Open main menu

Two Ancient Races.—Describing, in the International Oriental Congress, his excavation of the pyramid of Medum—the tomb of King Senefru, of the third Egyptian dynasty, and the oldest known building in the world—Mr. H. Flinders Petrie spoke of the entire skeletons which had been obtained of men of that remote period (some 4000 years b. c.) as providing an anatomical study of importance for ethnology. The peculiar mode of interment of most of these persons shows that a religious difference then existed. The bodies of the highest class or race were interred, extended at full length, with vases of pottery or stone, and head-rests; while the greater number of the bodies were interred contracted, with the knees drawn up to the breast, even when the chamber was long enough to hold them extended; and they were not mummified No pottery was interred with them, except one or two rough vases in one tomb. This treatment was not due to neglect, for the deceased were always placed with great care and regularity, with the head to the north, the face to the east, and the body lying on the left side. Such essential differences in the mode of interment, and the provision for the deceased, point to a difference of race. The contracted interment may have pertained to one of the prehistoric races, and the extended interment with provision of vases, etc., to the dynastic race. The skeletons were well preserved, but tender and friable; the bones lay in their places, and the linen cloth wrapped around the body was intact. Rheumatic disease and other maladies of the bones were already well known at that period.