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Discovery of 14 Ancient Sarcophagi in Saqqara is “Only the Beginning”!

Discovery of 14 Ancient Sarcophagi in Saqqara is “Only the Beginning”!


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Egypt’s Ministry of Antiquities announced today (Sunday 20 Sept) that archaeologists digging in the animal necropolis at Saqqara have discovered 14 well-preserved painted coffins dating back 2,500 years, in a surprise discovery which they say is “only the beginning”, hinting that there is a lot more to come!

The 14 newly identified highly-decorated ancient wooden coffins were discovered within the shadows of a 2,500-year-old, 11-meter deep, burial well at the ancient-Egyptian sacred animal necropolis at Saqqara. It was here, at this same well, where only two weeks ago Ancient Origins covered the discovery of “ at least” thirteen ancient burials, and the first photographs of the newly discovered 14 wooden coffins show, similarly to the first 13, intricately executed hieroglyphs and painted scenes using deep-maroon and blue paints.

Khaled Al-Anani, head of the Egyptian Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities , announced in a Facebook post on 8 September that a team of archaeologists had identified 13 well-preserved ancient wooden caskets, and that their original colors were intact, offering researchers new insights into Egyptian burial traditions and associated rituals. However, what confused archaeologists at this excavation site was that they found the 13 ancient burial boxes “stacked on top of each other,” in an enclosed burial well measuring about eleven meters deep, at the Saqqara archaeological zone, an arm of the ancient capital of Memphis, classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979.

A Site With As Much Below, As Above Ground

The ancient Saqqara royal necropolis is located about 30 kilometers (19 mi) south of modern-day Cairo at the prehistoric Egyptian capital of Memphis, and hundreds of ancient tombs with magnificently colorful inscriptions lie beneath the foundations of the colossal rectangular-based Step Pyramid of Djoser, vast stone temples and cult shrines. And it was here, buried beneath ruins at Saqqara, that archaeologists discovered the first thirteen stacked human coffins, and now another 14 have been unearthed bringing the total to “27 individual burials” in the ancient well, according a new Facebook post by the Ministry of Antiquities.

It was at this famous royal necropolis and tourist center that in 2018 Ancient Origins announced the discovery of a the 4,400-year-old “Tomb of Wahty,” where 365 ushabti statues, representing the days of the solar year, were found with wooden obelisks surrounding a statue of the god Ptah. It was also at this same burial site in April 2020 that archaeologists unearthed a tomb filled with the remains of hundreds of mummified sacred animals, including a bird cemetery and wrapped up crocodiles, cats and snakes that had all been laid to rest to serve their masters on their way to the afterlife.

One of the ushabti figures pulled from the tomb. Credit: Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities

Wooing Back Tourists with Otherworldly Promises

One evening, somewhere about two a half millennia ago, after the 27th coffin had been lowered into place in the well, a team of High Priests conducted a ritual which culminated in the sealing of the burial shaft, effectively trapping hundreds of ancient artifacts in a time capsule. Two weeks ago, Secretary-General of the Supreme Council of Antiquities Mostafa Waziri said this archeological mission would soon reveal details of their findings, including, the exact number of coffins, as well as the identity and posts of their occupants.” And at that time the total was 13, but this new announcement made today brings the ‘running’ total to 27, meaning the archaeologists have more than doubled their workload, and there really couldn’t a better time for these discoveries to occur.

Tourism in Egypt, like in the rest of the world, suffered terribly through the 2020 coronavirus pandemic lockdowns and over the last six months ancient burial sites in Egypt, like Saqqara, returned to their original functions and became “ghost towns.” However, big announcements such as the discovery of “27 highly-preserved well-coffins” go a long, long way towards encouraging a return of archaeological tourists, who are right now slowly dusting off their boots, polishing their lenses, and booking flights again.


Discovery of 59 Sarcophagi from 2,500 Year Ago

30 kilometers south of Cairo, Egypt is an archaeological site in Saqqara where new discoveries from Ancient Egypt have been revealed. The Saqqara plateau has at least 11 pyramids, along with hundreds of tombs of ancient officials. Unearthed by Egyptian archaeologists was a number of Sarcophagi buried for 2,500 years. The initial discovery was 13 coffins, then in later news was announced 27, and now a total of 59 coffins were discovered.

Inside a newly-discovered well in Saqqara, experts say that this discovery is the largest of its kind and is only the beginning of more to come. The Tourism and Antiquities Minister, Khaled al-Anani added that there is still an unknown number of coffins yet to be unearthed in the same area, near the 4,700-year-old Pyramid of Djoser. The sarcophagi were displayed and one of them was even opened before reporters to show the mummy inside. In fact, several foreign diplomats attended the announcement ceremony.

As informed by the secretary general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, Mostafa Waziri, initial studies showed that the decorated Sarcophagi were made for priests, top officials and elites from the Pharaonic Late Period dating from 664 to 525 B.C. He also said that archaeologists found 28 statuettes of Ptah-Soker the main God of the Saqqara necropolis, as well as a 35cm tall bronze statuette of God Nefertum, inlaid with precious stones and the name of its owner is written on the base Priest Badi-Amun. Collections of amulets and a ushabti figurine were also found. This discovery has been collected from 3 different wells in the same area, but with different depths ranging from 10 to 12 meters deep.

Ancient Egypt has been the preeminent civilization in the Mediterranean world for almost 30 centuries. Egypt’s mysteries have long entranced archeologists and historians and has even created a field of its own study Egyptology. Sources of information about Ancient Egypt come to us through monuments, objects, artifacts and more things recovered from archaeological sites. Ancient Egypt has left a lasting legacy. Monumental ruins have inspired travelers and writers for centuries. Achievements of the Ancient Egyptians include construction techniques that supported the building of pyramids, temples, and obelisks, a practical and effective system of medicine, new forms of literature, and a lot more.

The Sarcophagi are said to join another 30 ancient wooden coffins, which were discovered in October in Luxor and will all be showcased the Grand Egyptian Museum. The discovery of the 59 Sarcophagi is the latest in a series of archaeological finds and the country has sought to publicize this in effort to revive tourism, which was badly hit by the turmoil that followed the 2011 uprising and again this year by the global Coronavirus pandemic.

With tomb robbery taking its tole on Egypt’s antiquated history, it’s amazing how there is so much yet to be discovered about Ancient Egypt. These untouched, colorful and well-preserved coffins were found all stacked on-top of each other, without any signs of being opened since the initial burial. According to reporters who had attended the ceremony, one of the wooden Sarcophagi had a mummy of a priest, wrapped in an ornate burial cloth decorated to resemble the deceased’s face.

Many were concerned about the opening of sealed mummies and inquired if it was a good idea. This is in regard to the belief that opening up tombs of coffins may bring bad luck. This was a myth popularized after an article in National Geographic talks about the curse of the mummy after the 1922 discovery of King Tutankhamun’s tomb. This is because the sponsor of the excavation Lord Carnarvon died of blood poisoning soon after the coffin was opened. Nevertheless, this remains only a myth as the truth is, only 6 of 26 excavators present at the opening of the tomb died within a decade.

The discovery marks the largest number of coffins found in one burial place since the discovery of the Asasif Cachette, which was another discovery in October of 2019. This discovery also held 30 intact, sealed and painted coffins of priests and priestesses from the 22 nd Dynasty in Asasif necropolis in Luxor. The discovery of the coffins in Saqqara is the first major announcement since the pandemic in Egypt, which led to the closure of museums and archaeological sites for around three months from late March.

The Saqqara necropolis is found 30 kilometers south of Cairo and is part of the ancient capital city of Memphis. It is also the site of the colossal rectangular-based step Pyramid of Djoser. Make sure you plan your next trip out to visit all the amazing necropolis of Ancient Egypt, and also visit the Grand Egyptian Museum where all these discoveries will be laid out and displayed to the public.


Archaeologists Are Just Beginning to Unearth the Mummies and Secrets of Saqqara

A giant trove of ancient coffins and mummies has been discovered at the vast Egyptian burial site of Saqqara. After hinting at a big announcement for days, the Egyptian antiquities ministry revealed the details this morning: more than 100 intact wooden coffins with brightly painted scenes and hieroglyphs, and well-preserved mummies inside.

The announcement comes after a string of recent discoveries at Saqqara, including 59 intact coffins revealed in September and October. The newly announced coffins were found nearby, at the bottom of three 12-meter shafts revealed when archaeologists led by Mostafa Waziry, head of Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities, were removing debris from the site. Other finds include funerary masks and more then 40 statues of the funerary deity Ptah-Sokar, all untouched for at least 2,000 years.

Speaking at a press conference at Saqqara with dozens of the coffins displayed on stage behind him, Egypt’s antiquities minister, Khaled el-Enany, praised the Egyptian archaeologists who excavated the finds, which mostly date from between the sixth and first centuries B.C. “They have been working day and night and I’m very proud of the result,” he said. Their story will be told in a Smithsonian Channel docuseries called Tomb Hunters, scheduled to air in 2021.

As the coronavirus pandemic devastates the tourism industry on which Egypt depends, the recent finds have been publicized in a series of increasingly dramatic events. At a previous press conference in October, Egyptian officials opened a coffin live on stage. This time they went one step further, not just opening a coffin but X-raying the mummy inside, revealing the individual to have been an adult male, perhaps in his 40s, whose brain was removed through his nose as part of the embalming process.

Egyptologists have welcomed the announcement. To find an unplundered necropolis from this period is “extremely significant,” says Salima Ikram, an archaeologist based at the American University in Cairo, who works at Saqqara. They note that although the latest find is larger, it doesn’t differ significantly from the previously announced finds. “This is very impressive, but it’s lots more of what we already have,” says Campbell Price, curator of Egypt and Sudan at the Manchester Museum in the United Kingdom. Nonetheless, researchers are excited about the possibilities for learning more about this ancient sacred landscape, and the people who were buried there.

Saqqara, located around 20 miles south of Cairo, is one of Egypt’s richest archaeological sites. Home to the 4,700-year-old Step Pyramid, Egypt’s oldest surviving pyramid that’s about 200 years older than the more-famous Pyramids at Giza, the site was used as a burial ground for more than 3,000 years. Like the previous 59 coffins, the newly announced finds mostly date from fairly late in ancient Egypt’s history, from the Late Period (664-332 B.C.) and the Ptolemaic period when Greeks ruled as Pharaohs (305-30 B.C.).

During this period, Saqqara was far more than a cemetery, says Price. It was a pilgrimage site, he says, like an ancient Mecca or Lourdes, that attracted people not just from Egypt but from all over the eastern Mediterranean. Buildings such as the Step Pyramid were already thousands of years old at this time people believed they were burial places for gods, and wanted to be buried close by. “Saqqara would have been the place to be seen dead in,” says Price. “It had this numinous, divine energy that would help you to get into the afterlife.”

Geophysical surveys have revealed the remains of numerous temples buried under the sand. Archaeologists have also discovered millions of animal mummies, including dogs, cats and birds, believed to have been left as offerings. Recent finds of mummified cobras, crocodiles and dozens of cats, including two lion cubs, were reported in November 2019 and feature in a Netflix documentary, “Secrets of the Saqqara Tomb,” released this month. Meanwhile the discovery of an underground embalmers’ workshop, announced in April, suggests a thriving business in dealing with the dead, with coffins and masks to suit a range of budgets.

The coffins were found in three burial shafts at depths of 12 metres in the sweeping Saqqara necropolis. Shown in the background is the site's Step Pyramid, the oldest in Egypt. (Ahmed Hasan/AFP via Getty Images)

But the undertakers weren’t digging from scratch, says Aidan Dodson, an Egyptologist at the University of Bristol in the United Kingdom. They were reusing older, looted tombs, he says, “scouring Saqqara for locations” suitable for placing new coffins, even beneath the Step Pyramid itself. That makes the site a densely packed mix of finds that range thousands of years. “One would be hard pressed to dig and not find something,” says Ikram. The latest coffins come from an area north of the Step Pyramid, next to the bubasteon, a temple complex dedicated to the cat goddess Bastet, where older tombs were reused to hold hundreds of mummified cats.

Despite the press conferences and documentaries, none of the recent finds have been formally published, so Egyptologists can only glean information from the handful of images released to the press. “We hope the Ministry of Antiquities will make the archaeological data available,” says Price. Carefully studying the history and context of the burials as they were found could help researchers to understand how the bubasteon was used as a sacred site for both humans and animals, says Ikram. Meanwhile Price hopes for insights into how coffin design evolved over time, which is well understood for sites in the south of Egypt but less so in the north. And deciphering the hieroglyphs on the coffins would reveal information about the people inside, such as their name, role in society, from priest to treasurer, or home city.

The sheer number of finds now available also opens up fresh possibilities, such as constructing family trees of the people buried at the site. “We can get a sense of them as a community,” says Price. The results might even shed new light on unidentified artifacts excavated centuries ago. “Now we can see visual similarities between these new finds and unprovenanced items in European museums,” he says. Finding matches with orphaned coffins in Europe might enable researchers to link up long-separated family members.

El-Enany told the press conference that the mummies will now be distributed between several Egyptian institutions, including the Museum of Egyptian Antiquities and National Museum of Egyptian Civilization, both in Cairo, and the Grand Egyptian Museum in Giza (scheduled to open next year). But they may soon need to find space for more, as he added that “the mission did not finish yet”. Within the last few days, he said, another hoard of mummies has just been found at Saqqara, to be announced in the next couple of months.

About Jo Marchant

Jo Marchant is an award-winning science journalist and former editor at New Scientist and Nature. She is the author of The Human Cosmos: Civilization and the Stars and The Shadow King: The Bizarre Afterlife of King Tut's Mummy.


Egypt discovers 14 ancient sarcophagi at Saqqara

One of fourteen 2500 year-old coffins discovered in a burial shaft at the desert necropolis of Saqqara, south of Cairo. Egypt's antiquities ministry announced Sunday (20) the discovery of 14 new coffins in the Saqqara area buried deep in a well for around 2500 years -Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities / AFP

CAIRO -Egypt’s antiquities ministry announced Sunday (20) the discovery of 14 sarcophagi in the Saqqara necropolis south of Cairo that had lain buried for 2,500 years.

The coffins were found two days ago during an archaeological dig at the burial spot where another 13 wooden sarcophagi had been discovered last week, the ministry said in a statement.

The vast Saqqara necropolis is located around 16 kilometres (10 miles) south of the famed Giza pyramids. It is part of the ancient city of Memphis, a UNESCO World Heritage site, and hosts the colossal step Pyramid of Djoser.

Photographs of the well-preserved wooden coffins show ornate and intricate paintings, with maroon and blue lines, as well as hieroglyphic pictorials.

The ministry said more excavations had been planned, with the expectation that another trove of wooden coffins would be found at the site.

In a video distributed this month announcing the discoveries, Tourism and Antiquities Minister Khaled al-Anani said the recent finds at Saqqara were “just the beginning”.

Egypt has sought to promote archaeological discoveries across the country in a bid to revive tourism, which took a hit from restrictions on travel due to the novel coronavirus pandemic.

In July, authorities reopened the Giza pyramids and other archaeological sites to the public after a three-month closure and waived tourist visa fees to lure holidaymakers.

Egypt is also planning to unveil its centrepiece project of the Grand Egyptian Museum in the coming months.

The tourism sector, battered by years of political turmoil and terror attacks, had recovered to draw record visitors, around 13.6 million last year, when the Covid-19 crisis struck.


‘Beautiful, wonderful statues’

More than 40 statues of ancient deities and funerary masks were also discovered, the Minister said.

Another two wooden statues were found in the tomb belonging to an ancient judge of the 6th dynasty, according to Mostafa Waziri, secretary general of Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities.

An archaeologist cleans a statue during the unveiling of an ancient treasure trove of more than a 100 intact sarcophagi, at the Saqqara necropolis 30 km south of the Egyptian capital Cairo on November 14, 2020. | Photo Credit: AFP

It was not immediately clear if the statues depicted any of the judge’s family members but one statue is believed to depict an individual, by the name Heteb Ka, who was “venerated by the king”, Mr. Waziri said. “The beauty of the statue. is seen in the intricacy of its eyebrows, moustache, and eyelashes. It is absolutely beautiful and wonderful,” he added.

The sarcophagi will be distributed among several museums in Egypt including the yet-to-opened Grand Egyptian Museum (GEM) at the Giza plateau.

Situated near the famed Giza pyramids, GEM is planned to be inaugurated in 2021 after multiple delays.

Mr. al-Anani attributed the flurry of discoveries in Saqqara to extensive excavation works in recent years.

A picture shows wooden sarcophagi on display during the unveiling of an ancient treasure trove of more than a 100 intact sarcophagi, at the Saqqara necropolis 30 km south of the Egyptian capital Cairo on November 14, 2020. | Photo Credit: AFP

Another discovery in the vast Saqqara necropolis is expected to be announced in December 2020 or early 2021.

Archaeologists also hope to find an ancient workshop for manufacturing wooden coffins for mummies.

Mr. Waziri explained that ancient Egyptians used to buy their coffins at this workshop.

“We expect it to be somewhere close to the coffin’s burial shafts,” Mr. Waziri said.

Watch: Ancient Egyptian tombs yield mummified cats, beetles

Egypt hopes archaeological discoveries will spur tourism, a sector which has suffered multiple shocks ever since a 2011 uprising up until today’s coronavirus pandemic.


These included gilded statues and funerary masks. El-Enany said the artifacts and coffins will be distributed to three museums in Cairo for display.

El-Enany announced in September that a set of 13 sarcophagi had been found at the bottom of a 36-foot-deep shaft.

He said on Twitter that finding that first coffin cache was “an indescribable feeling.”

شعور لا يقارن كلما تشهد كشف اثري جديد،
انتظروا الاعلان عن كشف اثري جديد بسقارة، شكرا لزملائي بالوزارة.
An indescribable feeling when you witness a new archeological discovery.
Stay tuned for the announcement of a new discovery in Saqqara
Thank you to my colleagues in the ministry pic.twitter.com/RpgK6TmREo

&mdash Khaled El-Enany (@KhaledElEnany6) September 6, 2020

The shaft had three offshoots branching away from it, so El-Enany predicted at the time that more undiscovered sarcophagi were likely still buried in the shaft. He was right.


Egypt discovers 14 ancient sarcophagi at Saqqara

Egypt's antiquities ministry announced Sunday the discovery of 14 sarcophagi in the Saqqara necropolis south of Cairo that had lain buried for 2,500 years.

The coffins were found two days ago during an archaeological dig at the burial spot where another 13 wooden sarcophagi had been discovered last week, the ministry said in a statement.

The vast Saqqara necropolis is located around 16 kilometres (10 miles) south of the famed Giza pyramids. It is part of the ancient city of Memphis, a UNESCO World Heritage site, and hosts the colossal step Pyramid of Djoser.

Photographs of the well-preserved wooden coffins show ornate and intricate paintings, with maroon and blue lines, as well as hieroglyphic pictorials.

The ministry said more excavations had been planned, with the expectation that another trove of wooden coffins would be found at the site.

In a video distributed this month announcing the discoveries, Tourism and Antiquities Minister Khaled al-Anani said the recent finds at Saqqara were "just the beginning".

Egypt has sought to promote archaeological discoveries across the country in a bid to revive tourism, which took a hit from restrictions on travel due to the novel coronavirus pandemic.

In July, authorities reopened the Giza pyramids and other archaeological sites to the public after a three-month closure and waived tourist visa fees to lure holidaymakers. 

Egypt is also planning to unveil its centrepiece project of the Grand Egyptian Museum in the coming months.

The tourism sector, battered by years of political turmoil and terror attacks, had recovered to draw record visitors, around 13.6 million last year, when the Covid-19 crisis struck.


Contents

Early Dynastic Edit

The earliest burials of nobles can be traced back to the First Dynasty, at the northern side of the Saqqara plateau. During this time, the royal burial ground was at Abydos. The first royal burials at Saqqara, comprising underground galleries, date to the Second Dynasty. The last Second Dynasty king, Khasekhemwy, was buried in his tomb at Abydos, but also built a funerary monument at Saqqara consisting of a large rectangular enclosure, known as Gisr el-Mudir. It probably inspired the monumental enclosure wall around the Step Pyramid complex. Djoser's funerary complex, built by the royal architect Imhotep, further comprises a large number of dummy buildings and a secondary mastaba (the so-called 'Southern Tomb'). French architect and Egyptologist Jean-Philippe Lauer spent the greater part of his life excavating and restoring Djoser's funerary complex.

Early Dynastic monuments Edit

  • tomb of king Hotepsekhemwy or Raneb
  • tomb of king Nynetjer , funerary complex of king Sekhemkhet , funerary complex of king Khasekhemwy , funerary complex of king Djoser

Old Kingdom Edit

Nearly all Fourth Dynasty kings chose a different location for their pyramids. During the second half of the Old Kingdom, under the Fifth and Sixth Dynasties, Saqqara was again the royal burial ground. The Fifth and Sixth Dynasty pyramids are not built wholly of massive stone blocks, but instead with a core consisting of rubble. Consequently, they are less well preserved than the world-famous pyramids built by the Fourth Dynasty kings at Giza. Unas, the last ruler of the Fifth Dynasty, was the first king to adorn the chambers in his pyramid with Pyramid Texts. During the Old Kingdom, it was customary for courtiers to be buried in mastaba tombs close to the pyramid of their king. Thus, clusters of private tombs were formed in Saqqara around the pyramid complexes of Unas and Teti.

Old Kingdom monuments Edit

    , tomb of king Shepseskaf (Dynasty Four) of the Fifth Dynasty
  • Pyramid of king Menkauhor
  • Mastaba of Ti
  • Mastaba of the Two Brothers (Khnumhotep and Niankhkhnum)
  • Mastaba of Ptahhotep (Dynasty Six)
  • Mastaba of Mereruka
  • Mastaba of Kagemni
  • Pyramid complex of king Pepi II Neferkare (now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art of New York)

First Intermediate Period monuments Edit

Middle Kingdom Edit

From the Middle Kingdom onward, Memphis was no longer the capital of the country, and kings built their funerary complexes elsewhere. Few private monuments from this period have been found at Saqqara.

Second Intermediate Period monuments Edit

New Kingdom Edit

During the New Kingdom Memphis was an important administrative and military centre, being the capital after the Amaran Period. From the Eighteenth Dynasty onward many high officials built tombs at Saqqara. While still a general, Horemheb built a large tomb here, although he later was buried as pharaoh in the Valley of the Kings at Thebes. Other important tombs belong to the vizier Aperel, the vizier Neferrenpet, the artist Thutmose, and the wet-nurse of Tutankhamun, Maia.

Many monuments from earlier periods were still standing, but dilapidated by this period. Prince Khaemweset, son of Pharaoh Ramesses II, made repairs to buildings at Saqqara. Among other things, he restored the Pyramid of Unas and added an inscription to its south face to commemorate the restoration. He enlarged the Serapeum, the burial site of the mummified Apis bulls, and was later buried in the catacombs. The Serapeum, containing one undisturbed interment of an Apis bull and the tomb of Khaemweset, were rediscovered by the French Egyptologist Auguste Mariette in 1851.

New Kingdom monuments Edit

  • Several clusters of tombs of high officials, among which the tombs of Horemheb and of Maya and Merit. Reliefs and statues from these two tombs are on display in the National Museum of Antiquities at Leiden, the Netherlands, and in the British Museum, London.

After the New Kingdom Edit

During the periods after the New Kingdom, when several cities in the Delta served as capital of Egypt, Saqqara remained in use as a burial ground for nobles. Moreover, the area became an important destination for pilgrims to a number of cult centres. Activities sprang up around the Serapeum, and extensive underground galleries were cut into the rock as burial sites for large numbers of mummified ibises, baboons, cats, dogs, and falcons.

Monuments of the Late Period, the Graeco-Roman and later periods Edit

  • Several shaft tombs of officials of the Late Period (the larger part dating to the Ptolemaeic Period)
  • The so-called 'Philosophers circle', a monument to important Greek thinkers and poets, consisting of statues of Hesiod, Homer, Pindar, Plato, and others (Ptolemaeic)
  • Several Coptic monasteries, among which the Monastery of Apa Jeremias (Byzantine and Early Islamic Periods)

Saqqara and the surrounding areas of Abusir and Dahshur suffered damage by looters during the 2011 Egyptian protests. Store rooms were broken into, but the monuments were mostly unharmed. [4] [5]

During routine excavations in 2011 at the dog catacomb in Saqqara necropolis, an excavation team led by Salima Ikram and an international team of researchers led by Paul Nicholson of Cardiff University uncovered almost eight million animal mummies at the burial site next to the sacred temple of Anubis. It is thought that the mummified animals, mostly dogs, were intended to pass on the prayers of their owners to their deities. [6]

"You don't get 8 million mummies without having puppy farms," she says. "And some of these dogs were killed deliberately so that they could be offered. So for us, that seems really heartless. But for the Egyptians, they felt that the dogs were going straight up to join the eternal pack with Anubis. And so they were going off to a better thing" said Salima Ikram. [7] [8]

In July 2018, German-Egyptian researchers’ team head by Ramadan Badry Hussein of the University of Tübingen reported the discovery of an extremely rare gilded burial mask that probably dates from the Saite-Persian period in a partly damaged wooden coffin. The last time a similar mask was found was in 1939. [9] The eyes were covered with obsidian, calcite, and black hued gemstone possibly onyx. "The finding of this mask could be called a sensation. Very few masks of precious metal have been preserved to the present day, because the tombs of most Ancient Egyptian dignitaries were looted in ancient times." said Hussein. [10] [11]

In September 2018, several dozen cache of mummies dating 2,000 years back were found by a team of Polish archaeologists led by Kamil Kuraszkiewicz from the Faculty of Oriental Studies of the University of Warsaw. [12] The Polish-Egyptian expedition works under the auspices of the Polish Centre of Mediterranean Archaeology University of Warsaw. [13] Investigations were carried out for over two decades in the area to the west of the Djoser Pyramid. The most important discoveries include the tomb of vizier Merefnebef with a funerary chapel decorated with multi-colored reliefs, which was uncovered in 1997. [14] as well as the tomb of courtier Nyankhnefertem uncovered in 2003. [15] The expedition also explored two necropoles. Archaeologists revealed several dozen graves of noblemen from the period of the 6th Dynasty, dating to the 24th–21st century BC, and 500 graves of indigent people dating approximately to the 6th century BC – 1st century AD. Most of the bodies were poorly preserved and all organic materials, including the wooden caskets, had decayed. [12] [16] [17] The tombs discovered most recently (in 2018) form part of the younger, so-called Upper Necropolis. [18]

Most of the mummies we discovered last season were very modest, they were only subjected to basic embalming treatments, wrapped in bandages and placed directly in pits dug in the sand

The research of the Polish-Egyptian expedition also focuses on the interpretation of the so-called Dry Moat, a vast trench hewn around the Djoser Pyramid. The most recent discoveries confirm the hypothesis that the Dry Moat was a model of the pharaoh's journey to the netherworld, a road the deceased ruler had to follow to attain eternal life. [13] [19] [20]

In November 2018, an Egyptian archaeological mission located seven ancient Egyptian tombs at the ancient necropolis of Saqqara containing a collection of scarab and cat mummies dating back to the Fifth and Sixth Dynasties. [21] Three of the tombs were used for cats, some dating back more than 6,000 years, while one of four other sarcophagi was unsealed. With the remains of cat mummies were unearthed gilded and 100 wooden statues of cats and one in bronze dedicated to the cat goddess Bastet. In addition, funerary items dating back to the 12th Dynasty were found besides the skeletal remains of cats. [22] [23] [24] [25]

In mid-December 2018, the Egyptian government announced the discovery at Saqqara of a previously unknown 4,400-year-old tomb, containing paintings and more than fifty sculptures. It belongs to Wahtye, a high-ranking priest who served under King Neferirkare Kakai during the Fifth Dynasty. [26] The tomb also contains four shafts that lead to a sarcophagus below. [27]

On 13 April 2019, an expedition led by a member of the Czech Institute of Egyptology, Mohamed Megahed, discovered a 4,000-year-old tomb near Egypt's Saqqara Necropolis. Archaeologists confirmed that the tomb belonged to an influential person named Khuwy, who lived in Egypt during the 5th Dynasty. [28] [29] [30] [31] "The L-shaped Khuwy tomb starts with a small corridor heading downwards into an antechamber and from there a larger chamber with painted reliefs depicting the tomb owner seated at an offerings table", reported Megahed. [29] Some paintings maintained their brightness over a long time in the tomb. Mainly made of white limestone bricks, the tomb had a tunnel entrance generally typical for pyramids. [29] Archaeologists say that there might be a connection between Khuwy and pharaoh because the mausoleum was found near the pyramid of Egyptian Pharaoh Djedkare Isesi, who ruled during that time. [28] [30] [29] [31]

On 3 October 2020, Khalid el-Anany, Egypt's tourism and antiquities minister announced the discovery of at least 59 sealed sarcophagi with mummies more than 2,600 years old. Archaeologists also revealed the 20 statues of Ptah-Soker and a carved 35-centimeter tall bronze statue of god Nefertem. [32] [33] [34]

On 19 October 2020, the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities announced the discovery of more than 2,500 years of colorful, sealed sarcophagi. The archaeological team unearthed gilded, wooden statues and more than 80 coffins. [35] [36]

In November 2020, archaeologists unearthed more than 100 delicately painted wooden coffins and 40 funeral statues. The sealed, wooden coffins, some containing mummies, date as far back as 2,500 years. Other artifacts discovered include funeral masks, canopic jars and amulets. [37] According to Khaled el-Anany, tourism and antiquities minister, the items date back to the Ptolemaic dynasty. One of the coffins was opened and a mummy was scanned with an X-ray, determining it was most likely a man about the age of 40. Another burial site 2100 BC was found a whole family was buried considered to be a rich person's found by his weak bone structure, death determined to be malaria. [38]

“This discovery is very important because it proves that Saqqara was the main burial of the 26th Dynasty,” said Zahi Hawass, an Egyptologist and Egypt's former Minister of State for Antiquities Affairs. [39] [40]

In January 2021, The tourism and antiquities ministry announced the discovery of more than 50 wooden sarcophagi in 52 burial shafts which date back to the New Kingdom period, each around 30 to 40 feet deep and a 13 ft-long papyrus that contains texts from the Chapter 17 of Book of the Dead. Papyrus scroll written in hieroglyphics belonged to a man named Bu-Khaa-Af whose name is written on it. His name can also be seen on his sarcophagus and on four wood-and-ceramic figurines called ushabtis. [41] [42]

A team of archaeologists led by Zahi Hawass also found the funerary temple of Naert or Narat and warehouses made of bricks. [43] [44] [45] Researchers also revealed that Narat’s name engraved on a fallen obelisk near the main entrance. Previously unknown to researchers, Naert was a wife of Teti, the first king of the sixth dynasty. [46]


Dozens of sarcophagi revealed at ancient Egyptian burial site of Saqqara

Egypt on Saturday unveiled a collection of 59 sarcophagi unearthed in the ancient necropolis of Saqqara, with officials saying they expect tens more to be exhumed from the burial site used by inhabitants of Memphis, the ancient capital.

The wooden sarcophagi date back to the 26th dynasty, more than 2,500 years ago. Most of the coffins include mummies of priests and top officials, the antiquities minister, Khaled El-Anany, told reporters.

"This is not the end of the discovery -- this is only the beginning," he added, at the sacred area of the ancient cat goddess of Bastet. Saqqara, a UNESCO world heritage site, is about 20 miles south of Cairo.

The sarcophagi, most of which painted, are inscribed with hieroglyphs. They were found intact, with restorers opening two of them as reporters jostled to take a glimpse of the mummies.

"After removing the lid, we found that the two mummies bear the name and title of the family," El-Anany added.

The coffins, stacked atop of each other, were excavated in three burial shafts that are 11, 12 and 13 meters deep, officials have said. (Twelve meters is about 39 feet.) They will be transferred to the Grand Egyptian Museum, a mega project near the Giza pyramids that's scheduled to open next year.

A collection of artifacts and objects also was found in the burial shafts, including a 35-centimeter-tall bronze statuette of god Nefertum and a statue of Ptah-Soker, the main Saqqara god.

"We haven't had that chance to announce a discovery since March because of the COVID-19 restrictions, but we have battled such conditions and have worked harder since August to dig and uncover more secrets of this great civilization," El-Anany said.

Egypt's latest discovery is even larger than last year's uncovering of 30 wooden coffins in the southern city of Luxor, which was described at the time as the biggest in years.

The country has opened its tourist attractions in July after a four-month closure due to the pandemic as it seeks to lure back tourists and rescue a vital industry that accounts for about 15% of Egypt's economy.


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