Egypt identifies the 59 ancient coffins discovered near the pyramids of Saqqara
Egypt’s minister of tourism and antiques said archaeologists discovered hundreds of ancient coffins in a massive necropolis south of Cairo on Saturday.
Khalid el-Anany said at least 59 sealed sarcophagi were found to have been buried in three wells more than 2,600 years ago, with mummies inside several of them.
“I consider this is the beginning of a big discovery,” el-Anany said, adding that there are an unknown number of coffins in the same area that have yet to be discovered.
He spoke at a news conference at the famous Step Pyramid of Djoser in Saqqara, where the coffins were found.
The sarcophagi were shown and one of them was opened up to reveal the mummy inside before reporters. The announcement ceremony was attended by many overseas diplomats.
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 B.C.-2770 B.C.) to the Coptic period (395-642).
Mostafa Waziri, secretary-general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, said initial studies show that the decorated coffins were made for priests, top officials and elites from the Pharaonic Late Period (664-525 B.C.).
He said archaeologists also found a total of 28 statuettes of Ptah-Soker the main god of the Saqqara necropolis, and a beautifully carved 35 cm tall bronze statuette of god Nefertum, inlaid with precious stones. The name of its owner, Priest Badi-Amun, is written on its base, he said.
Egyptian antiquities officials had announced the discovery of the first batch 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 have designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in the 1970s.
El-Anany 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 archaeological 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.