Ancient Egyptian ‘city of the dead’ discovery reveals ‘elite’ mummies, jars filled with organs and mystery snake cult

Ancient Egyptian ‘city of the dead’ discovery reveals ‘elite’ mummies, jars filled with organs and mystery snake cult

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Ancient Egyptian ‘city of the dead’ discovery reveals ‘elite’ mummies, jars filled with organs and mystery snake cult

A new burial chamber was uncovered along with a wide grave complex with five burial chambers. At the bottom of the municipal burial shaft of the Mummification Workshop (30 m deep), which was discovered in 2018.

In a tomb deep below the desert, Egyptologist Ramadan Hussein (left) and mummy specialist Salima Ikram (right) examine the coffin of a woman who was laid to rest inside a limestone sarcophagus weighing more than seven tons.

This came during the excavation work carried out by an Egyptian-German team at the University of Tübingen, working in Saqqara.

 

After more than a year of discovery and documentation, the project discovered the sixth burial chamber hidden behind a 2600-year-old stone wall.

Dr. Mostafa Waziri, Secretary-General of the Supreme Council of Antiquities declared that the newly discovered chamber held four poorly preserved wooden coffins.

Dr. Ramadan Badri Hussein pointed out to a woman named Didibastett who belongs to one of the coffins. She was buried with six Canopic jars that refute ancient Egyptian costume to embalm the deceased’s lungs, stomach, intestines, and liver, and then store them in four jars under the protection of four gods, revered as the Four Sons of Horus.

Workers use a hand-cranked winch to lower tools and other gear to the mummy workshop and tombs 100 feet below. The burial complex occupied a prime location at Saqqara—within sight of the Step Pyramid of Djoser, one of Egypt’s oldest and most sacred monuments.

The Mission used computerized tomography (CT) scan to examine the content of Didibastet’s two extra canopic jars, and the preliminary analysis of the images indicates that the two jars contain human tissue.

Based on this result, Didibastet may have received a special form of mummification which preserved six of her body’s organs.

The radiologist at the Mission is currently conducting an in-depth study of the images to identify the two extra organs.

After examining the texts in the burial chambers on the coffins and sarcophagi, the mission named priests and priestesses of a mysterious snake goddess, known as Niut-shaes.

Indications are that Niut-shaes priests were buried together, and she was made a popular goddess during Dynasty 26. Maybe, in Memphis, the administrative capital of ancient Egypt, she had a large temple.

Possibly Egyptianized immigrants were a priestess and a priest of Niut-shaes who had been buried in the same chamber. Their titles, Ayput and Tjanimit, were common among the Libyan group which had settled in Egypt since Dynasty 22 (ca. 943-716 BC).

Ancient Egypt was a multicultural society that welcomed, refugees from different parts of the ancient world, including Greeks, Libyans, and Phoenicians.

Dr. Ramadan Badri said the mission carried out non-invasive research, called X-ray fluorescence, on the gilded silver mask discovered on the face of the mummy of a goddess Niut-shaes priestess.

This check determined 99.07 percent of the purity of the silver mask, higher than 92.5 percent of Sterling Silver.

A priest named Ayput was interred in a stone sarcophagus carved in the shape of a human, a style known as anthropoid. The mummy’s wrapping were coated with tar or resin, giving it a dark color.
Some of those buried at the complex were identified as priests and priestesses of a mysterious snake goddess.

This gold-silver mask is the first one ever to be found in Egypt since 1939, and the third of these masks ever to be found in Egypt.

An international team of archaeologists and chemists from the University of Tübingen, the University of Munich, and the Egyptian National Research Center in Cairo performed chemical testing of the residue of oils and resins contained in mummification workshop cups, bowls, and pots. Recent test results include a list of mummification compounds, including bitumen (tar.)

Dr. Ramadan said: “Mummification was a business transaction between an individual and an embalmer in which the embalmer was a specialist, a priest, and a businessman.

We know from many papyri that there was a class of priests and embalmers who were paid to arrange for the funeral of a deceased, including the mummification of his / her body and the purchase of a grave or a coffin.”

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P. Natasha Covers Classical Archaeology news and has been with Histecho since 2017. She has a Master's degree in MA Archaeology from New York University's Science, Health and Environmental Reporting program. A California native, she also holds a Bachelor of science in molecular biology and a Master of Science in biology from the University of California, San Diego.

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