Mostafa Waziri, the head of Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities, inspects one of the five ancient Pharaonic tombs. Photo: Stringer/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images.
Archaeologists working at the sprawling ancient necropolis of Saqqara in Egypt just outside Cairo have unearthed five ancient tombs that are over 4,000 years old.
Some of the tombs date back to Egypt’s Old Kingdom (2700 B.C. to 2200 B.C.), while others come the century that followed, which is known as the First Intermediate Period.
Each tomb holds the corpses of regional rulers, priests, and senior palace officials, according to Egypt’s Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities.
“All of those five tombs are well-painted, well-decorated,” explained Mostafa Waziri, secretary general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, in an unveiling on March 18, according to the Associated Press.
The event marked the first time the general public has been invited to the newly discovered site.
Mural paintings in an ancient tomb uncovered at Saqqara archaeological sites southwest of Cairo, Egypt, on March 19, 2022. Photo: Sui Xiankai/Xinhua via Getty Images.
Though scholars have been working at the site since last September, the tombs were discovered only earlier this month near the Step Pyramid of Djoser.
Accessing them requires a deep descent through burial shafts, the walls of which are lined with well-preserved hieroglyphs depicting sacred animals, urns, and symbols of the afterlife. At last weekend’s event, reporters were lowered down with a wooden winch.
Also discovered in the tombs were wooden figurines, pottery, and wooden and limestone coffins.
Saqqara has yielded numerous discoveries in recent years as Egypt continues to pour money into digs as part of a broader effort to boost the tourism industry.
The sector, which had only just started to recover from the pandemic, has been hit hard by the war between Russia and Ukraine, as visitors from those two countries constitute as much as one third of total visitors to Egypt.
A view from site of the five ancient Pharaonic tombs recently discovered at the Saqqara archaeological site. Photo: Stringer/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images.
Last year, experts uncovered more than 50 burial shafts at the site, including one that belonged to Queen Nearit, wife of the first pharaoh of the Sixth Dynasty, King Teti.
“We are planning to continue our excavations,” Waziri said at last weekend’s event. “We believe that we can find more tombs in this area.”