Egyptian antiquities workers at the Saqqara archaeological site on 26 January, where a gold-laced mummy and four tombs including of an ancient king’s “secret keeper” were recently discovered, south of Cairo. Photo: AFP/ Khaled Desouki
Archaeologists say they have found a gold leaf-covered mummy sealed inside a sarcophagus that had not been opened for 4300 years.
The mummy, the remains of a man named Hekashepes, was thought to be one of the oldest and most complete non-royal corpses ever found in Egypt.
It was discovered down a 15m shaft at a burial site south of Cairo, Saqqara, where three other tombs were found.
One tomb belonged to a “secret keeper”.
The largest of the mummies unearthed at the ancient necropolis was said to belong to a man called Khnumdjedef – a priest, inspector and supervisor of nobles.
Another belonged to a man called Meri, who was a senior palace official given the title of “secret keeper”, which allowed him to perform special religious rituals.
A judge and writer named Fetek was thought to have been laid to rest in the other tomb, where a collection of what were thought to be the largest statues ever found in the area had been discovered.
Egyptian antiquities workers at the Saqqara archaeological site on 26 January, 2023, where a gold-laced mummy and four tombs including of an ancient king’s “secret keeper” were recently discovered, south of Cairo.Egyptian antiquities workers at the Saqqara archaeological site on 26 January, 2023. Photo: AFP/ Khaled Desouki
Archaeologist Zahi Hawass, Egypt’s former antiquities minister, said all the discoveries date from about the 25th to the 22nd centuries BC.
“This discovery is so important as it connects the kings with the people living around them,” said Ali Abu Deshish, another archaeologist involved in the excavation.
Saqqara was an active burial ground for more than 3000 years and was a designated Unesco World Heritage Site. It sits at what was the ancient Egyptian capital Memphis and was home to more than a dozen pyramids – including the Step Pyramid, near where the shaft containing the mummy was found.
Thursday’s discovery came just a day after experts in the southern Egyptian city of Luxor said they had discovered a complete residential city from the Roman era, dating back to the second and third centuries AD.
Archaeologists found residential buildings, towers and what they’ve called “metal workshops” – containing pots, tools and Roman coins.
Several other items, including pottery, were also found among the tombs. Photo: AFP/ Khaled Desouki
Egypt unveiled many major archaeological discoveries in recent years, as part of efforts to revive its tourism industry.
The government hoped its Grand Egyptian Museum, due to open this year following delays, could draw in 30 million tourists a year by 2028.
But, critics accused Egypt’s government of prioritising media-grabbing finds over hard academic research in order to attract more tourism.