It became clear relatively quickly when this research project began, that the mummy pits have suffered significant destruction over the centuries by tourists on the hunt for mummy souvenirs and contractors in want of mummy bones and wrappings to manufacture paper and fertilizer. Very little archaeological data has thus survived to the modern day and the only sources which contain any detailed information on these burials, are the accounts left by early travellers.
By using these accounts and the eye-witness testimony of the pits recorded by travellers at a time when the mummy pits were still commonly found in Egypt, it is possible to piece the evidence together and to reconstruct this burial rite as it would have appeared in ancient times.
In order to gather as much detailed information as possible about the mummy pit burial phenomenon, it was necessary to collect and consult as many early travelogues as possible. To date, several thousand accounts have been investigated and there are many more which await study. Due to the immense number of accounts which refer to these burials, it has been necessary to confine research to accounts published in English. However, there are undoubtedly an untold number of travelogues in various languages which could provide even greater detail on the 'mummy pits.'
Although this project is currently the biggest of its size and utilizes the largest collection of travel accounts thus far investigated in the pursuit of investigating long-lost burial forms, there is clearly so much more we can learn from travellers in the context of significant archaeological sites now lost to us. Further study of an even larger number of accounts may yet yield more interesting information on the mummy pit burial phenomenon.
If you happen to come across any useful information or early travel accounts (in any language) which mention these burials or their later exploitation for souvenirs and mummy-products, I would be very grateful to hear from you!
EARLY TRAVELLER DATABASE
In order to navigate the thousands of travel accounts and other material used in the project, it was necessary to create a database of the all the sources thus gathered which reference the mummy pits.
This database contains information on the location and content of the pits described by travellers, as well as additional useful information on the early travellers themselves; such as biographical details, other travellers they encountered on their trip and the dates of and sites visited during their trip. At present, there is no encyclopaedic source on the nature of early travel and early travellers in Egypt (there are however several interesting and useful books on early travel in Egypt). It is hoped that in the near future this database will be published online (as ETIE) and will hopefully prove a useful resource for researchers on early travel in Egypt.
Early Travellers in Egypt (ETIE)
(A work in progress)
Coming soon. . . an online database of early travellers, their biographies, accounts and information on their time spent in Egypt
Watch this space!
Irish Egyptology (Irish Travellers in Egypt)