SAQQARA, Egypt – More than 2,600 years since they were buried, archaeologists in Egypt said Saturday they found at least 59 ancient coffins in a vast necropolis south of the country’s capital, Cairo, one containing the pristine mummy of an ancient priest. .
The decorated sarcophagi have remained closed since they were buried near the famous step pyramid of Djoser in Saqqara, according to the Egyptian Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities.
Footage shared by the ministry showed colorful sarcophagi decorated with ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs. Other artifacts and at least 28 statues were found in the two deep wells, the ministry said.
A sealed door was also unearthed where more mummies are expected to hide behind, said Khaled el-Anany, the Prime Minister of Antiquities and Tourism, adding that the artifacts were in an excellent state of preservation and would be exhibited in the next Egyptian museum. year.
Mostafa Waziri, the director general of the Supreme Council of Egyptian Antiquities, told NBC News that the find reminded him of King Tutankhamun̵
The Saqqara plateau is part of the necropolis of the ancient Egyptian city of Memphis. Designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in the 1970s, it includes the famous Pyramids of Giza. It also houses tombs created in thousands of years between the I dynasty (2920 BC-2770 BC) and the Coptic period (395-642).
Last year hundreds of mummified animals, birds and crocodiles were found in the region, as well as two mummified lion cubs.
Egypt has heavily promoted new archaeological finds to international media and diplomats in recent years, in an effort to revive its tourism sector, which suffered from the 2011 Arab Spring riots that overthrew autocrat Hosni Mubarak.
The industry has taken another hit this year from the coronavirus pandemic.
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Last week, the ministry showed a bronze statue of the god “Nefertam”, one of the artifacts discovered with the ancient wooden coffins.
Inlaid with red agate, turquoise and lapis lazuli precious stones, it has reached a height of 35 cm (14 in) and on its base is engraved the name of the statue’s owner, a priest called “Badi Amon”.
“The Saqqara antiquities area is still revealing its secrets,” the ministry said.
Charlene Gubash reported from Saqqara and Adela Suliman from London.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.