burial site of epic proportions has just been unearthed in Fayoum. Here's what we know...

Every week Egypt unearths some evidence of its ancient glory. It isn’t uncommon to hear of a mummy or dozens being found, but unearthing a million mummies in a forgotten 300 acre cemetery is. However that is latest discovery made by a team of archaeologists from Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah.

For the past 30 years the team at Brigham Young University have been excavating the cemetery now known as Fag el-Gamous in the Fayoum Oasis. Named after nearby road where the discovery was made, archaeologists have spent decades and believe that the site dates to the time when the Roman or Byzantine Empire ruled Egypt, from the 1st century to the 7th century A.D.

"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, said in a paper he presented at the Society for the Study of Egyptian Antiquities Scholars Colloquium, which was held last month in Toronto.

So far the archaeologists have been able to identify that the cemetery was not the burial ground for kings or royalty, as many of the unearthed were found without grave goods or even a coffin. Although many of the buried seem mummified, archaeologists stress that their mummified appearance may be a result of the arid natural environment and our not true mummification. "There was some evidence that they tried much of the full mummification process. The toes and toenails and brain and tongue were amazingly preserved," the researchers wrote on the project's Facebook page.

Despite the fact that the many uncovered were of lower class, plenty of remarkable items have been retrieved ranging from linen to colourful children booties. Among the most interesting finds was a mummified child, wrapped in a tunic and wearing a necklace with two bracelets on each arm. Researchers estimate the infant was 18 months old when she died. "She was buried with great care, as someone who obviously loved her very much did all they could to take care of this little girl in burial," the researchers wrote on Facebook. "It's very sad, but they succeeded. It was a beautiful burial." Another odd discovery was the fact that they found that blond and red haired people were buried together in different parts, and in one grave found a man over seven feet tall that had to be buried bent in half.

Needless to say there are plenty of secrets left to be unearthed, and more importantly researchers still have to answer the mystery to why they were buried there in the first place. The closest town is way too small to have a cemetery this large, so perhaps there is a whole city nearby waiting to be excavated. Either way with all the discoveries made Egypt may want to consider building an entirely new museum dedicated to solving this mystery.