During a news conference on Saturday, Egyptian antiquities officials announced stunning new finds at the burial site of Saqqara, south of Cairo, the country’s capital. In what many consider one of the most important finds in recent memory, archaeologists uncovered 100 intricately painted, sealed sarcophagi at the site, some of which contain perfectly preserved mummies.
Additionally, 40 statues of the funerary deity Ptah-Sokar, canopic jars, and countless gold masks and amulets were discovered at the site, which has long been an important source of archaeological finds. In September and October of this year alone, 59 other sarcophagi were discovered at Saqqara.
The site served as the necropolis for Memphis, the capital of the Old Kingdom and a prominent city throughout Egypt’s ancient history, for thousands of years. It is home to the Step Pyramid, which was built in the 27th century BC, and is the oldest pyramid in Egypt.
The wooden sarcophagi found at Saqqara, many of which are over 2,500 years old, contained the bodies of the wealthiest citizens, according to Khaled el-Enany, Egypt’s Antiquities Minister, as they were made of the most precious materials and were delicately painted with colorful motifs.
The massive find is extremely significant, as it provides a deeper look into mummification and burial traditions at the time, and provides strong evidence that Saqqara was the “main burial (site) of the 26th Dynasty,” which dates from 664 to 525 BC, Egyptologist Zahi Hawass stated in Egypt Today.
During the press conference, scientists opened one of the sarcophagi and conducted an X-ray on the person contained within the highly-ornamented coffin. It was determined that the man inside had been aged 40 to 45 when he died, and was most likely in good health during his life.
Considering the wealth of artifacts and coffins found at Saqqara, specialists predict that they will find even more ground-breaking remains at the site, including a workshop where bodies were prepared for mummification.
The coffins and statues found at Saqqara will be soon be moved to museums around the country so they can be displayed for all to see.