This item is taken from the Daily Mail of February 11, 1930. It tells the story of the discovery of an intact burial close to the Pyramid of Meidum and of the subsequent damage and destruction caused by the excavators of the time in trying to recover the contents. The article remains the copyright of The Daily Mail and is reproduced here with permission.


A SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT describes the digging up of

A ROMANTIC FIGURE OF ANCIENT EGYPT.

The following article, describing the excavations near the Sphinx, is of special interest in view of the discovery (reported in "The Daily Mail" yesterday) of the tomb of a high official of ancient Egypt.

Cairo.
MEIDUM or Meydum, which in ancient Egyptian signified "The Beloved Of The Sun," is less than ninety miles from Cairo.

It seems more like nine hundred by the train which crawls, the car from the wayside station which creeps, and the donkey that runs from the "road," where you very gladly leave your car, to the site of the excavations beyond the great quadrilateral pyramid built by the father of Cheops.

Grisly Finds.

Great results are expected from the excavations in the vicinity of the pyramid, which are being carried out by the Pennsylvania University expedition. A little township has grown up in the desert where hundreds of fallaheen work under the direction of Britons, Americans, and Australians.

Behind a hillock, we came across a group of Arabs, one of whom was playing about with a large mirror. The next moment we were looking down into a yawning crater about 25ft. deep by 10ft. wide, from which, like smoke from a volcano, volumes of thin dust issued and stifled us.

I had authority to descend. There was only one way, and that was by a rope wound round my chest and under the armpits. Unfortunately, something went wrong with the water-works just then, and when halfway down I could neither be pulled up again, nor let down. The natives yelled while I hung between gabbling and a grave.

When I did reach the bottom of the pit it was to receive a cordial handshake and the interesting information that journalists were de trop in the archaeological undertaking business. Breathlessly, I leaned against the side of the pit and felt something sticking into my rib. It was the rib of another wanderer of four thousand years ago. A grinning assortment of skulls was at my side.

My host wasted no time. He was busy pulling out a coffin from a hole which they had discovered a few minutes before I had shouted down to him from the surface. It lay with its sofa back to us. (Many Egyptian coffins have a backrest.)

The wood was extremely brittle. The hole in the earth was just big enough to allow an arm to be put round the box on each side. We were about to drag back into daylight something which had been hidden from it for four thousand years.

Untouched for 4,000 Years.

Further interest was yielded to the find by the fact that no-one had any idea who was the occupant of this grave. The other tomb-houses a few feet away had held many coffins. This one was alone, and the assumption was that the occupant was a person of great distinction entitled to a separate burial. It was as dark as night in the tomb and the genial native above who had a mirror, and was asked repeatedly to reflect the rays of the sun on to the opening, regarded it as a game and reflected them instead in the eyes of his delighted entourage.

We tried to lift the coffin, and the wood immediately crumbled. Then we pulled it and the sofa back wobbled. Slowly - it must have been twenty minutes, and the sun was sinking fast - we dragged out about half of the bier of forty centuries and discovered one great fact. That tomb, at least, had never been rifled. The coffin was intact. The last time human hands had touched it was twenty centuries before Christ was born.

The coffin was covered in a layer of dust almost two inches deep - thin fine indescribable dust, the dust of ages.

When this was brushed away we saw the face of the dead, painted according to the ancient Egyptian mode, on the lid, a lovely piece of work in delicate and unfaded hues of deep scarlet, green, gold and blues. As we raised the lid this glorious picture crumbled to dust - a colourless dust that was relieved by the glint of mineral particles.

Then came the great moment. The second lid was removed, and there lay in wondrous splendour a swathed bearded grandee, covered with a pall wrought in shimmering blue beads, which alas! had become unstrung in the process of dragging him forth. They can never be restrung in their original exquisite design, nor will any others ever see this unknown great man in all his glory as we saw him.

The most exciting moment after that came with the hauling up, and I have a definite criticism to make. University concessions carry with them a moral responsibility. It is no doubt good, from the point of view of the concessionaires, to go and live an archaic life with a few hundred fellaheen and no reliable tackle in the midst of a desert in order to dig out something without the world finding out what is in the air, or rather the earth. But it would be better to forget publicity and remember to have the proper apparatus for hauling up a dead man twenty feet. I know they could not successfully let one down.

Beard Destroyed.

In the process of pulling up the late grandee his beard came off. The coffin bumped against the sides of the pit, while the natives, who don't care two hoots about any dead man who was not a True Believer, just howled and jolted and cursed and pushed. What further damage was caused I do not know, for after the body had reached the surface everybody became hot, bothered, secretive, and mysterious.

We carried the Unknown along, perhaps the very path by which he had been taken to his grave so many centuries before. As we approached the camp of the excavators there was the unmistakable smell of cooking. He was carefully but unceremoniously dumped down among the coffins of those he "would not have cared to meet" in life. I understand that on the following day there would be a sort of autopsy. They would rip the old aristocrat open to see if there was a papyrus hidden somewhere which would show who he was, where he ruled, how he lived, and how he died.

But I know something he didn't. I know how he was dug up. Does anyone really know why?


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