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Archaeologists uncover ancient mummies and statues at Saqqara

Newly discovered figurines from Saqqara Thomson Reuters/MOHAMED ABD EL GHANY
Figurines from the newly discovered burial site near Saqqara, on display in Giza on May 30
  • 250 coffins and 150 bronzes found at a newly discovered burial site
  • The objects date from the Late Period, about 500 BC
  • Some will be displayed at the Grand Egyptian Museum now being built

Archaeologists have uncovered hundreds of ancient Egyptian coffins and bronze statues of deities at a burial site in Saqqara.

Statues of the gods Anubis, Amun, Min, Osiris, Isis, Nefertum, Bastet and Hathor were among the objects found at the newly discovered cemetery – along with a headless statue of Imhotep, the architect who built the Saqqara pyramid – Egypt’s Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities said on Monday.

The 250 coffins, 150 bronze statues and other objects date to the Late Period, about 500 BC, according to the ministry.

The painted wooden coffins are being transferred to Giza, where they will go on display at the Grand Egyptian Museum now under construction near the Great Pyramids. The museum is due to open later this year, with the Egyptian authorities hoping it will spark renewed interest from international visitors.

Tourism typically accounts for roughly 15 percent of Egypt’s GDP, but the industry has suffered in recent years because of political instability and the coronavirus pandemic. This year, it has been hit further by the loss of visitors from Russia and Ukraine – two of its most lucrative markets, according to deputy tourism minister Ghada Shalaby.

At Saqqara, the painted wooden coffins were found intact in burial shafts and contained mummies, amulets and wooden boxes. Wooden statues of Nephthys and Isis from an earlier period were also found, both with gilded faces, as well as a musical instrument known as a sistrum and a collection of bronze vessels used in rituals for the worship of Isis.

Bread, Food
Sarcophaguses from the newly discovered burial site, on display in Giza on May 30. Picture: Reuters/Mohamed Abd El Ghany

One coffin contained a well-preserved papyrus written in hieroglyphs, perhaps verses of the Book of the Dead, and was sent to the laboratory of the Egyptian Museum in Cairo for study, said Mostafa Waziri, secretary general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities.

A collection of cosmetics was found, including kohl containers, as well as bracelets and earrings.

Saqqara, to the south of the Giza pyramids, has provided a steady stream of archaeological discoveries in recent years. The mission has been excavating in the area since 2018.

Soil, Wood, Person
Workers carry a sarcophagus, which is around 2500 years old, from the site in Saqqara. Picture: Reuters/Mohamed Abd El Ghany