Archaeologists in Egypt have unearthed more than 50 sarcophagi and an ancient funerary temple at the Saqqara necropolis, just south of Cairo.
Led by Egypt’s former antiquities minister, archaeologist Zahi Hawass, a team recovered intact, sealed wooden coffins carved into the shape of human figures and decorated with colorful designs. The coffins, dating to the New Kingdom period (ca. 1570–ca. 1069 BC), were buried in shafts around 35 feet underground alongside burial wells, mummies, statues of deities, and other artifacts.
Hawass said the “major discoveries” also included a 13-foot papyrus scroll inscribed with text from chapter 17 of the Book of the Dead, an ancient missive directing the dead toward the underworld. Games intended to keep the dead occupied were also discovered in the funerary site, according to CBS.
The funerary temple has now been identified as the burial place of Queen Neit, wife of King Teti, who was the first king of the sixth dynasty, who ruled for a dozen years. Archaeologists had been working at the site for more than 10 years, but had no indication of who was buried inside until further excavation revealed Neit’s name written on a wall inside and on an obelisk.
“I’d never heard of this queen before. Therefore, we add an important piece to Egyptian history,” Hawass said, adding that the dig also turned up a shaft with a limestone sarcophagus inside, a first for this location.
In November 2020, the ministry of tourism and antiquities announced more than 100 painted sarcophagi discovered at the UNESCO heritage site of Saqqara, coming on the heels of a spate of discoveries in September and October. At the time, minister Khaled el-Enany said, “It is a treasure. Excavations are still underway. Whenever we empty a burial shaft of sarcophagi, we find an entrance to another.”
Turns out, he was right.