Right side of mandible belonging to a soldier

Middle Kingdom

Not on view

During excavations in the 1920s on the west bank of modern Luxor, the Metropolitan Museum’s expedition found what turned out to be an ancient mass grave for at least fifty-nine soldiers. Their bodies showed evidence of violence, and from their wounds it was apparent that they died on the battlefield. Buried with the individuals were items of military equipment such as bows and arrows. Rather than being properly mummified and placed inside coffins, the soldiers were only wrapped in linen before they were buried in an unfinished tomb. The tomb was robbed in antiquity and during the robbers’ violent search for valuable objects the corpses were completely dismembered. Among the human remains found were fifty-nine skulls and other skeletal material as well as naturally mummified body parts that retained soft tissue.

The director of the excavations, Herbert Winlock, believed that these dead soldiers were connected with a specific historic event that led to the reunification of Egypt during Dynasty 11 under Mentuhotep II; he called them the "slain soldiers" of this pharaoh. However, a reevaluation of the evidence does not support this theory. On the corners of the linen sheets were inscriptions, some with the names that were popular later, in early Dynasty 12. The paleography of the inscription and the type of archer’s guard found in the grave also point to this date, which can perhaps be narrowed down to the reign of Senwosret I (the second king of Dynasty 12).

At the time of the excavation a system called partage, or division of finds, was standard practice. This meant that about half of the finds were allocated to the institution or individuals sponsoring the excavations, while the other portion remained the property of the Egyptian government. As part of the division of finds in 1927, the Museum received remains of two soldiers as well as objects found in the tomb, such as arrows and pieces of inscribed linen. The collection record here is for the right side of a mandible of one of these individuals; for his skull see 27.3.617a.

Right side of mandible belonging to a soldier, Human bone

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