THE MYSTERIOUS 'MUMMY PITS' OF ANCIENT EGYPT
It would be scarcely respectable, on returning from Egypt, to present oneself in Europe without a mummy in one hand and a crocodile in the other.
— Father Ferdinand de Géramb to
Pasha Mohamed Ali in A.D. 1833
'Digging for Mummies' by Amelia Edwards (1877)
Ferdinand de Géramb
Amelia Blanford Edwards (1831–1892)
Giovanni Battista Belzoni
I was surrounded by bodies, by heaps of mummies in all directions. I sought a resting place and contrived to sit but my weight bore down on the body of an Egyptian. I tried to find better support but sunk altogether among the broken mummies, with a crash of bones, rags and wooden cases which raised such a dust that it kept me motionless for a quarter of an hour, waiting until it subsided again. . .
— Description of a 'Mummy Pit' at Thebes
by Giovanni Belzoni (A.D. 1820)
This site serves as an introduction to the mysterious burial phenomenon of the 'mummy pits.'
These mass-burials of mummies were once a characteristic feature of Egypt's burial landscape, but they now appear to have disappeared.
What happened to these 'pits' and how can we learn more about them?
Early travellers hold the answer . . .
A little over a century ago, large pits filled with mummies were a common feature of Egypt's ancient burial grounds and yet, today we know very little about them.
What are 'mummy pits' and how can we learn more about them?
WHAT ARE 'MUMMY PITS'?
THE MISSING MUMMIES
BURIAL OF THE POOR
The 'mummy pits' were thought to have once contained millions of mummies. They now however appear to have all mysteriously disappeared.
Where have all the mummies gone?
Now that the 'mummy pits' have largely disappeared from the archaeological record, early travel accounts are the only source of information on these burials.
What do these early accounts tell us?
Are the 'mummy pits' simply mass-burial pits? Or do they instead perhaps represent a definable burial custom?
Could these 'pits' be evidence of a now long-forgotten burial custom used by the poor?