Archaeologists in Egypt have stumbled upon a new discovery dating back more than 2,500 years near Egypt’s famed pyramids at an ancient necropolis south of Cairo.
The discovery, which includes a mummification workshop and a shaft used as a communal burial place, is located at the vast Saqqara necropolis, part of Memphis, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Memphis, the first capital of ancient Egypt, and its large necropolis are home to a wide range of temples and tombs as well as the three pyramids of Giza.
The latest find, announced at a news conference Saturday, belongs to the Saite-Persian Period, from 664-404 B.C. The site, which lies south of Unas pyramid, was last excavated more than 100 years ago, in 1900.
Among the artefacts found were a gilded silver mummy mask, fragments of mummy cartonnages which is the material used in funerary masks, canopic cylindrical jars and cups made of marl clay and faience. Many of them will be displayed in the under-construction Grand Egyptian Museum, the first phase of which is expected to be inaugurated later this year.
Down the 30-metre-deep shaft lie several mummies, wooden coffins and sarcophagi. The shaft is comprised of burial chambers carved into the bedrock lining the sides of two hallways.
In the mummification workshop nearby, an embalmer’s cache was found that archaeologists believe will reveal more about the oils used in the mummification process in the 26th Dynasty, the Egyptian period that ended in 525 B.C. with the Persian conquest.
“We are in front of a goldmine of information about the chemical composition of these oils,” archaeologist Ramadan Hussein said at the press conference.
“It’s only the beginning,” added Egypt’s Antiquities Minister Khaled al-Anani. He told reporters that the sites will likely yield more discoveries after further excavation.
Egypt has gone to great lengths to revive its vital tourism industry, still reeling from the political turmoil that followed a 2011 popular uprising. It hopes such discoveries, along with the inauguration of the museum at the Giza plateau, will help encourage more tourists to visit.