Archaeologists in Scotland may have finally solved the mystery of how ancient Egyptian artifacts that were unearthed on a school grounds between 1952 and 1984 were buried there.
A Scottish schoolboy who was digging potatoes as punishment discovered an ancient Egyptian statue, the first in a collection of ancient Egyptian sculptures and artifacts buried on his school grounds. Now, researchers have finally figured out how the artifacts came to the British Isles, according to the journal Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland.
In 1952, a 14-year-old boy, Ian MacDonald, was digging potatoes in the grounds of Melville House, a stately home in Fife, when he came across something hard. He dug it up and found it to be a bronze statuette of the bull Apis, a sacred animal in ancient Egyptian religion.
MacDonald took the statuette to his teacher, who in turn reported the discovery to a local archaeologist. The archaeologist identified the statuette as Ancient Egyptian and reported it to the Scottish Ministry of Culture.
Over the next 32 years, 17 more ancient Egyptian artifacts were found on the grounds of Melville House, including a red sandstone statue head that was described by the curator of the National Museums of Scotland, Margaret Maitland, as "a masterpiece of Egyptian sculpture."
All of the artifacts were dated between 1069 BC and 30 BC, i.e. before the Romans took over Egypt as a province.
For a long time, scientists could not understand how the ancient Egyptian artifacts got to Scotland. Now, after a new excavation, researchers believe they were brought by Alexander Leslie-Melville, whose title was Lord Balgoni, a young heir to Melville House who traveled to Egypt in 1856 and died a year after his return to the UK.
Balgoni may have acquired the collection during his travels, as consuls and antiquarians often sold ancient artifacts to foreigners during this period. After Balgoni's death, family members probably moved the objects to an outbuilding, which was later demolished, and forgot about them.
As a reminder, a 3000-year-old city buried under the sands was found in Egypt: the largest one ever discovered.
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