For the past 30 years, scientists have been exploring a cemetery in Egypt whose origins are mysterious. One thing they have determined, however: “We are fairly certain we have over a million burials within this cemetery. It’s large, and it’s dense,” says the project’s director, Kerry Muhlestein of Brigham Young University.
Dubbed Fag el-Gamous, the grounds are full of bodies that date to between the 1st and 7th centuries AD, Live Science reports. The remains don’t belong to royalty, and most weren’t actively mummified by people—but the dry surroundings led to what could “loosely” be called mummies, says Muhlestein, who has blogged about the findings.
Brigham Young researchers have dug up more than 1,700 burials over the past three decades, they write in Studia Antiqua, noting that they’re not the first researchers to investigate the site.
Among recent findings are the remains of an 18-month-old from about 1,500 years ago. “There was some evidence that they tried much of the full mummification process. The toes and toenails and brain and tongue were amazingly preserved,” researchers say.
As for where the child, or countless others, came from, researchers aren’t sure. Interestingly, a database reveals that blond people appear to have been buried together, with red-headed ones elsewhere; this could be due to families being buried together, researchers note.
They also found one body that was more than seven feet tall—particularly surprising given poor nutrition at the time.