Archaeologists have discovered a gold leaf-covered mummy inside a sarcophagus, a stone coffin, which had been closed for 4,300 years and is considered the “oldest and most complete” non-royal mummy ever found in Egypt, the excavation team leader, Zahi Hawas, said on Thursday.
He told the reporters that the discovery uncovered the fifth and sixth dynasty tombs near the Step Pyramid at Saqqara, south of Cairo.
The mummy is the remains of a man named “Hekasheppes” and was found buried 15 m (50ft) shaft deep along with three other tombs. The mummy of Hekasheppes was found in a limestone sarcophagus sealed in mortar.
One of the tombs belonged to a “secret keeper”, a man named Meri who was a senior palace official, being the assistant of the palace leader. He performed special religious rituals due to his title.
Another tomb belonged to an inspector of officials, a priest and a supervisor of nobles called Khnumdjedef, the last pharaoh of the fifth dynasty during the reign of Unas, the last pharaoh of the fifth dynasty. It is the largest mummy discovered, among the latest discoveries, at the ancient necropolis.
All of these discoveries are dated from the 25th to the 22nd centuries BC, said archaeologist Zahi Hawass, Egypt’s former antiquities minister.
A collection of the largest statues found in the area includes a judge and writer named Fetek who is believed to be buried in the other tomb. Among other items to have been found in the tombs include pottery.
Another archaeologist at the site, Abu Deshish, said: “This discovery is so important as it connects the kings with the people living around them.”
The burial site
Saqqara, an active burial site for over 3,000 years, is the ancient Egyptian capital of Memphis. The area is a UNESCO designated World Heritage site. These archaeological discoveries have increased tourism in the area in recent years.
Before the discovery of the tombs, archaeologists had discovered a complete residential city from the Roman era, dating back to the second and third centuries CE.
The government hopes that the Great Egyptian Museum, designated to open this year, will attract 30 million tourists by 2028. Critics have condemned the Egyptian government for prioritising eye-catching discoveries to attract tourism rather than those found after hard academic research.