Monday, August 27, 2018

Congratulations Mohamed Mohsen

Today we wish to make a more personal update, not so much from the field, but regarding one of our Egyptian colleagues, as we congratulate inspector Mohamed Mohsen on his wedding day! 

Mohamed has been with the Silsila team since our Season 2 (10 seasons ago!), and has grown not only as a person, but also as a fabulous photographer! 

Since we cannot celebrate Mohamed in person today, we wish to congratulate him by a series of photos of his time at Silsila. 

Congratulations dear Mohamed, and all the luck, happiness, love and positive abundance to the two of you!

Climbing his way to the top! Photo by Anders Andersson

Photograph of the photographer, by Anders Andersson

Giving scale to the tomb, photo by Anders Andersson

Photo of the photographer, by John Ward

in the field, photograph by John Ward

First day of Season 2, our Naos Quarry (GeSE.Q37), photo by John Ward

Always at work, photo by John Ward

Mohamed at his best! photo by Maria Nilsson

Monday, August 06, 2018

What happened to Sobek? Digging the crocs at Silsila

Dear all,

due to increased prices in Egypt, we are now turning to you for your help in making one of our various projects possible:

Help us solve the mystery of what happened to the crocodile-god Sobek and his temple!

If everyone can contribute with as little as 5 € or $ 6 (with several other options), we can reach a long way, and to make it happen we have to reach our goal of c. 25,000 €. We therefore ask you all to please join in and support the campaign, making the search for Sobek possible!

Please follow the link:

Thank you for your support!

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Intact child burials reveal new clues into family life at Gebel el-Silsila

With our 10th successful season completed, there are so many things we would love to share with you. For this, there will be a series of updates within the coming months, ranging from field reports to 3D imagery, etc. For today´s update, we would like to highlight the most recent news as released by the Ministry of Antiquities this month, here in an extended (popular scientific) report from the field. 

However, firstly, and on behalf of the entire Silsila Team, we would like to thank our Egyptian colleague, Mr Ashraf Mohamed, who after having dedicated twelve years as an inspector at Gebel el-Silsila, has left us for el-Kab. We wish him all the luck and success in his new job! Thank you for the many wonderful memories, laughter and shared excitement on site, as well as for your true love for Gebel el-Silsila! Thank you Ashraf!

Ashraf Mohemd, Inspector at Gebel el-Silsila for 12 years!

We would also like to congratulate our dear colleagues: 

Mr. Nasr Salama, previous General Director of Aswan, to his retirement 
Mr. Abdel Moniem, to his new position as General Director of Aswan
Mr. Ahmed Sayed, to his new position as Director of Kom Ombo

Funerary landscape at Gebel el-Silsila
During their ongoing excavations, the Swedish-Egyptian archaeological mission (Lund University), headed by Dr. Maria Nilsson and John Ward in cooperation with the inspectorate of Kom Ombo and Aswan directed by Mr. Abdel Menum (Aswan) and Mr. Ahmed Sayed (Kom Ombo), discovered several intact child burials as well as crypts and chambers for adults in the 18th Dynasty Necropolis at Gebel el-Silsila in the Aswan region.

The best-preserved child burials include:

1)         An eroded wooden sarcophagus/coffin, partially sealed with mud, containing inhumation of a child (ST63), c. 6-9 years, oriented with head in the east, facing north. Poorly preserved coffin, heavily eroded by annual flooding, salt, and destroyed by beetles.  The grave contained several burial goods, including 10 ceramic items (intact beer jars, wine vessels, plates, and bowls), bronze bracelets, a bronze razor, four scarabs attached to the child’s left wrist, and a nefer-amulet found in the chest-area (moved from its original location by beetles).

One of many beautiful ceramic vessels found in ST63

2)         A rock cut crypt (ST59) containing young child (2-3 years), wrapped in linen and surrounded by organic material (possibly wooden coffin) destroyed by termites, covered with poorly preserved, crumbled sandstone lid, once sealed with plaster. Head in the south, facing west. No associated burial goods.

3)         Inhumation of a child (ST64), c. 5-8 years, oriented with head in the east, unknown facial direction due to later disturbance of the head, possibly caused when burying the child of ST63. Body wrapped in linen and laid on reed matting. Burial goods included three scarabs, one of which contained the royal name of Thutmosis II (Aa-Kheper-n-Ra), and a single ceramic vessel not in its original location.

4)         Inhumation of child (ST69), c-5-8 years, oriented with head to the north, facing east. Buried without any obvious care in quarried area, and covered with quarry spoil. No immediate relation with surrounding tombs. Some indications of sickness. Further studies required.

The child burials ST63-64 are the first of their kind found at Gebel el Silsila, in the fact that both were preserved with complete funerary goods. It allows an insight into both material culture as well as funerary customs and religious beliefs, but even more so provides the team with socio-political information and the social status of those entombed.

One of the three scarabs found around the left wrist of the child in ST64

Bronze bracelets found around the left wrist of the child in ST63

Bronze razor found above the head of child in ST63

The child burials also provide with a possibility to study completely preserved inhumations, giving pathological information, i.e. their general health and medical situation, but they are also a strong indication of the existence and activity of complete families on site, supporting the team’s previous hypothesis of a operative society on site in contrast with only quarry activities. The finds bring the team one step closer to finding the village of Kheny (ancient name of Gebel el Silsila) or what possibly was a more local village co-existing with the larger township of Kheny.

Funerary landscape at Gebel el-Silsila

Including the intact child burials, the team has discovered 11 new crypts and several ‘new’ burial chambers, mainly looted during or since antiquity. The archaeological material includes bones, ceramic vessels, jewellery, textile, ‘plaster’, and wood.

The finds follow a line of recent discoveries made by the team, all which date to the Thutmosid period, including 1) an usurped relief scene in the Speos of Horemheb, showing a large ship carrying an obelisk, comparable with the scene of Hatshepsut in Deir el-Bahari; 2) six statues and relief scenes within shrines 30-31 from the reigns of Hatshepsut and Thutmosis III; and 3) decoration and architectural details in limestone from the initial building activity of the Temple of Sobek on the East Bank. Together with the most recent discoveries in the Necropolis, all these finds reveal the importance of Gebel el-Silsila during the Thutmosid period, blooming with socio-political and religious activity.

Funding for this fieldwork has been provided by a grant from the National Geographic Society (grant # HJ-103R-17), Gerda Henkel Stiftung, the Royal Swedish Academy of Letters, History and Antiquities, Mehen and TVAES, along with the kind and generous support of private donors. The team would like to express their deepest gratitude to all support received, without which none of this work could have been conducted.

Part of the 2017 Silsila Team, photo by Bob Mittelstaedt

Background to the discovery

In 2015 the Gebel el Silsila Project reported on the discovery of a series of tombs located in the north of Gebel el-Silsila East, in the area immediately to the north of the famous stele of Amenhotep IV and stretching westwards to the Nile. While the tombs had been described by a few previous visitors to the site, no comprehensive survey, neither any proper archaeological work had been conducted until 2015.

During the first two seasons of excavating the necropolis, 58 tombs were identified, of which almost twenty were excavated. To this day, 69 tombs have been identified, and a total of almost 30 have been excavated. 21 of the 69 tombs are crypts.

The tombs contain various architectural markers, including 1-2 rock-cut chambers, external courtyards, and dressed portcullis – slot-cuts into the door jambs by the entry to the tombs, into which a (stone-) slab would have been placed to seal the door after burial. In addition to the chamber burials, there are crypts cut into the rock, and niches possibly used for offering.

The majority of the tombs excavated so far – with the main exception of two infant burials, two older children/young adults discovered and excavated during the previous season (2016/2017) and the four child burials found this season – have been plundered already during antiquity, and then been left neglected and without further disturbance, and since covered by up to 3m of Nile silt, blown in sand, and fallen quarry spoil and debris.

Some of the individual tombs reveal multiple burials within the same chamber or crypt, possibly complete families, and individuals of varying ages and sex. In addition, the newly discovered infant/child burials present another aspect to the cemetery, clearly indicating family life at Gebel el-Silsila.

The archaeological material produced from the newly discovered tombs and burials chronologically correlate with those excavated previously, so far limited to the Thutmosid period (Thutmosis II - Amenhotep II). In addition to the tombs themselves, the excavation has revealed finely dressed sandstone sarcophagi, sculptured and occasionally painted pottery coffins, painted cartonnage, textile and organic wrapping, ceramic vessels and plates, as well as an array of jewellery, amulets and scarabs.

The vast amount of human remains so far recovered from the necropolis indicates the individuals were generally healthy.  At this time, very little evidence of malnutrition and infection has been discovered, although exceptions occur.  Fractures of the long bones and increased muscle attachments amongst the skeletal remains indicate behaviours related to occupational hazards and an extremely labour-intensive environment. Furthermore, many of the injuries appear to be in an advanced stage of healing, suggesting effective medical care.  

Some links (to be updated):

Finally, we would like to thank everyone on the 

team, and wish you all Happy Holidays! 

Thursday, June 29, 2017

3D Inner sanctuary of the speos

For those of you who enjoy the 3D models, you will be delighted to find yet another two examples uploaded, showing the northern and southern walls of the inner sanctuary of the speos at Gebel el-Silsila.

view of the inner sanctuary and the main gods of the speos. Photo by Maria Nilsson

The long south wall of the sanctuary is decorated in sunken relief, showing almost 40 seated deities uttering wishes of well being for King Horemheb. They have been often described as an Egyptian pantheon. Turned, however, towards the end wall of the temple, they are here depicted as guests to witness a mythological mystery taking place. Smaller vignettes showing priests adoring gods were later added in an empty lower portion of the wall during the Ramesside period. The destructions visible at the left are traces of eradication or hacking done during the end of the Amarna period. They were concealed under a coating of hard 'plaster' when the wall was restored for new inscriptions.

South wall of the inner sanctuary, photo by Maria Nilsson

The northern wall offers an interesting parallel to the southern wall, It shows another 'pantheon', in fact a group of invited divinities, but standing in two registers and sculptured in true relief. The relief includes 23 figures mixing gods and goddesses. If the destructions are rather related to unfortunate modern looting attempts, some traces of ancient erasures related to the Amarna period can still be seen. The Ramesside presence is this time limited to one line of text added to the right in the lower empty space. However, a viewer with keen eyes for painted and very faded graffiti will find several traces of such too.
North wall of the inner sanctuary, photo by Maria Nilsson

Gebel el Silsila Project - Epigraphic Survey
3D Photography, modelling and anotations by Philippe Martinez, lead epigrapher for the project, CNRS, Sorbonne Universités:

Digital images created with plexus software by Kevin Cain (,

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

3D Ramesside Royal Stelae West Bank

More amazing 3D models from Gebel el-Silsila, now showing the three royal stelae on the west bank.

The main model shows an overview of the three stelea, which are situated along the cenotaph road on the west bank of the Nile. They have been preserved between two quarried surfaces. They were erected, from south to north - or left to right - by Ramses III, Sheshonq I and Ramses IV respectively. They clearly have been the subject of a local cult and below them are to be seen the traces of the Nile flood that reached their foot annually at the beginning of the summer.

There are also individual models of the three stelae:


Gebel el Silsila Project - Epigraphic Survey
Photography, modelling and anotations by Philippe Martinez, lead epigrapher of the project, CNRS, Sorbonne Universités:

Digital models created with plexus software by Kevin Cain (,

New models from the Speos

The Silsila Team is happy to announce yet some more 3D models from within the Speos or Rock-cut temple of the west bank.

The two models show the Northern and Southern side of the Eastern wall of the sancturary, divided by the doorway.

The Northern side shows divinities related to the control of the Nile Flood and connected to Aswan and the first cataract, as well as the local site of Kheny (Silsila). It is interestingly carved in relief for the upper part and in sunken relief for the lower.

The Southern side shows divinities related to the control of the Nile Flood, this time the Osirian family connected to Abydos in Middle Egypt, but also with Nubia and the South where the Nile flood came from.

Dr Martinez in the speos

Photography, modeling and anotations by Philippe Martinez, CNRS, Sorbonne Universités, Lead Epigrapher for the Silsila Project:

Digital models created with plexus software by Kevin Cain (,

Thursday, June 22, 2017

New 3D models, Shrine 4 Gebel el-Silsila West

The Project is happy to announce that yet another two 3D-models have been uploaded to our Sketchfab page, this time focusing on Cenotaph/Shrine 4 on the West Bank. The first model shows the shrine as it is preserved today, while the second shows a digital reconstruction and interpretation of how it may have looked prior to the earthquake. 

Fractured statue group in shrine 4, photograph John Ward

3D image current preservation (here)
3D image digital reconstruction (here)
3D photography and model by Stefan Lindgren, HumLab, Lund University

still image of the digital reconstruction by Stefan Lindgren

The monument in focus is a niche located on the southern side of ‘shrine 4’ (James and Caminos 1963, 16-18) that has been broken in three parts due to a fracture in the bedrock plausibly caused by a natural catastrophe/earthquake. The room initially measured 1.27 m deep x 1.50 m high. Three statues are seated on a bench, facing forward towards the north-facing opening/door. The three statues depict two men and a woman. While there are no preserved inscriptions or decoration, it can be presumed that the main male figure depicts a man called Djehutmose, who was a scribe of the treasury during the 18th or early 19th Dynasty (based on an adjacent, plausibly associated hieroglyphic text) (James and Caminos 1963, 16). 

Shrine 4, Gebel el-Silsila West, photograph by John Ward
This shrine, together with 31 more, are currently re-documented and prepared for a new and updated publication, which will include not only the original epigraphy, but also later graffiti, architectural components, and state of preservation by the current archaeological project on site. By means of newer, digital equipment and software, painted details faded to the naked eye, become visible and bring more information in terms of each shrine’s original decoration (see some examples attached herein).

original photo from the ceiling in shrine 4, photograph by Maria Nilsson

D-Streched image emphasizing certain colours

Original photo of one of the statues in shrine 4, photograph by Maria Nilsson

Image in DStrech revealing original colour

Original photo of painted and etched graffiti in Shrine 4, photograph by Maria Nilsson

Details in DStrech

Link to DStrech software here