In major archaeological discovery, Egypt shows off dozens of ancient coffins
Egyptian archaeologists have discovered about 60 ancient coffins near the famed Step Pyramid of Djoser in Saqqara, south of Cairo.
Egypt’s tourism and antiquities ministry said on Saturday that archaeologists had unearthed at least 59 sealed sarcophagi with mummies inside in a vast necropolis south of the Egyptian capital.
Khaled El-Enany said they had been buried in three wells more than 2,600 years ago.
The sarcophagi were put on display and one of them was opened before reporters to show the mummy inside.
Several foreign diplomats also attended the announcement ceremony in Saqqara.
The Saqqara plateau hosts at least 11 pyramids, including the Step Pyramid, along with hundreds of tombs of ancient officials and other sites that range from the 1st Dynasty (2920 BC-2770 BC) to the Coptic period (395-642).
“I consider this is the beginning of a big discovery,” el-Enany said, adding that there was an unknown number of coffins that had yet to be unearthed.
Egyptian antiquities officials had announced the discovery of the first batch of coffins last month, when archaeologists found 13 of the containers in a newly discovered 11 meter-deep (36 feet) well.
The Saqqara site is part of the necropolis of 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.
El-Enany said the Saqqara coffins would join 30 ancient wooden coffins that were discovered in October in the southern city of Luxor, and will be showcased at the new Grand Egyptian Museum, which Egypt is building near the Giza Pyramids.
The Saqqara discovery is the latest in a series of archeological finds that Egypt has sought to publicize in an effort to revive its key tourism sector, which was badly hit by the turmoil that followed the 2011 uprising. The sector was also dealt a further blow this year by the global coronavirus pandemic.
The ministry said in a statement initial studies suggested that the newly found coffins had not been opened since they were buried more than 2,500 years ago.
Last year, archaeologists also found a cache that includes hundreds of mummified animals, birds and crocodiles, as well as two mummified lion cubs in Saqqara.