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Egypt reveals ancient archaeological burial finds

January 17, 2021

The latest trove was found in 22 burial shafts at Saqqara, south of Cairo, and date back four millennia. The finds include a long papyrus Book-of-the-Dead roll said to guide the dead "through the underworld."

A coffin, part of a recent discovery from the Saqqara necropolis, is seen south of Cairo
Egypt hopes publicizing the new finds could help bring tourists back to the countryImage: Hanaa Habib/REUTERS

Sarcophagi were found down 22 burial shafts at depths of 10 meters to 12 meters (about 32 feet to 39 feet), Egypt's Tourism and Antiquities Ministry announced Sunday.

Also unearthed were statues, stelae, toys, wooden boats and funerary masks.

The finds made by a team of archeologists included the "funerary temple of Queen Naert, the wife of King Teti," as well as three brick warehouses, the ministry added.

Looking into the excavation pit, including wooden structures over shafts
Saqqara: The site of the latest excavations Image: Hanaa Habib/REUTERS

'Book of the Dead'

Former antiquities minister and famed Egyptologist Zahi Hawass told reporters at the vast Saqqara site south of Cairo that among the finds was a 4-meter-long Book-of-the-Dead papyrus.

Such texts were purported to guide the newly buried through the perceived underworld.

The finds date back to the Sixth Dynasty that ruled Egypt from 2323 BC until 2150 BC, he said. More than 50 wooden coffins dating back to the subsequent "New Kingdom," between 1570 BC and 1069 BC, were also unveiled on Sunday.

The plans for the temple's layout were also found, Hawass added.

 "This is the first time that coffins dating back to 3,000 years have been found in the Saqqara region," he said, referring to other recent finds.

A woman works on artefacts, part of a recent discovery, at the Saqqara necropolis
Examining the latest ancient finds at Saqqara, EgyptImage: Hanaa Habib/REUTERS

Tourists frightened off

Saqqara is part of Egypt's ancient capital of Memphis, which includes Giza and other pyramids, declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in the 1970s.

To rejuvenate its tourism sector, Egypt has promoted new finds in recent years to win back travelers put off by years of political turmoil that followed the 2011 uprising that toppled autocrat Hosni Mubarak.

Later this year, authorities plan to inaugurate a new museum — the Grand Egyptian Museum — at the Giza plateau.

More to come...

Excavations at Saqqara in recent years also focused on the step pyramid of Djoser, one of the earliest built in ancient Egypt.

Last November, antiquities minister Khaled al-Anani predicted that "Saqqara has yet to reveal all its contents."

ipj/sms (AFP, AP, dpa)