Ancient Rome's Long Lost Emerald Mines Found in Eastern Desert
These mines were first found between 2020 and 2021, after a series of digs led by Autonomous University of Barcelona’s Dr. Joan Oller.
Hidden within the sands and stones of Wadi El Gemal in Egypt’s Eastern Desert, Mons Smaragdus is an ancient site where ancient Romans established at least eleven emerald mines centuries ago.
These mines were first found between 2020 and 2021, after a series of digs led by Autonomous University of Barcelona’s Dr. Joan Oller. Topographic findings further revealed a much larger logistical operation in the area, with full-fledged settlements, necropolises, ramps, paths, and watchtowers surrounding the mines. In other words, an ancient mining town.
However it appears that the Roman watchtowers were not enough to maintain control of the mines. Additional buildings were found that appear to have been constructed between the 4th and 6th century AD by a nomadic tribe known as the Blemmyes. This tribe may have taken over the mines as a way of reclaiming power (and, of course, precious emeralds) from the Roman empire.
Most recently, during a 2022 dig that ended in January, archaeologists found a structure they refer to as the Small Temple, containing Greek inscriptions and references to ancient Egyptian deities. As these excavations continue, it becomes clearer that there is yet more to discover in the Eastern desert, bringing to light a more complete picture of industry in antiquity - and the complex power struggles that appear to have accompanied it.