A treasure trove of more than 100 intact sarcophagi found in Saqqara, Cairo was unveiled to the public last Saturday. Archaeologists date the sealed wooden coffins back to more than 2,500 years ago, and are believed to have belonged to top officials of the Late Period and the Ptolemaic period of ancient Egypt.
Said to be the largest find this year, the mummies were found in three burial shafts at depths reaching down to 12 metres in the Saqqara necropolis south of Cairo. Saqqara is home to more than a dozen pyramids, animal burial sites and ancient monasteries. It is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
According to The Times of Israel, the find came just a month after archaeologists found 59 other well-preserved and sealed wooden coffins in the same area, which are also said to date back more than 2,500 years. There were also more than 40 statues of ancient deities and funerary masks that were unearthed. One of the coffins that was opened revealed a mummy wrapped in a burial shroud adorned with brightly coloured hieroglyphic images.
According to Antiquities and Tourism Minister Khaled al-Anani, the excavations are still ongoing as Saqqara "has yet to reveal all of its contents."
Mostafa Waziri, secretary-general of Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities said, two wooden statues that were also found in the tomb are said to belong to an ancient judge of the 6th dynasty. However, Waziri explained it was still not clear if the statues depicted any of the judge's family members. One statue is believed to belong to an individual by the name of Heteb Ka who was "venerated by the king."
The sarcophagi will be distributed among several museums in Egypt including the Grand Egyptian Museum (GEM) at the Giza plateau which is yet to be opened and inaugurated in 2021.
As it is, another discovery is expected to be announced in December or early 2021, as archeologists are hopeful they will find an ancient workshop for making wooden coffins for mummies buried underneath the Saqqara necropolis.
Anani attributed the flurry of discoveries in Saqqara to extensive excavation works in recent years. Egypt is pinning its hopes on archaeological discoveries to spur tourism in the country as this sector has suffered multiple shocks ever since a 2011 uprising which has carried into this year's coronavirus pandemic.