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Sarcophagi buried for 2,500 years exhumed in Egypt

BBC News 20/09/2020
an elephant with a rock wall: Thirteen coffins were initially discovered earlier this month, but a further 14 have been unearthed © EPA Thirteen coffins were initially discovered earlier this month, but a further 14 have been unearthed

A total of 27 sarcophagi buried more than 2,500 years ago have been unearthed by archaeologists in an ancient Egyptian necropolis.

They were found inside a newly-discovered well at a sacred site in Saqqara, south of the capital, Cairo.

Thirteen coffins were discovered earlier this month, but a further 14 have followed, officials say.

The discovery is now said by experts to be one of the largest of its kind.

Images released show colourfully painted well-preserved wooden coffins and other smaller artefacts.

Saqqara was an active burial ground for more than 3,000 years and is a designated Unesco World Heritage Site.

One of the well-preserved coffins from the burial complex in the necropolis at Saqqara © EPA One of the well-preserved coffins from the burial complex in the necropolis at Saqqara

"Initial studies indicate that these coffins are completely closed and haven't been opened since they were buried," Egypt's antiquities ministry said in a statement on Saturday.

'More secrets'

The statement adds that Egypt's Antiquities Minister Khaled al-Anani initially delayed announcing the find until he could visit the site himself, where he thanked staff for working in difficult conditions down the 11m-deep (36ft) well.

a person sitting on top of a wooden fence: Workers had to access the deep well via a shaft © EPA Workers had to access the deep well via a shaft

Excavation work is continuing at the site as experts attempt to establish more details on the origins of the coffins.

Experts said the coffins had not been opened since they were buried © EPA Experts said the coffins had not been opened since they were buried

The ministry said it hoped to reveal "more secrets" at a press conference in the coming days.

a man sitting on a bench: Some of the coffins were decorated with colourful ornate patterns © Egyptian Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities Some of the coffins were decorated with colourful ornate patterns

Other artefacts discovered around the wooden coffins also appeared to be well-crafted and colourfully decorated. 

a man sitting on a wooden bench: One of the smaller artefacts found with the coffins in Saqqara, Egypt © Egyptian Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities One of the smaller artefacts found with the coffins in Saqqara, Egypt

In November, a large cache of mummified animals discovered in 2018 by archaeologists near the Step Pyramid of Saqqara were displayed to the public for the first time.

The discovery included mummified cats, crocodiles, cobras and birds.

Saqqara, located around 30km (18 miles) south of Cairo, is an ancient burial ground that served as the necropolis for Memphis, the capital of ancient Egypt, for more than two millennia.

In recent years, Egypt has ramped up its promotion of its archaeological finds in a bid to revive its vital but flagging tourism industry.

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