Archaeologists at the necropolis of Saqqara, near Cairo, have discovered a cache of 250 ancient Egyptian mummies and the largest caches of bronze statues ever found at the site—150 in total.
Journalists arrived to Monday’s press event staged in front of the Step Pyramid of Djoser by the Egyptian Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities to find rows of painted sarcophagi, each stunningly well-preserved. There was also a case for the impressive collection of bronzes, which depict Egyptian deities such as Anubis, god of death, and the sun god Amun, as well as two wooden statues of the deities Isis and Neftis, with gilded faces.
“They were in a seated position [by one coffin], one of them by the head of the coffin and the other by the feet, in a position called ‘the mourners’ or ‘weepers’ for the deceased,” Mohamed Al Saidi, the mission’s director, told CBS News.
The sarcophagi are destined for the collection of the eagerly awaited Grand Egyptian Museum, which should finally open near the pyramids of Giza in November.
The antiquities, which date to the 5th century BCE, were the fifth and latest major find from an archaeological mission at Saqqara’s Cemetery of Sacred Animals that began 2018 and are expected to continue for years to come. So far only a quarter has been excavated.
The site is named for the mummified animals buried there, but was previously called “Bubasteion” after the goddess Bast, who took the form of a cat.
“Today’s discovery confirms that the temple wasn’t exclusively for cats, but for other Egyptian deities too,” Al Saidi added.
“In one of the wooden sarcophagi, we found, for the first time, a complete and sealed papyrus,” Mostafa Waziri, the secretary general of Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities, said at the event, as reported by the Washington Post.
Other finds include combs, kohl eyeliners, bracelets, earrings, and necklaces.
Egypt is hopeful that its continued spate of high-profile archaeological finds—including the world’s oldest brewery and the lost city of Luxor—will help revive tourism to the country, an important industry for the nation.
See more photos from the discovery below.
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