Few tombs, and none of such size and
quality, have been found by archaeologists
before the looters.
Even the tomb of Tutankhamen, opened in the
1920s, showed signs of having been visited
by grave-robbers. The tombs in the Valley
of the Golden Mummies were discovered when
a donkey, ridden by an antiquities guard
along the dusty road to the small town of
Farafra, tripped after its leg slipped into
a hole leading to the entrance.
That stumble revealed an entire forgotten
population not just of faceless mummies,
but of people with wives, husbands,
children, lives, beliefs and personalities,
which they took with them in death.
The discoverer peered down into the hole,
and a gallery of ancient eyes in different
faces stared back, unblinking, into the light.
Today Bahriya is a tranquil oasis of date groves and hot springs off the
tourist track. Its population has shrunk since Roman times and there are
few foreign visitors.
But archaeologists hope the wealth of mummies and temple ruins in the
area will put it firmly on the tourist map.
Only those mummies in the Bahareya Museum, which Hawass has pledged to improve, will be on view.
The archeologist predicts that complete excavation will take at least a decade.
They expect to find up to 10,000 mummies.
The experts hope to return them all to their original condition.