Archaeologists have discovered over 100 ancient inscriptions that were carved into the rock at Wadi el-Hudi, which is where the Egyptians mined amethysts in ancient times. They also found 14 stele (which are inscriptions that are carved on a slab of stone or pillar) and 45 ostraca (which are inscriptions that are written on pottery pieces).
While tests are currently being conducted on the findings, archaeologists have already concluded that several of the inscriptions were from approximately 3,900 years ago (a time period known as the “Middle Kingdom”), and several of the ostraca were from around 2,000 years ago (approximately the same time that Egypt was taken over by Rome).
During the Middle Kingdom time period in Egypt, the pharaohs discovered that Wadi el-Hudi was an excellent source for amethysts and started mining it. “They were bringing it back and making it into jewelry and doling it out to their elite and their princesses,” Kate Liszka, who is the director of the Wadi el-Hudi expedition, told Live Science.
Although other scholars previously surveyed Wadi el-Hudi, many of the inscriptions were overlooked. “The site is just so full of inscriptions behind every boulder and around every wall that they missed a lot of them,” Liszka stated. In order to find new inscriptions, the team is using 3D modeling, photogrammetry, and reflectance transformation imaging (RTI).
The team hopes that the inscriptions will answer many of the mysteries surrounding Wadi el-Hudi, such as whether or not the miners were being forced to work against their free will. “I don’t know if I’m excavating a legitimate settlement where people were treated well or if I’m excavating a prison camp,” explained Liszka.
Some of the inscriptions indicate that there were groups of soldiers who were staring down at the miners while they worked, which makes researchers wonder whether the soldiers were keeping a watchful eye on the miners to make sure they were working hard, or if they were just protecting them.
Another unanswered question is how the miners got access to water since the closest well was 1.9 miles away from them. And since it’s very possible that the well wasn’t even in use at that time, the Nile River was around 18.6 miles away.
Researchers also found a 3,400-year-old stela which had the name Usersatet written on it, who was viceroy of Kush in southern Egypt. What’s so mysterious about the finding is that no mining was being conducted at Wadi el-Hudi during that time, leaving it completely abandoned, so why did someone bring it 18.6 miles throughout the desert in order to leave it there? Hopefully with more research being done there, some of these questions may eventually be answered.