Egypt unveils 3000-year old coffins in latest archaeological discovery

Cairo: Egypt has unveiled a significant new archaeological discovery at the Saqqara necropolis south of Cairo, including 54 wooden coffins, many of which can be traced back 3000 years to the New Kingdom period.

The funerary temple of Queen Nearit was also discovered near the pyramid of her husband, King Teti of Egypt's 6th dynasty, which dates back 4200 years, famed archaeologist Zahi Hawass, who headed the archaeological mission, said.

An ancient coffin that was unearthed in Saqqara, south of Cairo, in a vast necropolis filled with burial shafts, coffins and mummies dating back to the New Kingdom.Credit:AP

Archaeologists also found a four-metre long papyrus that includes texts of the Book of the Dead, which is a collection of spells aimed at directing the dead through the underworld in ancient Egypt, Hawass said.

Archaeologists also unveiled mummies and at least 22 burial shafts up to 12 metres deep.

The coffins, or sarcophagi, include the first dating back to the New Kingdom, which ruled Egypt between about 1570 and 1069BC, to be found at Saqqara, the Tourism and Antiquities Ministry said.

Carved in human form and painted in bright colours, many of them are still intact.

Egyptian archaeologist Zahi Hawass, known for his Indiana Jones hat, stands at the excavation site of the funerary temple of Queen Nearit, the wife of King Teti.Credit:AP

Ancient games, statues, and masks were also found.

"All these discoveries will rewrite the history of Saqqara and the New Kingdom," Hawass said.

Hawass, a former antiquities minister known for his Indiana Jones hat and TV specials on Egypt’s ancient sites, said work had been done at the site close to the Pyramid of Teti for over a decade.

The discovery was the result of co-operation between the ministry and the Zahi Hawass Centre at the Bibliotheca Alexandrina.

The excavation site where Egyptian archaeologist Zahi Hawass and his team unearthed a trove of ancient coffins, artifacts and skulls in a vast necropolis in Saqqara, south of Cairo,Credit:AP

The Saqqara site is part of the necropolis at Egypt’s ancient capital of Memphis that includes the famed Giza pyramids as well as smaller pyramids at Abu Sir, Dahshur and Abu Ruwaysh. The ruins of Memphis were designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in the 1970s.

In recent years, Egypt has heavily promoted new archaeological finds in the hope of attracting more visitors to the country.

The vital tourism sector suffered from years of political turmoil and violence that followed a 2011 uprising that toppled then leader Hosni Mubarak.

The industry received a further painful blow during the coronavirus pandemic.

The number of tourists visiting the country dropped from 13.1 million in 2019 to 3.5 million last year.

Reuters, AP

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