More than 100 sarcophagi, some 2,300 years old, were recently discovered in an excellent state of preservation at the archaeological site of Saqqara, located southwest of Cairo. This is the biggest discovery for Egyptology this year, making it a veritable watershed in recent years for Egyptology.
The 100 wooden sarcophagi presented by Egypt on Saturday, 14 November, were discovered in three 12-metre-deep burial pits and are still intact. Some of the coffins, which are still in very good condition, date from the Ptolemaic period, which buries the assumption that the site housed only coffins from the late period.
The archaeological site of Saqqara, known for the stepped pyramid of Djoser, is home to the necropolis of Memphis, which was the capital of ancient Egypt. It is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
The 100 sarcophagi presented on Saturday were discovered in three burial pits, 12 m deep. Archaeologists opened one of the coffins in which a mummy lay wrapped in a shroud adorned with coloured hieroglyphics.
These would have been high-level imperial officials and priests of the 26th Dynasty. This comes after excavations have uncovered 80 coffins in recent weeks.
Wooden statues and golden and polychrome masks were also found in very good condition. Among them more than 40 statues of ancient deities and funeral masks, according to the minister. "Saqqara has not yet revealed everything he has. It is a treasure," said Khaled the Enani, Egypt's Minister of Tourism and Antiquities, during the ceremony.
These recent discoveries are the result of increased excavation work in recent years, El Enani said, adding that another discovery in the necropolis should be announced in the coming weeks, "in December or early 2021," he said.
These findings will be distributed to several Egyptian museums, including a new establishment that will be opened on the outskirts of Cairo.
Tourism is vital to the Egyptian economy and had flourished again, reaching a record 13.6 million visitors by 2019, before the coronavirus pandemic that has paralysed this activity worldwide brought it down again.
The Egyptian government hopes that all these findings and its new museum will revitalise its dwindling tourism, which has declined due to factors such as political instability and the attacks following the 2011 revolution that drove Hosni Mubarak from power.