Sunday, December 30, 2018


Dear all,

Prior to this, our Season 12, we put in process a massive Kickstarter campaign targeting work in the Temple of Sobek on the East Bank of Silsila. We were overwhelmed as we reached our goal and thereby secured the continuation of work at this particular site. As part of this campaign, our backers were able to choose between various rewards, of which one was an official thank you here on our blog. After receiving our backers’ approval, the time has now come for us to publically thank each one of you who made this work possible! Please find the list of backers, arranged alphabetically, below (including some whom wished to remain anonymous).

Image of the western structure from last season

So, what are the results thus far? Well, one of the main achievements is that we have physically connected the Main Temple with the Western Structure by removing, sifting, and analysing the massive mound of silt, soil and archaeological remains known to the team as “Temple Mound”. We are incredibly grateful to our dedicated Egyptian workers for being patient, understanding and willing to continue the daily battle against this mound, including its modern hard spoil left from the building of the adjacent modern canal. Without our workers aid, we would not have been able to reach such great results in one season!

connecting the structures, here showing a part of the mound still in situ

Workers taking on the Mound during the previous season. Photo by Anders Andersson

Connecting the structures - in progress. Photo by Anders Andersson

Excavations of the western structure have so far focused on its central part, in which a circular rock-cut structure was revealed, and thus far reaches some 5-6 m below the ground. Work is still ongoing, and has now changed from sand and soil archaeology to excavations of wet mud as a pump is required to remove the ground water from therein.

View of the western structure, including its circular centre

What may there be?

3D model of work progress. Photogrammetry by John Ward

Connecting the two structures and excavating the circular structure has resulted in a large amount of fragments from the once magnificent Temple of Sobek. With over 500 sandstone fragments, nearly 200 limestone details, various small finds (including evidence that links Silsila with Roman Gaul!), and thousands of ceramic sherds, we consider the work in the temple a great success. However, we are not finished yet! Work will continue until the end of our season, after which we hope to begin putting together a beautiful book on Sobek as promised our backers of the campaign.
Limestone detail revealing a part of Men-Kheper-Re, i.e. Thutmosis III

Limestone detail of the little rower man, a glyph that forms the first sign in the ancient name of Silsila: "Kheny"!

If YOU would like to sponsor the project, helping us reveal more information about the Temple of Sobek – or the newly discovered subterranean shaft tomb, aid us with funds to employ more workers, buy a new pump or other important equipment, please support us by donating on our Friends of Silsila webpage!

Finally, with this short update, we would like to thank you all for your support and encouragement, and to wish you all the best for a Happy, Prosperous, Healthy and Adventurous New Year 2019!


THANK YOU for your support in “Finding Sobek”

Elisabeth Ahlsen
Jane Akshar
Jens Allwood
Anders Andersson
Tove Andersson
Pierre Arnold III
Paul Bagheri-Poubanne
Annelise Baer
Mary Banks
Elaine Barke
Lida Barmala
Shannon Beltz
Shelby Beltz
Karin Berggren
Nils & Anna Carin Billing
Erin Bisson
Susanna Blåndman
Ann Brun
John Burn
Jeff Burzacott
Yvonne Buskens-Frenken
Etta Chatterjee
Mats Cullhed
Lynn Couture
Annica Dahlström
Katie Davenport-Mackey
Sharon Davidson
Darryl Dobson
Jennifer Dyer
Rudi Endresen
Françoise Entelis
Raphael Epand
Nils Essle
Isabella Faroppa
Raquel Agrás Flores
Melanie Friederichs
Yishay Gabrieli
Linda Garza Hansen
Bronwyn and Peter Harrison
Carole Gillis
Richard Grant
Sven Grimm
Tiffany Hall
Diane Hanger
Beverley Haystead
Debra Hayward
Andy Hicks
Brenda Hill
Kristoffer Holmén
Sofia Häggman
Inger Jakobsson
Tony Jibbefors
Dr. Kim A Jobst DM FRCP MFHom
Sasha K (Sobekemiti)
Sölve Kajanus
Maria Karlman Noleryd
Allan King
Josa Kärre
Matthew King
Lena Kristensson
Niklas Kärrman
Anna Lagaron
Lars Larsson
Stephen Lazenby
Susan Lea
Marie Lebeau
Petra Lether
Tom Lesniewski
Jeszika Le Vye
Emma Libonati
Ulrika Lindblom-Nilsson
Stephanie Lindeburg
Anna Lindqvist
Ted Loukes
Andrea Lundberg Blank
Dan Madsen
Elisabeth Maubert
Beatrice Mackenzie
Flore Mayvial
Chandler McGowan
Denise McGrath
Françoise Meyer
James Miller
Kyra van der Moezel
Glyn Morris
Krista Moyls
Charlie Nilsson
Fredrik Nilsson
Gunhild Nilsson
Johan Nilsson
Lill Nilsson
Maria Nilsson
Svante Nilsson
Miss Leanne Northrop
Hans Nyman
Ingemar Nyman
Jennifer OConnell
Helen Ollett-Nash
Eva Oredsson
Kim Nelson & Jackson Ovadia
Patrick Patzer
Leena Pekkalainen
Jenny Persson
Julie Phillips
Alban-Brice Pimpaud
Carolyn Prior
Berit Prohaszka
Johanna Rex
Sue Retzer
Britnee Ricks
Carlo Rindi Nuzzolo
Abby and Bryn Roberts
Peter Robinson
Richard Rossi
Vincenzo Salvatore Pannone
Benita Schreuder
Astrid Segmar
Brian & Pam Silverian
Robert Skinner
Amanda Slack
Mrs Julie Smith
Martin Smith
Michele Stopera Freyhauf
Rocci Stucci
Pia Svanbom
Sofia Svensson
Kevin Swanson
Robert and Olivia Temple
Karen Thomas
Jen Thum
Debbie Tily
Ian Tompkins
Dr. CMCl Toporow
Paula Tutty
Margareta Törngren
Vanellus Trust
Juliane Unger
Julie Villaeys
John Ward
Charlotte Weaver
Judith Weingarten
Tobias Werner
Gertie Werner-Bäumer
James Whitfield
George Wood
Robin Young
Renée Zetterlund

Lihi Zilverberg

If you are a backer and connot find your name on the above list, please send us a quick email and we will update the page! 

Thursday, December 13, 2018

NEW DISCOVERY! Intact mass grave discovered in Gebel el-Silsila

Today, the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquity went out with the press release of our latest discovery, announced by Dr. Mostafa Waziri, General Secretary. Here is the update!

The Swedish-Egyptian mission at Gebel el-Silsila, Aswan Region, led by Dr. Maria Nilsson and John Ward (Lund University), under the supervision of the inspectorates of Aswan and Kom Ombo, has discovered an undecorated shaft tomb (5 m deep) with two chambers dating to the 18th Dynasty (Thutmosid period). The tomb is water filled and requires pumping to allow excavations. Since a recent looting attempt in the tomb is also filled with sand and silt, and the extent of damage that was caused to the monument is still to be assessed. Mr. Abdel Moniem, General Director of Aswan and Nubia, says that the team is currently estimating the preservation of the tomb, as the movement of water and sand has caused great disturbance to the interior, artefacts and osteological remains, but it appears to be intact and undisturbed from looting. So far, the team has discovered three sandstone sarcophagi, two of which have been excavated, revealing an infant and a young child. The third sarcophagus was also made for an infant; its contents await excavation. 

View from the shaft into chamber 1. Photograph by Anders Andersson

The team (l-r: Ibrahim, John, Ali, Ahmed) prepare one of the child sarcophagi to be lifted

View to the south-east of chamber 1, including the niche

The burial goods contain several artefacts of importance, including dozens of scarabs, amulets, beads, seals, bracelets, large amphorae, beer jugs, bowls, pilgrim flasks, and various storage jars, etc. 

Lotus-shaped amulet

Men-Kheper-Re scarab, photograph by Anders Andersson
Shabti figure
Hair bead

Chronologically, there are indications of at least three generations, ranging from Thutmosis II to Amenhotep II (c. 3400 years ago). Exceptionally, the team has documented the remains of so far a minimum of over 60 individuals (2/3 adults and 1/3 children) have been discovered, but with excavations still ongoing the team estimates the amount to increase. No other tomb documented at Gebel el-Silsila previously has contained such a high number of entombed individuals. One of the more important results of the discovery at Gebel el-Silsila is the amount of buried children and women, indicating that there was a complete society with entire families living and working in ancient Kheny. Excavations are scheduled to continue until the end of the year.

For further information, access to images, etc. please contact us via email, Lund University or Past Preservers (

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!