2,500-year-old coffins discovered in Egypt's Saqqara
The wooden coffins belonged to high-ranking officials of the late Pharaonic and Ptolemaic times in ancient Egypt and were found 12 metres deep in the vast Saqqara area west of the capital.
The Ptolemaic dynasty ruled Egypt for some 300 years from around 320BC to about 30BC, and the Late Period (664-332 BC),Tourism and Antiquities Minister Khaled El-Anany told a news conference.
In a statement on Facebook, the Egyptian Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities said it had discovered 100 wooden coffins, closed for more than 2,500 years, including 40 gilded statues of the God Ptah Sukkar, god of the Saqqara necropolis and two wooden statues of “the most beautiful” Ushabti statues and amulets, and four gold cartonnages.
Archaeologists opened a coffin with a well-preserved mummy wrapped in cloth inside. They also carried out X‐raying visualising the structures of the ancient mummy, showing how the body had been preserved.
The artefacts will be transferred to at least three Cairo museums including the new Grand Egyptian Museum being built near the famed Giza Pyramids.
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Another discovery at the Saqqara necropolis is expected to be announced later this year.
The discovery at the famed necropolis is the latest in a series of archaeological finds in Egypt. Since September, antiquities authorities revealed at least 140 sealed sarcophagi, with mummies inside most of them, in the same area of Saqqara.
Egyptian archaeologists found other “shafts full of coffins, well-gilded, well-painted, well-decorated,” Mostafa Waziri, secretary general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, told reporters on Saturday.
The Saqqara site is part of the necropolis at Egypt’s ancient capital of Memphis that includes the famed Giza Pyramids, as well as smaller pyramids at Abu Sir, Dahshur and Abu Ruwaysh. The ruins of Memphis were designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1970s.
Egypt frequently touts its archaeological discoveries in hopes of spurring a vital tourism industry that has been reeling from the political turmoil following the 2011 popular uprising that toppled longtime autocrat Hosni Mubarak.
The sector was also dealt a further blow this year by the coronavirus pandemic.
Agencies contributed to this report.