Archaeology news: More than 100 sarcophagi dating back 2,500 years found in Saqqara

Experts excavating Saqqara have made the largest archaeological find related to ancient Egypt of the year following the discovery of a huge haul of artefacts. Alongside the sealed coffins were 40 gilded statues which had been buried with the dead.

Egyptian antiquities officials opened one of the coffins to find an extremely well-preserved mummy wrapped in cloth.

So intact was the corpse that X-ray visualising of the corpse, which was buried more than 2,500 years ago, gave insight into how the mummy was preserved.

Many more of the coffins also contain well-preserved mummies.

All of the coffins were discovered in Saqqara, south of Cairo.

The area is of key interest to archaeologists who described the findings of the sarcophagi and other ancient artefacts as the beginning of something major.

The mummified deceased were found in three burial shafts which went as far as 12 metres beneath the surface.

Saqqara is home to more than a dozen pyramids and is proving to be a hotspot for archaeologists.

Just a matter of weeks ago, scientists discovered more than 50 mummies in the same region.

Antiquities and Tourism Minister Khaled al-Anani said: “Saqqara has yet to reveal all of its contents. It is a treasure.

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

It is thought that the remains of the mummy’s once belonged to top officials of the Late Period and the Ptolemaic period of ancient Egypt.

More than 40 statues which had been carved to represent ancient deities and funerary masks were also found.

Two wooden statues were found inside the burial chamber, which once belonged to a judge who lived during the sixth dynasty, which lasted from 2345BC to 2181BC.

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One of the statues is believed to depict Heteb Ka, who was “venerated by the king”, according to Mostafa Waziri, secretary-general of Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities.

He added: “The beauty of the statue … is seen in the intricacy of its eyebrows, moustache, and eyelashes. It is absolutely beautiful and wonderful.”

The team hope to discover the remains of the workshop in the area where the coffins were made.

Mr Waziri explained: “We expect it to be somewhere close to the coffin’s burial shafts.”

The remains of the sarcophagi and the statues will be distributed among Egyptian museums.

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