Newly discovered Egyptian mummies take capital Cairo on journey

Hundreds of ancient Egyptian sarcophagi and bronze statues of unearthed deities at the necropolis of Saqqara near Cairo were revealed to the public on Monday.

They were the latest in a series of discoveries made in the area.

Saqqara is a vast necropolis of the ancient Egyptian capital Memphis, a UNESCO World Heritage site home to more than a dozen pyramids, animal burial sites and ancient Coptic Christian monasteries.

Paintings are seen on a sarcophagus that is around 2,500 years old, from the newly discovered burial site near Egypt's Saqqara necropolis, Cairo, Egypt, May 30, 2022. (Reuters Photo)

Among the 150 bronze statuettes unearthed in the latest findings is one of Imhotep, who “revolutionized architecture” in the ancient world, Mostafa Waziri, head of Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities, told reporters.

Imhotep, who lived in the third millennium BC, built the Djoser step pyramid, one of the earliest in ancient Egypt. He later became the god of medicine.

Waziri revealed a goal for the archaeological mission, which has so far undertaken four seasons of excavations in the area: “To find the tomb of Imhotep.”

Other unearthed statuettes depict various gods and goddesses including Bastet, Anubis, Osiris, Amunmeen, Isis, Nefertum and Hathor, according to a statement from the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities.

Artifacts are presented to the media near a newly discovered burial site at Saqqara Necropolis, Cairo, Egypt, May 30, 2022. (EPA Photo)

Artifacts are presented to the media near a newly discovered burial site at Saqqara Necropolis, Cairo, Egypt, May 30, 2022. (EPA Photo)

The mission also unveiled “250 wooden sarcophagi with mummies inside, dating back to the Late Period,” around the fifth century BC, Waziri said.

Inside one sarcophagus, the team found an untouched and sealed papyrus, he said. It has been transferred to the laboratory of the Egyptian Museum in central Cairo for full restoration and study, Waziri said.

He added the papyrus – estimated at 9 meters (9.9 yards) long – likely contains chapters of the Book of the Dead, a collection of funerary texts composed of spells that Egyptians used to guide the dead through the underworld.

Recently unearthed ancient artifacts are displayed during a press conference at a makeshift exhibit at the feet of the Step Pyramid of Djoser, in Saqqara, Cairo, Egypt, May 30, 2022. (AP Photo)

Statuettes depicting the Egyptian goddesses (L to R) Isis (Iset) and Nephthys (Nebet-Het) and other sarcophagi found in a cache dating to the Egyptian Late Period (around the fifth century BC) are displayed after their discovery by a mission headed by Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities, at the Bubastian cemetery at the Saqqara necropolis, Cairo, Egypt, May 30, 2022. (AFP Photo)

The sarcophagi will be moved to the Grand Egyptian Museum, which authorities hope to inaugurate near Cairo’s Giza pyramids later this year after repeated delays.

Hopes are high that the new museum, in addition to archaeological discoveries of recent years, will help revive the country’s vital tourism industry.

The sector has been battered by successive blows, including the 2011 revolution and ensuing unrest, the coronavirus pandemic, and now a halt of Russian and Ukrainian tourists, who accounted for a large portion of the country’s visitors.

Among other findings at Saqqara, Egypt in March unveiled five ancient Pharaonic tombs, and in January last year announced the discovery of more than 50 wooden sarcophagi dating from the New Kingdom which ended in the 11th century BC

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