Archaeologists' '1M Mummies' Claim Was Way Off: Egypt

Officials revoke researchers' digging licenses
By Matt Cantor,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 27, 2014 3:45 PM CST
Archaeologists' '1M Mummies' Claim Was Way Off: Egypt
Archaeologists and journalists are seen at another archaeological site, south of Cairo, Egypt, Thursday, May 8, 2014.   (AP Photo/Amr Nabil)

When researchers claimed to have found a million burials at a dig site in Egypt, the supposed news was widely reported—including on this site. But officials in the country say the claim is false, and they've revoked the scientists' dig licenses in connection with it, io9 reports. Archaeologist Kerry Muhlestein's team said in a statement that "the math suggests that there are over a million mummies in the cemetery, though we cannot be certain of this without further exploration and a thorough academic review process," the Luxor Times reports. To be fair, at Live Science, Muhlestein was quoted as qualifying the word "mummy," given the natural, not artificial, processes reportedly involved: "If we want to use the term loosely, then they were mummified," he said.

But Dr. Youssef Khalifa, who, Newsweek reports, heads the ancient Egypt department at the country's antiquities ministry, suggests that neither the number nor the word "mummy" are correct. The statement, which was published in the Daily Mail, "is not true," he says. "There are no million mummies; a mummy definition to begin with means a complete mummified body, and there is only one mummy found at the site of Fag el-Gamous, in 1980." In recent years, says Dr. Khalifa, "only poor skeletons were found," along with a few thousand bones. Researchers broke rules on press statements, and "that’s why the committee of the ancient Egypt department took the decision to stop their permission to work at the site after 28 years," he says. Muhlestein says it's a matter of "misunderstandings." (More Egypt stories.)

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