'This discovery rewrites the history of the New Kingdom'

Queen’s temple, 50 coffins, Book of Dead: Ancient Egypt trove ‘remakes history’

Unveiling funerary temple found at vast necropolis near Cairo, archaeologists showcase 3,000-year-old sarcophagi, papyrus with spells for directing the dead through the underworld

An adorned wooden sarcophagus is displayed during the official announcement of the discovery by an Egyptian archaeological mission of a new trove of treasures at Egypt's Saqqara necropolis south of Cairo, on January 17, 2021. (Khaled DESOUKI / AFP)
Egyptologist Zahi Hawass poses for a picture during the official announcement of the discovery by an archaeological mission he leads of a new trove of treasures at Egypt's Saqqara necropolis south of Cairo, on January 17, 2021. (Khaled DESOUKI / AFP)
CORRECTS DAY OF WEEK TO SUNDAY -- A trove of ancient coffins and artifacts on display that Egyptian archaeologist Zahi Hawass and his team unearthed in a vast necropolis, in Saqqara, south of Cairo, Egypt, January 17, 2021. (AP Photo/Nariman El-Mofty)
An ancient coffin is on display that Egyptian archaeologist Zahi Hawass and his team unearthed in a vast necropolis filled with burial shafts, coffins and mummies dating back to the New Kingdom 3000 BC, January 17, 2021, in Saqqara, south of Cairo, Egypt. (AP Photo/Nariman El-Mofty)
CORRECTS DAY OF WEEK TO SUNDAY -- The excavation site where Egyptian archaeologist Zahi Hawass and his team unearthed a trove of ancient coffins, artifacts, and skulls in a vast necropolis south of Cairo, Egypt, January 17, 2021, in Saqqara, south of Cairo, Egypt. (AP Photo/Nariman El-Mofty)
An archaeologist brushes ancient skulls for the media on display that Egyptian archaeologist Zahi Hawass and his team unearthed in a vast necropolis filled with burial shafts, coffins and mummies dating back to the New Kingdom 3000 BC, January 17, 2021, in Saqqara, south of Cairo, Egypt. (AP Photo/Nariman El-Mofty)
Ancient skull and bones are on display that Egyptian archaeologist Zahi Hawass and his team unearthed in a vast necropolis filled with burial shafts, coffins and mummies dating back to the New Kingdom 3000 BC, January 17, 2021, in Saqqara, south of Cairo, Egypt. (AP Photo/Nariman El-Mofty)
An ancient coffin is on display that Egyptian archaeologist Zahi Hawass and his team unearthed in a vast necropolis filled with burial shafts, coffins and mummies dating back to the New Kingdom 3000 BC, January 17, 2021, in Saqqara, south of Cairo, Egypt. (AP Photo/Nariman El-Mofty)
Egyptian security officers man their station across from the step pyramid of Djoser at the Saqqara necropolis south of Cairo, on January 17, 2021. (Khaled DESOUKI / AFP)
Visitors walk past a wooden sarcophagus which is still buried, during the official announcement of the discovery by an archaeological mission he leads of a new trove of treasures at Egypt's Saqqara necropolis south of Cairo, on January 17, 2021. (Khaled DESOUKI / AFP)

SAQQARA, Egypt — Egypt on Sunday unveiled ancient treasures found at the Saqqara archaeological site near Cairo, including sarcophagi over 3,000 years old, a discovery that “rewrites history,” according to famed Egyptologist Zahi Hawass.

Saqqara is a vast necropolis of the ancient Egyptian capital of Memphis, a UNESCO World Heritage Site home to more than a dozen pyramids, ancient monasteries, and animal burial sites.

A team headed by Hawass made the finds near the pyramid of King Teti, the first pharaoh of the Sixth Dynasty of the Old Kingdom.

More than 50 wooden sarcophagi dating to the New Kingdom (16th century BC to 11th century BC) were found in a burial shaft, Hawass said.

“This discovery rewrites the history of Saqqara and more specifically the history of the New Kingdom, which began 3,000 years ago,” he said.

Egyptologist Zahi Hawass poses for a picture during the official announcement of the discovery by an archaeological mission he leads of a new trove of treasures at Egypt’s Saqqara necropolis south of Cairo, on January 17, 2021. (Khaled DESOUKI / AFP)

Hawass told reporters at the Saqqara necropolis that archaeologists unearthed the temple of Queen Neit, wife of Teti, the first king of the Sixth Dynasty that ruled Egypt from 2323 BCE till 2150 BCE.

Archaeologists also found a 4-meter (13-foot) long papyrus that includes texts of the Book of the Dead, which is a collection of spells aimed at directing the dead through the underworld in ancient Egypt, he said.

Hawass said archaeologists also unearthed burial wells, coffins and mummies dating back to the New Kingdom that ruled Egypt between about 1570 BCE and 1069 BCE.

Hawass said his team had discovered a total of 22 shafts, including one containing a “soldier, with his battle-ax resting beside him”.

An unearthed stele is displayed during the official announcement of the discovery by an Egyptian archaeological mission of a new trove of treasures at Egypt’s Saqqara necropolis south of Cairo, on January 17, 2021. (Khaled DESOUKI / AFP)

A stone sarcophagus was also found, he added, as well as “a papyrus around five meters long containing the 17th chapter of the book of the dead… masks, wooden boats, games the ancient Egyptians used to play”.

“It is a rare and new discovery because most of the artifacts we found are dated back to the New Kingdom, whereas in Saqqara, it’s usually more around 500 BC,” he added.

A number of objects were displayed to the press on Sunday, while excavations of the site are ongoing.

“Seventy percent (of the new area) is still to be explored,” he added.

The Saqqara site is also home to the step pyramid of Djoser, one of the earliest built in ancient Egypt.

Later this year, and after several delays, authorities hope to inaugurate a new museum — the Grand Egyptian Museum — at the Giza plateau, home to the famed Giza pyramids.

Ancient skull and bones are on display that Egyptian archaeologist Zahi Hawass and his team unearthed in a vast necropolis filled with burial shafts, coffins and mummies dating back to the New Kingdom 3000 BC, January 17, 2021, in Saqqara, south of Cairo, Egypt. (AP Photo/Nariman El-Mofty)

Hawass, known for his Indiana Jones hat and TV specials on Egypt’s ancient sites, said work has been done at the site close to the Pyramid of Teti for over a decade.

The discovery was the result of cooperation between the Antiquities Ministry and the Zahi Hawass Center at the Bibliotheca Alexandrina.

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.

The excavation site of the funerary temple of Queen Nearit, the wife of King Tetiwhere, that Egyptian archaeologist Zahi Hawass and his team unearthed in a vast necropolis, in Saqqara, south of Cairo, Egypt, January 17, 2021. (AP Photo/Nariman El-Mofty)

In recent years, Egypt has heavily promoted new archaeological finds to international media and diplomats in the hope of attracting more tourists to the country.

The vital tourism sector suffered from years of political turmoil and violence that followed a 2011 uprising that toppled autocrat Hosni Mubarak.

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