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Egypt unveils 4,300-year-old mummy, tombs

January 26, 2023

Archaeologists found the gold-covered mummy inside a limestone sarcophagus that had remained shut for more than four millennia. It was among a number of recent discoveries, including four tombs found outside Cairo.

Artifacts are displayed at the Saqqara archaeological site, where a gold-laced mummy and four tombs including of an ancient king's "secret keeper" were recently discovered
Artifacts, tombs, as well as a gold-laced mummy, are among the new discoveriesImage: KHALED DESOUKI/AFP

Egypt on Thursday announced a series of new archaeological discoveries found in the Saqqara necropolis south of Cairo, including a mummy said to be 4,300 years old.

"This mummy may be the oldest and most complete mummy found in Egypt to date," Zahi Hawass, a former antiquities minister, said in a statement. 

The mummy is believed to have belonged to a man named Hekashepes. Hawass said it was "covered in layers of gold," and concealed within a large limestone sarcophagus that had been sealed for 4,300 years, "just as the ancient Egyptians left it."

A general view inside a tomb after the announcement of the discovery of 4,300-year-old sealed tombs in Egypt's Saqqara necropolis, in Giza, Egypt
The millennia-old tombs were discovered in Egypt's Saqqara necropolis, south of CairoImage: Mohamed Abd El Ghany/REUTERS

What else did archaeologists find?

Archaeologists also said they had discovered four tombs at the vast burial site.

Hawass said the finds date from the fifth and sixth dynasties, which correspond to the 25th to the 22nd centuries B.C.

The largest tomb uncovered by scientists is believed to have belonged to a priest inspector and supervisor of nobles named Khnumdjedef, Hawass added.

Found in the pyramid complex of Unas, the last king of the fifth dynasty, the tomb is "decorated with scenes of daily life," he said.

Another discovered tomb belonged to a man identified as the pharaoh's "secret keeper." This refers to a priestly title which senior palace officials held.

The third tomb belonged to a priest, while the fourth was of a judge and writer named Fetek, Hawass said.

What do these discoveries mean?

In recent years, Egypt has announced a string of discoveries from the ancient era in an effort to breathe life into its vital tourism sector.

Tourism is a prime source of revenue in the country that could pump much-needed hard currency in turbulent economic times. 

But the sector has sharply deteriorated in recent years, with the COVID-19 pandemic and then Russia's war on Ukraine negatively impacting the number of tourists flying to Egypt.

rmt/nm (Reuters, AP, AFP)