Intact wooden and limestone sarcophagi housing dozens of mummies have been discovered inside the Sixth-Dynasty tomb of Sennedjem in the Saqqara necropolis, reports Nevine El-Aref
On Wednesday of last week, the Gisr Al-Mudir area located at the south-western corner of King Djoser's Step Pyramid complex in the Saqqara necropolis was brimming with archaeologists, workmen and media representatives as Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA) Secretary-General Zahi Hawass and his team prepared to give members of the public, the first glimpse of the latest discovery of ancient Egyptian treasure to be found in Saqqara.
Two weeks ago, during a routine excavation work at the mastaba of the Sixth-Dynasty lector-priest Sennedjem, archaeologists from the SCA stumbled upon what is believed to be a cache of mummies of the 26th Dynasty, Egypt's last independent Kingdom before it was overrun by a succession of foreign conquerors.
The mummies, most of which had deteriorated to little more than skeletons, were found inside an 11- metre deep burial shaft excavated inside the Sennedjem mastaba. Although the mastaba dates from a much earlier period, the shaft is intrusive, having been dug during the 26th Dynasty -- almost 2,000 years later. Two sarcophagi of fine white limestone and four wooden coffins were found on the floor of the shaft. The remainder of the mummies was placed in five niches within its walls and on shelves along its western wall. One of the newly-discovered, 2,600- year-old wooden coffins was still sealed, untouched since the days of the Pharaohs. On opening the coffin the team uncovered a body mummified in the style typical of the period, covered with linen and resin. Hawass believes that there are probably funerary amulets hidden among the wrappings. From the finely carved inscription on the coffin, Hawass was able to determine that the mummy belonged to a man named Padi-Heri, the son of Djehuty-Sesh-Nub and the grandson of Iru-Ru.
A limestone sarcophagus also remained sealed with mortar until last Wednesday when Hawass and his team opened it up before the public. Inside the dark burial shaft in the Sennedjem mastaba, illuminated only with torches and camera lights, workmen with their crowbars and picks succeeded in lifting the heavy lid off the sarcophagus to reveal a perfectly preserved, unidentified mummy wrapped in dark- stained canvas.
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