Written By: Eleanor Pratt
Just in time for the spookiest month of the year, archeologists in Saqqara, Egypt have opened a 2600 year old sarcophagus. Egyptian researchers officially opened the sarcophagus on Saturday, Oct. 3, as press and dignitaries looked on. These researchers informed the press that the mummies found were most likely the bodies of priests, government officials, and other powerful members of ancient Egyptian society.
The incredibly well-preserved wooden coffin was discovered in September, along with 58 others. The mummy inside the sarcophagus was also surprisingly well-preserved, according to Smithsonian Magazine, with the burial linen used to wrap the body maintaining its original inscriptions and colorful designs. The coffins date back all the way to Egypt’s 26th Dynasty, which experts claim occurred from 664-526 BCE.
In addition to the many sarcophagi found, archaeologists also discovered 28 statues of the god Ptah-Soker, as well as a small bronze statue of the god Nefertum. According to Khaled el-Anany, the Egyptian Minister of Antiquities and Tourism, these finds will most likely be displayed in the Grand Egyptian Museum, which plans to open in Giza in 2021.
These incredible artifacts were found in the Saqqara necropolis, which was a large ancient cemetery in the ancient city of Memphis. NBC reports that the site not only contains the famous Giza Pyramids but that this cemetery is also quite renowned for having many lavish tombs. However, the site has had a fair amount of damage over the last few centuries due to looters and illegal excavations, making the near perfect state of the sarcophagus very impressive and exciting.
El-Anany also told journalists of Agence France-Presse that “[T]oday is not the end of the discovery,” and that instead, he considers, “…it the beginning of the big discovery.” This excitement was shared by Mostafa Waziri — the general director of Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities– who told NBC that the tomb reminded him very much of the finding of King Tutankhamun because both were found in a state of almost perfect preservation.
Finding these coffins and artifacts could not have come at a better time for Egypt. The country has been trying to draw in more tourists but has been having a lot of difficulties. The tourism sector has been hurting badly since the Arab Spring uprisings in 2011, according to NBC. Additionally, tourism to the country has been further hurt by the COVID-19 pandemic. Egyptian officials hope that displaying these incredible finds, along with many other recently discovered artifacts, in their new museum will generate more travel to the country.
It is not everyday that 2600 year old sarcophagi are discovered and opened. It seems that 2020 always has something new in store for the world, but fortunately, this surprise was a happier one.