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Egypt finds treasure trove of over 100 sarcophagi near Cairo

Sealed wooden coffins belonged to top officials of ancient Egypt some 2,500 years ago

  • People look at ancient sarcophagi on display, discovered in a vast necropolis in Saqqara, Giza, Egypt, November 14, 2020. (AP Photo/Nariman El-Mofty)
    People look at ancient sarcophagi on display, discovered in a vast necropolis in Saqqara, Giza, Egypt, November 14, 2020. (AP Photo/Nariman El-Mofty)
  • Journalists gather around an ancient sarcophagus more than 2,500 years old, discovered in a vast necropolis and Mostafa Waziri, the secretary-general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, center, in Saqqara, Giza, Egypt, Saturday, Nov. 14, 2020. Egyptian antiquities officials on Saturday announced the discovery of at least 100 ancient coffins, some with mummies inside, and around 40 gilded statues south of Cairo. (AP Photo/Nariman El-Mofty)
    Journalists gather around an ancient sarcophagus more than 2,500 years old, discovered in a vast necropolis and Mostafa Waziri, the secretary-general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, center, in Saqqara, Giza, Egypt, Saturday, Nov. 14, 2020. Egyptian antiquities officials on Saturday announced the discovery of at least 100 ancient coffins, some with mummies inside, and around 40 gilded statues south of Cairo. (AP Photo/Nariman El-Mofty)
  • A wooden sarcophagus during the unveiling of an ancient treasure trove of more than a 100 intact sarcophagi, at the Saqqara necropolis 30 kms south of the Egyptian capital Cairo, on November 14, 2020 (Ahmed HASAN / AFP)
    A wooden sarcophagus during the unveiling of an ancient treasure trove of more than a 100 intact sarcophagi, at the Saqqara necropolis 30 kms south of the Egyptian capital Cairo, on November 14, 2020 (Ahmed HASAN / AFP)
  • Wooden sarcophagi on display during the unveiling of an ancient treasure trove of more than a 100 intact sarcophagi, at the Saqqara necropolis 30 kms south of the Egyptian capital Cairo, on November 14, 2020 (Ahmed HASAN / AFP)
    Wooden sarcophagi on display during the unveiling of an ancient treasure trove of more than a 100 intact sarcophagi, at the Saqqara necropolis 30 kms south of the Egyptian capital Cairo, on November 14, 2020 (Ahmed HASAN / AFP)
  • A wooden sarcophagi during the unveiling of an ancient treasure trove of more than a 100 intact sarcophagi, at the Saqqara necropolis 30 kms south of the Egyptian capital Cairo, on November 14, 2020 (Ahmed HASAN / AFP)
    A wooden sarcophagi during the unveiling of an ancient treasure trove of more than a 100 intact sarcophagi, at the Saqqara necropolis 30 kms south of the Egyptian capital Cairo, on November 14, 2020 (Ahmed HASAN / AFP)
  • Archaeologists x-ray a mummy, wrapped in a burial shroud adorned with brightly coloured hieroglyphic pictorials, during the unveiling of an ancient treasure trove of more than a 100 intact sarcophagi, at the Saqqara necropolis 30 kms south of the Egyptian capital Cairo, on November 14, 2020 (Ahmed HASAN / AFP)
    Archaeologists x-ray a mummy, wrapped in a burial shroud adorned with brightly coloured hieroglyphic pictorials, during the unveiling of an ancient treasure trove of more than a 100 intact sarcophagi, at the Saqqara necropolis 30 kms south of the Egyptian capital Cairo, on November 14, 2020 (Ahmed HASAN / AFP)
  • 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 kms south of the Egyptian capital Cairo, on November 14, 2020 (Ahmed HASAN / AFP)
    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 kms south of the Egyptian capital Cairo, on November 14, 2020 (Ahmed HASAN / AFP)

SAQQARA, Egypt (AFP) — Egypt announced Saturday the discovery of an ancient treasure trove of more than a 100 intact sarcophagi, dating back more than 2,500 years ago, the largest such find this year.

The sealed wooden coffins, unveiled on-site amid much fanfare, belonged to top officials of the Late Period and the Ptolemaic period of ancient Egypt.

They were found in three burial shafts at depths of 12 meters (40 feet) in the sweeping Saqqara necropolis south of Cairo.

Archaeologists opened one coffin to reveal a mummy wrapped in a burial shroud adorned with brightly colored hieroglyphic pictorials.

Journalists gather around an ancient sarcophagus more than 2,500 years old, discovered in a vast necropolis and Mostafa Waziri, the secretary-general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, center, in Saqqara, Giza, Egypt, Saturday, Nov. 14, 2020. Egyptian antiquities officials on Saturday announced the discovery of at least 100 ancient coffins, some with mummies inside, and around 40 gilded statues south of Cairo. (AP Photo/Nariman El-Mofty)

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

“Saqqara has yet to reveal all of its contents. It is a treasure,” Antiquities and Tourism Minister Khaled al-Anani said at the unveiling ceremony.

Archaeologists clean statues and funerary masks during the unveiling of an ancient treasure trove of more than a 100 intact sarcophagi, at the Saqqara necropolis 30 kms south of the Egyptian capital Cairo, on November 14, 2020 (Ahmed HASAN / AFP)

“Excavations are still underway. Whenever we empty a burial shaft of sarcophagi, we find an entrance to another.”

The latest find came just over a month after archaeologists in the area found 59 other well-preserved and sealed wooden coffins, also dating back more than 2,500 years ago.

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

A picture shows a funerary mask on display during the unveiling of an ancient treasure trove of more than a 100 intact sarcophagi, at the Saqqara necropolis 30 kms south of the Egyptian capital Cairo, on November 14, 2020 (Ahmed HASAN / AFP)

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.

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,” 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.

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

Another discovery in the vast Saqqara necropolis is expected to be announced in December or early 2021. Archaeologists also hope to find an ancient workshop for manufacturing wooden coffins for mummies.

Wooden sarcophagi on display during the unveiling of an ancient treasure trove of more than a 100 intact sarcophagi, at the Saqqara necropolis 30 kms south of the Egyptian capital Cairo, on November 14, 2020 (Ahmed HASAN / AFP)

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,” Waziri said.

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.

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