New objects dating from ancient Egypt have been discovered in Saqqara, not far from Cairo. Among them are sarcophagi and statuettes, including one representing the famous architect Imhotep.
Classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the site of the Saqqara necropolis has been the subject of archaeological excavations since 2018. On Monday May 30, the State Information Service website reported the discovery of 250 painted wooden sarcophagi containing mummies as well as 150 wooden statuettes bronze, dating from the 5th century BC. The primary objective of archaeologists was to find the tomb of Imhotep, an illustrious architect, but also vizier and doctor.
Hundreds of Egyptian treasures
Mostafa Waziri, secretary general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, spoke at a press conference about the authenticity of this discovery and the representations of these sculptures. He then certified that a headless statue of Imhotep is among the finds, as well as statuettes symbolizing the Egyptian gods Bastet, Anubis, Osiris, Amun-Min, Isis, Nefertum and Hathor.
In addition, in the burial shafts where the coffin collection was located, the team also excavated amulets, wooden boxes and statues with golden faces. According to Waziri, a nine-meter-long papyrus found in one of the sarcophagi may even contain chapters from the Book of the Dead. This writing is now in the Tahrir Museum, in Cairo, to undergo analysis. It should be noted that on this same site, a funerary text containing passages from the Book of the Dead had been discovered in 2020 and would remain one of the oldest versions of the religious manuscript exhumed to date.
Ashraf Oweis, head of the Saqqara antiquities restoration team, communicated the emotion felt at the time, when the archaeological team entered the cache containing the bronze statuettes, specifying that “ we were very afraid when we found them, because even our breath made the layers of bronze move a little. It was really scary, a real challenge.”
Archaeologists have also unearthed other ancient Egyptian artifacts, such as combs, kohl eyeliners, vessels, bracelets, earrings and seed necklaces.
Hope for tourism revival
Josep Cervello Autuori, co-director of the Hispano-Egyptian mission to the southwest of Saqqara, also shared his feelings about this discovery of these exceptional historical objects: “Egyptology and all the sciences of antiquity are very important , because they allow us to understand different cultures and different ways of being in the world, of being alive, and of understanding the world in which we live”.
Cairo therefore hopes for a massive return of tourists after the discoveries of recent years. Indeed, the Covid-19 pandemic has clearly slowed down this highly beneficial sector in Egypt which produces more than 10% of GDP. This is why the sarcophagi will be displayed to the public during the opening of the Grand Egyptian Museum, near the pyramids of Giza. Its inauguration is scheduled soon (during 2022).