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    Map of the Tomb

    360° Tour of Egypt

    Make a Mummy

    Ancient Tomb
    Opened on Live TV

    An Ancient Oasis
    Is Rediscovered

    Producing TV From
    The Middle of Nowhere

    Egypt Has a Long
    History of Grave Robbers

    Disturbing the Dead

    The Pyramids and Sphinx

    Photo Essays
    Cemetery of Anubis

    Tomb Raiders

    Pyramids in Giza

    Cairo Marketplace

    Egyptian Treasures

    Egyptian Pyramids

    Mummy Dearest

    Death Masks

    Related Stories
    Bahariya Circa World
    War II: From English House
    to English Patient

    The Embalming Industry:
    Mummification for Faith
    and Profit

    Bahariya Has Much to Tell
    of Greco-Roman Egypt

    Greco-Roman Egypt Was
    a Culture in Transition



    Map of Bahariya

    Biography: Hugh Downs

    Biography: Zahi Hawass

    Fox Fast Links
    Link to Dr. Hawass' Site

  • Ancient Tomb Opened On Live TV
    By Jonathan Broder
    BAHARIYA, Egypt — For the first time, the secrets of ancient Egypt yielded themselves to television cameras early Wednesday as Fox TV broadcast the live opening of several mummies' tombs on its two-hour special, Opening the Tombs of the Golden Mummies: Live!

    William Tolan/
    A stone sarcophagus beneath Sheikh Soubi

    Cameramen filmed inside tombs that were recently discovered in this Sahara Desert oasis and broadcast live footage as Dr. Zahi Hawass, the Egyptian government's chief archaeologist, pried open the 3rd Century B.C. stone coffins of a man and a small child, revealing their well-preserved, dark gray mummified remains.

    But when Hawass, accompanied by actor Bill Pullman, opened the third sarcophagus belonging to the 5th century governor of Bahariya, the heavy stone casket yielded only dust, a few bones, and a collection of small statues and amulets that had been placed alongside the dead official to assist him in the afterlife.

    "The mummy deteriorated," Hawass said. He estimated that water from the oasis had probably seeped into the subterranean tomb over the years, dampening the burial chamber and causing the mummy to decay.

    But even though the ravages of time robbed the broadcast of a dramatic climax, Hawass called the discovery of the governor's tomb "incredible."

    "This is a major discovery," he said.

    William Tolan/
    In many places, the plaster painted over the sandstone walls has crumbled

    The governor, whose name was Djed Khonso Ankh Euf, ruled over the Bahariya oasis during the 26th Dynasty, a period that dates back to 500 years before the birth of Christ, when Libyan overlords ruled Egypt.

    His tomb, deep within an underground catacomb, was decorated with brightly colored hieroglyphics that told the story of his life, his death and his passage to the afterlife. His human-shaped sarcophagus was inscribed with his name, his official titles and figures of Osiris and Isis, the ancient Egyptian deities of the underworld. Hawass estimated that the lid alone weighed 12 tons.

    The artifacts that Hawass scooped from piles of dust inside included statues depicting the god Horus, who accompanied the dead to the afterlife, as well as figurines of a bird and a cobra to protect the body against grave robbers. Hawass also found a small clay vessel containing shiny gold amulets.

    Hawass said the tomb's archaeological significance lay in its vivid depiction of the governor's times, when the kingdom's Libyan rulers imitated the styles of Egypt's most celebrated periods. The broadcast showed the walls of Djed Khonso's tomb painted with vivid scenes from the sacred texts of both the Old Kingdom, some 2,000 years earlier, and the more recent 15th Century B.C. New Kingdom.

    William Tolan/
    Only in a few places can one stand upright in the tomb

    "So we have imitation of the two golden ages of Egypt," Hawass said.

    The governor's tomb was an unexpected discovery during Hawass' excavations of a vast Greco-Roman necropolis in Bahariya, believed to contain some 10,000 mummies. That makes it the largest collection of mummies ever found and ranks it among the most extraordinary archaeological finds in Egypt's history.

    Adding to the uniqueness of the mummy find is the fact that the tombs uncovered so far are completely intact.

    With TV cameras following him, the thick-set Hawass grunted and perspired as he crawled through narrow underground passages to show catacombs filled with scores of mummies dating back to 300 B.C. In one room, where Bahariya's wealthiest residents were entombed, the mummies had casings gilded with finely drawn faces. The dead persons depicted on the cases were shown wearing the Greek and Roman styles of the time — curly or braided hair and white toga-like robes.

    Meanwhile, Fox reporter Lisa Guerrero descended into another tomb where Bahariya's less wealthy residents were buried. Wrapped simply in linen — like the mummies of Hollywood's horror films — many of them had deteriorated into skeletons.

    William Tolan/
    The colors of the wall paintings are still vibrant after 2,700 years

    But the tombs also contained many artifacts that confirmed Bahariya's reputation in ancient times as the Napa Valley of Egypt. Guerrero held up pottery vessels that contained the remains of dates — used to make date wine, which was placed in the tombs to give the dead something tasty to drink in the afterlife.

    "This is one of the most important excavations that we have made," Hawass said. "And this is the first time that a live TV program has showed the opening of an intact tomb."

    In the 19th century, a popular European parlor activity for British, French and Italian treasure hunters, was to bring back mummies that would then be opened before guests after dinner, providing an evening's entertainment. Tonight's live broadcast and synched online efforts added a high-tech dimension to an enduring fascination with the mysteries of ancient Egypt.