SAN DIEGO — Excavated remains of a warrior slain around 2,200 years ago provide rare, physical evidence of an uprising that’s described on the Rosetta Stone, scientists say.
“Most likely, the warrior we found was a casualty of the ancient Egyptian revolt,” said archaeologist Robert Littman on November 22 at the annual meeting of the American Schools of Oriental Research.
A team led by Littman, of the University of Hawaii at Manoa, and anthropological archaeologist Jay Silverstein of the University of Tyumen in Russia unearthed the man’s skeleton at the ancient city of Thmouis. That city is now buried beneath a mound of earth and debris called Tell Timai in the Nile Delta.
The Rosetta Stone, carved in 196 B.C., is famous for bearing an official message in three scripts, including one in ancient Greek that enabled scholars to decipher another written in ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics. That message describes a military victory of Ptolemy V, a pharaoh from a powerful Greek dynasty, against a faction of a native Egyptian revolt known from written sources to have lasted from 206 B.C. to 186 B.C. Thmouis was located in a region where battles in that revolt occurred.
Excavations in 2011 yielded the warrior’s skeleton. His body had been thrown on the ground and covered with dirt, with no sign of a burial. Healed and unhealed arm injuries and fractures elsewhere on the skeleton likely resulted from combat near the time of death as well as years earlier, Littman said. Near the skeleton, researchers found a burned arrowhead and burned ballista balls, nearly baseball-sized stones that were hurled by catapults.
Littman suspects that the Thmouis warrior died at the time of the Egyptian revolt. Coins excavated just above his remains date to between 180 B.C. and 170 B.C. Coins found just below his skeleton date to 205 B.C. or earlier.
It’s unclear whether Thmouis residents sided with the rebels or the pharaoh, Littman said.