Egyptian antiquities officials on Saturday announced the discovery of at least 100 ancient coffins, some with mummies inside, and about 40 gilded statues in a vast Pharaonic necropolis south of Cairo.
Colorful, sealed sarcophagi and statues that were buried more than 2,500 years ago were displayed in a makeshift exhibit at the feet of the famed Step Pyramid of Djoser at Saqqara.
They were found in three burial shafts at depths of 12m.
Archeologists opened a coffin with a well-preserved mummy wrapped in a burial shroud adorned with brightly colored hieroglyphic pictorials. They also carried out X-raying visualizing the structures of the mummy, showing how the body had been preserved.
Egyptian Tourism and Antiquities Minister Khaled el-Anany told a news conference that the discovered items date back to the Ptolemaic dynasty that ruled Egypt for about 300 years — from about 320 BC to about 30 BC, and the Late Period (664 to 332 BC).
He said they would move the artifacts to at least three Cairo museums, including the Grand Egyptian Museum that the government is building near the famed Giza Pyramids.
He said they would announce another discovery at the Saqqara necropolis later this year.
“Saqqara has yet to reveal all of its contents. It is a treasure,” el-Anani said at the unveiling ceremony. “Excavations are still under way. Whenever we empty a burial shaft of sarcophagi, we find an entrance to another.”
The latest find came just over a month after archeologists in the area found 59 other well-preserved and sealed wooden coffins, also dating back more than 2,500 years ago.
Since September, antiquities authorities revealed at least 140 sealed sarcophagi, with mummies inside most of them, in the same area of Saqqara.
Archeologists found other “shafts full of coffins, well-gilded, well-painted, well-decorated,” Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquities Secretary-General Mostafa Waziri told reporters.
They also hope to find an ancient workshop for manufacturing wooden coffins for mummies.
Waziri said that ancient Egyptians used to buy their coffins at this workshop.
“We expect it to be somewhere close to the coffin’s burial shafts,” Waziri said.
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 the 1970s.
Additional reporting by AFP
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