Egypt finds sarcophagus of prominent 19th dynasty statesman

Pink granite coffin belonging to prominent official from the court of Ramses II had been robbed in the past

The pink granite sarcophagus belonging to a high-ranking government official during the reign of Pharaoh Ramses II (1279–1213 BC).  AFP
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An Egyptian archaeological team working in Cairo’s famed Saqqara necropolis has announced the discovery of a pink granite sarcophagus believed to have belonged to a prominent statesman who lived during the reign of King Ramses II (1279-1213 BC).

The sarcophagus was found near the pyramid of King Unas, one of the oldest relics in Saqqara, according to Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities.

The pink sarcophagus was decorated with the name of its owner Ptah-M-Wiah, along with scenes depicting the sons of the ancient Egyptian god Horus and a prayer to protect the deceased, according to the council's statement.

The outside of the coffin was sculpted in the likeness of the deceased and showed him holding the “djed” of the god Osiris, a stone pillar that symbolises Osiris’s backbone, in one hand, and the "tyet" or girdle of the goddess Isis in the other. His hands are crossed over his chest.

A piece near the top of the coffin had been smashed off, indicating it had been robbed in the past. Photo: Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities/AFP

The tomb of Ptah-M-Wiah was found in October during the mission's previous excavation season, but his sarcophagus had been left buried.

The team at the time found stone and clay relics at the site of the tomb, including pillars which are a tribute to the ancient Egyptian god Osiris. Despite damage, one of the walls of the tomb was left standing.

It is decorated with a large painting depicting a procession of people carrying offerings, which ends with a scene of a calf being slaughtered.

Dr Ola El Aguizy, who heads the Cairo University mission that unearthed the sarcophagus, said the coffin was found in a burial chamber in the middle of the cemetery.

She said a piece near the top of the coffin had been smashed off, indicating it had been robbed in the past, like many ancient Egyptian relics.

The broken piece was found nearby and reattached to the sarcophagus, she said.

The walls of the Ptah-M-Wiah's tomb at the Saqqara necropolis. The painting depicts a sacrificial procession. Photo: Egypt's Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities

Dr Mustafa Waziri, Secretary General of the antiquities council, said the discovery is significant because of Ptah-M-Wiah’s prominence in the court of Ramses II, also known as Ramses the Great, one of the most celebrated pharaohs of ancient Egypt.

In addition to managing Ramses II’s funerary temple in Thebes, Ptah-M-Wiah also held the positions of royal scribe, chief supervisor of livestock and head of the treasury.

“What also makes this tomb unique is the area it was found in,” Dr El Aguizy told The National.

“A number of very important military leaders, statesmen and aristocrats were buried there, most of whom date back to the reign of Ramses II.”

The ministry intends to open the tomb for visitors to the Saqqara necropolis after it completes its excavation efforts in the area.

Updated: September 20, 2022, 3:02 PM