An ongoing archeological mission in Saqqara, Egypt has discovered 250 painted sarcophagi and 150 bronze statues of Egyptian deities, among numerous other artifacts.
The team has been working at the Saqqara Necropolis site since 2018, and have already made several significant finds, including the 4,400 year old tomb of the Royal High Priest Wahte, 5 well preserved 4000 year old tombs and the funerary temple of Queen Nearit, consort of King Teti – the first pharaoh of Egypt’s 6th dynasty.
“I’m very proud that the discovery was made by Egyptians, and this will not be the last discovery here.” Mostafa Waziri, secretary-general of Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities said in a statement.
The sarcophagi will be transferred to the soon-to-be opened Grand Egyptian Museum, a boon for a government that has long resented having so many of its ancient artifacts in the hands of other nations. There are hopes that the recent discoveries will revitalize the flagging Egyptian tourism industry, which has declined precipitously over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic. The war in Ukraine has also had negative effects on tourism, as visitors from Russia and Ukraine have until recently contributed a sizable share of Egypt’s tourists.
The Saqqara Necropolis is a UNESCO world heritage site 19 miles outside of Cairo, south of the famous Great Pyramid of Giza, and acted as a massive cemetery for the New Kingdom capital of Memphis. The site is also home to the Step Pyramid of Djoser, possibly designed by the revered ancient architect Imhotep.
“We also found a statue of Imhotep,” Waziri said, when outlining the newest finds from the site. “… and we hope we can find his tomb soon.”
Among the other artifacts recovered from the site is a 9 meter long stretch of Papyrus- the ‘first intact papyrus in over 100 years’ thought to contain verses from the Book of the Dead, a collection of rites and spells thought to help the dead soul navigate the afterlife. The papyrus was sent to the labs of the Egyptian museum for further study.
The gods thought to be depicted in the bronze statues include Bastet, a goddess often worshipped in the form of cat, Osiris, god of the underworld, Isis, Osiris’s consort, and Anubis, the god of death