VALPARAISO | A famed Egyptologist took Valparaiso High School Latin students on a journey 3,300 years back in time, as he shared photos of his excavations of the tombs of Egyptian nobility.
Lanny Bell, who specializes in ancient Egyptian divine kingship, the temples of Thebes, and Egyptian epigraphy, spoke Tuesday to Latin students in teacher Ben Kerezman's classes.
Bell, of Old Saybrook, Conn., also planned to speak Tuesday night at Valparaiso University during an Archaeological Institute of America event hosted by VU Professor Mark Farmer and the classics department.
In his slideshow presentation at the high school, Bell displayed pictures of the work he and his team conducted near the city of Luxor, Egypt, between 1967 and 1972.
The expedition was part of the University of Pennsylvania's Theban Tomb Project, of which Bell was field director.
He described the challenges of working deep underground, including having to bring in special lighting and electricity. Before any work could begin, the pillars holding up the ceiling of the tomb had to be strengthened so it would not collapse upon the workers.
“Our first task was to increase the safety factor in the tomb,” Bell said.
The team donned breathing masks and armed themselves with chisels and scalpels as they painstakingly uncovered hieroglyphics on the walls and other objects depicting ancient life.
“There are lots of decorations in all of these tombs, you just have to work to get it,” Bell said.
The crew unearthed pieces of pottery, a scroll of paper made from the papyrus plant, a statue of the wife of a high priest, part of a wooden cross, and a sarcophagus.
One student asked if there were any traps in the tombs, like the ones seen in the popular Indiana Jones' movies.
Bell said while there were no traps, some tombs supposedly had curses, but even those failed to prevent tomb robbers from seeking their treasures.
“Tomb robbers were willing to suffer the damnation of hell,” he said.
Though Bell did not work on King Tut's tomb – that excavation was finished before he was born – he has researched the ruler and the theories of how he died.
He said the latest findings indicate Tut died from the infection of a wound he sustained during a chariot accident.
“The theory that he was murdered simply does not hold water,” Bell said.