No less significant than the pyramids of Giza, Saqqara or Valley of the Kings, there are numerous archaeological sites in Egypt, which are not recognized.
“One of these sites, which is only known among archaeologists, is the Merimde-Beni Salama,” world-renowned Egyptologist Zahi Hawass said.
It lies about 50 kilometers northwest of Cairo, specifically on the western edge of the delta between Wardan and Khatatba towns.
Dating back to the Neolithic period, the Merimde was discovered by German archaeologist Hermann Junker in 1928.
At the beginning of the 19th century, primitive dwellings on either side of a straight path were found.
In addition, numbers of elliptical cottages, that were constructed below ground levels, were also located. “One-third of the cottages’ body were built below ground level to be sufficiently supported,” Hawass added.
One can descent into the dwelling, which was constructed using dry mud, by stepping downwards on a simple stairway or two levels of hippopotamus thigh bones.
“Hippopotamus bones were used as a staircase during that era for its resistance to time or perhaps as an amulet to protect against predators,” he pointed out.
Considered as the oldest village on the face of the earth, Beni Salama, which is approximately six thousand feddans, dates back to 4800 and 4300 BC.
Residents of the Mermeda engaged widely in agriculture. Traces of straw silos used for storing wheat and grain yields were observed on some of the mounds.
“The village planning and silos assure that the ancient Egyptian was advanced in management and knowledge. They lived in a cooperative community under the administration of a leader,” Hawass stated.
Burials were carried out in tombs between the houses and not in the separate cemeteries. Surprisingly, dead children were buried under the house entrance threshold.
Until our present day, some villages in rural and Upper Egypt still bury embryos in the same places.
The residents of Merimde costumes were made out of linen, and women were adorned with oysters necklaces, bone rings, and ivory earrings.
After half a century on the excavations of Junker, the Antiquities Authority approved a budget of fifty thousand pounds to start over excavations in the oldest Egyptian village.
“I was a young artifact inspector during that time in the village of Bani Salama, and I have applied for work excavations permission after I noticed attempts by some villagers to infiltrate the archaeological site. Excavations in such sites require specialized expertise, surface lift skills, digging squares identification, a study of soil layers, and archaeological recording as well as illustration,” Hawass noted.
“During an Egyptology Conference held in Cairo at that time, archaeologists criticized me for digging the Merimde following Junker,” he continued.
The excavation took two months and two squares each five square meters were unveiled. However, results were impressive for archaeologists all over the world.
Hawass concluded by noting that the site requires preservation as it’s the origin of the ancient Egyptian civilization and the great Pharaohs.
Contributed by: Taarek Refaat