New Delhi (NVI): Egyptian officials have announced the discovery of at least 100 ancient coffins – some with mummies inside – and some 40 gilded statues in a vast pharaonic necropolis south of the capital, Cairo.
Colourful, sealed sarcophagi and statues that were buried more than 2,500 years ago were displayed on Saturday in a makeshift exhibit at the feet of the famed Step Pyramid of Djoser at Saqqara.
The sealed wooden coffins, unveiled on site amid fanfare, belonged to top officials of the Late Period and the Ptolemaic dynasty that ruled Egypt for some 300 years – from around 320 BC to about 30 BC, and the Late Period (664-332 BC).
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 the 1970s.
The huge find came just over a month after archaeologists in the area found 59 other well-preserved and sealed wooden coffins dating back more than 2,500 years ago.
“Saqqara has yet to reveal all of its contents. It is a treasure,” Antiquities and Tourism Minister Khaled al-Anany said at the unveiling ceremony.
“Excavations are still underway. Whenever we empty a burial shaft of sarcophagi, we find an entrance to another.”
More than 40 statues of ancient deities and funerary masks were also discovered, he 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.