Gallery: Ancient Egypt Cemetery Reveals Season of Sex

Ancient cemetery

an 1,800-year-old cemetery at the Dakhleh Oasis in Egypt

(Image credit: Photo courtesy Lana Williams)

A team of researchers, excavating a cemetery at the Dakhleh Oasis in Egypt, have uncovered the peak periods for ancient Egyptian conceptions and births. The peak period for conceptions was in July and August (when the weather was hottest), and the peak period for births was in March and April. These patterns may be related to beliefs regarding the flooding of the Nile, which began in June. Here, the burial of a child found in the cemetery.

Mom and infant

An adult female with an infant buried beside her leg were among the remains found at the ancient Egyptian cemetery.

(Image credit: Photo courtesy Lana Williams)

An adult female with an infant buried beside her leg. The excellent preservation of human remains at the site allowed researchers to determine how many developmental weeks juveniles were when they died.

Eroding graves

The remains of tomb structures discovered in an ancient Egyptian cemetery that have been heavily eroded from the wind and passage of time.

(Image credit: Photo courtesy Lana Williams)

The cemetery the researchers are exploring is located near the ancient town of Kellis. Researchers have uncovered 765 graves so far from the site, including 124 infants who died between 18 weeks and 45 weeks after conception. The graves of the people were oriented toward the rising sun, allowing researchers to tell which month people died. In this photo the remains of tomb structures on the surface can be seen. They are now heavily eroded from the wind and passage of time.

Baby season

chart showing how conceptions and births changed over the course of the year in ancient Egypt.

(Image credit: Image courtesy Lana Williams)

This chart shows how the rate of conceptions (red) and births (black) changed at the ancient Egyptian site over the course of the year (Egyptian months at bottom of chart). March and April births were 20 percent above average, with conceptions being 20 percent higher in July and August. The red sections represent Egyptian festivals and the blue sections periods of early Christian sexual prohibitions, such as at Advent and Lent.

Dakhleh Oasis

A map of Egypt's Oases, the Dakhleh Oasis

(Image credit: Image in public domain, courtesy Wikimedia)

A map of Egypt's Oases, the Dakhleh Oasis can be seen on the lower left. It is located about 450 miles (720 km) southwest of Cairo.

Ruins of Kellis

the ruins of Kellis, also known as Ismant el-Kharab, which is located in the Dakhleh Oasis in Egypt

(Image credit: Photo by Roland Unger, CC Attribution Share-Alike 1.0 generic.)

Here, the ruins of Kellis, also known as Ismant el-Kharab, which is located in the Dakhleh Oasis. In antiquity it had a population of at least several thousand. The site was abandoned for unknown reasons around A.D. 400.

Spreading Christianity

the remains of a great church from ancient egypt

(Image credit: Photo by Roland Unger, CC Attribution Share-Alike 1.0 generic)

The site of the cemetery existed at a time when Christianity was spreading in Egypt. This image shows the remains of a great church. The spread of Christianity appears to have had an effect on conception and birth cycles at the site. Conception dipped to 20 percent below average in January, a time close to both Advent and Lent when early Egyptian Christians were supposed to abstain from sex.

Kellis Temple

the remains of a temple at Kellis from ancient Egypt

(Image credit: Photo by Roland Unger, CC Attribution Share-Alike 1.0 Generic)

Although Christianity was spreading in Egypt, traditional religious beliefs were still strong. This image shows the remains of a temple at Kellis.