4,300-year-old gilded mummy discovered in Cairo's Saqqara necropolis

A similar sarcophagus, plus statues and pottery from the Old Kingdom period, also unveiled by Egyptologist Zahi Hawass

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Egyptian archaeologists have discovered a gilded mummy that had lain sealed in its massive limestone sarcophagus in Cairo’s Saqqara necropolis for 4,300 years, renowned Egyptologist Zahi Hawass said on Thursday.

The sarcophagus and an almost identical one that is expected to be opened in the coming days, plus 12 statues and pottery, were among finds unveiled by Mr Hawass at a ceremony in Saqqara.

These discoveries date back to the Old Kingdom period of ancient Egypt — from about 2700 BC to 2200 BC.

“To find a mummy that old and that well-preserved in a necropolis that is this prolific is truly a unique thing,” he said.

One of the recently discovered tombs at the Saqqara archaeological site, south of Cairo.  AFP

Gold flakes were found all over the mummy's wrappings, Mr Hawass said, speaking against the backdrop of Saqqara's famed Step Pyramid of Djoser.

The finds were made by a team led by Mr Hawass and another from Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities.

A number of stone reliefs bearing depictions of ancient Egyptian daily life were also unveiled, some of which were from ancient buried walls that Mr Hawass's team found.

One buried wall remains under the ground intact, Mr Hawass said.

His team has not yet reached the end of it and further excavations will be made in coming weeks to determine its purpose and age.

Two tombs were also unearthed, one belonging to a priest called Meri, which was remarkably well decorated with colourful scenes of ancient Egyptian daily life.

The other belonged to a priest who served King Unas, the last pharaoh of the Fifth Dynasty, from 2465BC to 2323BC, as an overseer of his labour force.

Both tombs contained statues and ceramic pots.

An Egyptian archaeologist pieces together antiquities uncovered at the Saqqara site. AFP

The limestone sarcophagus that held the gilded mummy was found at the bottom of a 10m shaft sealed behind a stone door, Mr Hawass said.

The other sarcophagus was found inside a similar shaft nearby.

Clay vessels were found inside both shafts.

“Opening a 4,300-year-old sarcophagus is always an exciting event. That moment when we lift the lid off and peek inside is a moment I have found hard to describe in my writings and teachings,” Mr Hawass said.

He praised the efforts of recent Egyptian archaeological digs, highlighting the recent discovery of the remains of an ancient city believed to have been built during Roman rule of Egypt.

A statue that is among artefacts found recently in Saqqara. EPA
Updated: January 27, 2023, 11:47 AM