At least 59 still sealed sarcophagi, with mummies mostly contained inside, have been found in the vast necropolis of Saqqara, Egypt. One of those graves, some 2,500 years old, was opened over the weekend.
Saqqara, a vast necropolis in the Memphis region, was once the capital of the Ancient Egyptian Empire. Here, many sarcophagi have been discovered. Some, richly decorated, belonged to high-ranking officials, while others locked up middle-class individuals. Unfortunately, almost all of them have been looted in recent centuries.
At least 59 graves still sealed
Hence the importance of these new discoveries. A month ago, thirteen new sarcophagi, at least 2,500 years old, still sealed, were indeed found in the necropolis, buried eleven meters below the ground in a funeral shaft. At the time, three other sealed niches were also found in the same well. Also, archaeologists have imagined that other graves may still be hiding inside.
They were right. On Saturday, the Egyptian Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities reported the discovery of several dozen other sarcophagi still sealed on the same site. In total, there would be 59, all very well preserved. On most, some colors painted on the wood are even still visible.
As these graves have not yet been looted, it will be possible for researchers to find mummies and other burial objects intact inside. What could potentially point us to the identity and social rank of the people inside.
An open sarcophagus
The Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities also intends to take advantage of these new discoveries to convince tourists to return to Egypt after a “stand-by” imposed by the coronavirus crisis, which had led to the closure of the main museums and archaeological sites.
Also, this weekend, one of these richly decorated sarcophagi was indeed opened in front of an audience of journalists. Everyone then appreciated the mummified remains of an individual wrapped in funerary cloth still bearing hieroglyphic inscriptions in bright colors.
This mummy has not yet been identified. Preliminary studies, however, indicated that all of the newly unearthed sarcophagi likely belonged to priests, statesmen and prominent figures of ancient Egyptian society during the 26th Dynasty. All the remains will soon be taken to the Grand Egyptian Museum on the Giza Plateau, which is scheduled to open in 2021.
As a reminder, this museum will house thousands of artefacts and mummies, covering several eras of Egyptian history, from the pre-dynastic period to the Greco-Roman period.