Archaeologists come across the rare remains of a pregnant Egyptian woman at the Timna Valley mines


The Timna Valley mines in southern Israel, around 19 miles from the Gulf of Aqaba, are known for their copper ore – so much so that the site had been mined since the 5th millennium BC. In fact, these mines had various owners at different time periods, ranging from the Edomites, Egyptians, Nabateans to the Romans and even Ummayad Caliphate. Pertaining to the Egyptian epoch of ownership, archaeologists (of the Central Timna Valley Project) have made the rare discovery of the remains of a pregnant woman at the site. Her 3,200-year-old remains were found near the temple dedicated to the Egyptian goddess Hathor, at the area known as King Solomon’s Mines.


The tumulus of the pregnant woman.

Hathor, an ancient Egyptian goddess with primeval origins, was associated with feminine love, maternity, and joy. On the other hand, the diety was also considered as the protector patron of these ancient miners. Suffice it to say, the temple in question here was a pretty significant spiritual refuge for the workers in circa 1200 BC, with the complex possibly acting as the bastion for rituals and ceremonies that were conducted to protect them during dangerous mining operations.

As for the pregnant woman in question here, she was probably an Egyptian who accompanied one of the mining expeditions sent out to the Timna Valley. And on arrival, she served in the aforementioned Temple of Hathor, possibly as a cultic singer or musician. Unfortunately, she met her demise in her early 20s and was then buried in a tumulus (encompassing earthwork and cut stones constructed over a grave) near to the temple. In any case, the ancient Egyptians probably lost their control over the strategic mines in that century itself.


And while the cause of her untimely death is unknown, archaeologists have assessed her remains to find out that she was in the early stages of her pregnancy. Now the researchers are still not sure if she was already pregnant before she embarked on her journey to the Timna Valley or if she was impregnated while serving the temple. Dr. Erez Ben-Yosef, a professor at Tel Aviv University’s Department of Archaeology, said –

Probably she wouldn’t have traveled if she knew she was pregnant, but this is only a guess.

Interestingly enough, back in 2014, Ben-Yosef and his team discovered a rather imposing gatehouse along with two rooms, by the main passageway that made its access through the walls of the camp. This structure might have even served as a prominent landmark in the area, with its purpose being related to the movement of people and flow of goods in-and-out of the mining camp. In the early excavation phase of 2017, this was complemented by the discovery of an elaborate patchwork of defense systems, along with 3,000-year-old fabric samples that exhibited the earliest instance of chemical dyeing in history.


The Timna Valley Park. Image Copyright: Richard Nowitz

Via: Live Science / Images Credit (except last image): Central Timna Valley Project