In Photos: Ancient Egyptian Skeletons Unearthed

Ancient graves

amarna-excavations

(Image credit: The Amarna Project)

Archaeologists have unearthed graves with hundreds of skeletons at the ancient Egyptian city of Amarna

Strong-willed pharaoh

pharaoh-statue

(Image credit: qwelk | Wikimedia Commons)

Around 1350 B.C., the Pharaoh Akhenaten relocated his capital to a new location 218 miles (350 kilometers) south of modern-day Cairo.

Sun god cult

sphinx-hieroglyphics

(Image credit: Hans Ollermann)

Akhenaten, pictured here as a sphinx, hoped to build a cult of worship to the sun god Aten in an undeveloped site that was uncontaminated by worship of other gods.

Rapid construction

amarna ruins

(Image credit: isawnyu | Flickr.com)

The city was constructed rapidly, and at its peak, 20,000 to 30,000 builders, soldiers, court officials, and servants lived there.

Burial site

excavating-cemetery

(Image credit: The Amarna Project)

Surveyors in the desert near Amarna uncovered a massive cemetery about a decade ago. Unlike most Egyptian tombs unearthed in the past, this site held the bones of lower-class Egyptians.

Ancient protector

egyptian-amulet

(Image credit: The Amarna Project)

The burial revealed several artifacts, like this pendant in the shape of the god Bes, a protector of women and children.

Hippo amulets

hippopotamus-pendant

(Image credit: Gil Owen)

The archaeologists also found three hippopotamus amulets in the burial of a woman and child. These grave goods may have been worn during life, but also carried with the owners into the afterlife.

Egyptian eye

egyptian-bead

(Image credit: Gil Owen)

The team also unearthed a bead in the shape of the goddess Wedjat's eye. The eye is a symbol of wholeness and protection.

Hard life

skeleton-excavation

(Image credit: The Amarna Project)

Belying the stele depicting scenes of plenty and ease, the bones showed signs of malnutrition, fractures, and joint degeneration from heavy lifting.

Everyday people

excavating-graves

(Image credit: The Amarna Project)

One possibility is that the overnight construction of Akhenaten's capital took an especially hard toll on its everyday citizens.

Ancient inscription

hieroglyphics-burial

(Image credit: The Amarna Project)

The limestone bricks that make up buildings in the area weighed about 154 pounds (70 kilograms), and the construction workers would have repeatedly lifted those loads. Here, the team unearths ancient hieroglyphics.