(ORDO NEWS) — A stone’s throw from King Tutankhamun’s tomb, archaeologists have unearthed the tomb of a never-before-known ancient Egyptian queen, a cache of coffins, mummies and artifacts, and a series of interconnected tunnels.
In these tunnels, archaeologists found “a huge limestone sarcophagus” along with “300 beautiful coffins from the New Kingdom period.”
Some coffins have two lids, and the most amazing coffin has a woman’s mask made entirely of solid gold. Inside the coffins and tombs there are also various artifacts and even a metal ax found in the hand of a soldier from the army of the pharaoh
For the past two years, archaeologists have been working at Saqqara, an archaeological site in Giza, about 32 kilometers south of Cairo.
They have recently unearthed many coffins and mummies that may belong to some of Pharaoh Tutankhamun’s closest generals and advisers during his reign (1333 BC until his death in 1323 BC).
Archaeologists also turned their attention to a nearby pyramid that belonged to Teti, the first pharaoh of Egypt’s Sixth Dynasty.
“Teti was worshiped as a god during the New Kingdom period, so people wanted to be buried next to him,” Zahi Hawass, an Egyptologist who works on the excavations and previously served as Egypt’s Minister of Antiquities.
“However, most of the burials previously known at Saqqara were either from the Old Kingdom or from the Late Period.
We have now discovered 22 [interconnected] shafts ranging from 9 to 18 meters deep, all with New Kingdom burials. (Also known as the Egyptian Empire, the New Kingdom period lasted from the sixth century BC to the 11th century BC)
In these tunnels, archaeologists found “a huge limestone sarcophagus” along with “300 beautiful coffins from the New Kingdom period,” Hawass said.
“It was not known before that burials from the New Kingdom were common in the area, so this site is quite unique,” Hawass said.
“The coffins have individual faces, each unique, distinguishing between men and women, and are decorated with scenes from the Book of the Dead [an ancient Egyptian funerary text]. Each coffin also bears the name of the deceased and often depicts the Four Sons of Horus protecting the organs of the deceased.”
If the discovery of the coffins wasn’t surprising enough, when the researchers lifted the lids of the coffins, they were surprised to find the mummies in good condition, even after so many centuries.
“This shows that mummification reached its peak in the New Kingdom,” Hawass said. “Some coffins have two lids, and the most amazing coffin has a woman’s mask made entirely of pure gold.”
He added: “Inside the coffins and tombs, there are also various artifacts and even a metal ax found in the hand of a soldier from the army of the pharaoh.”
In addition, the researchers discovered a pyramid in memory of the queen, whose identity was previously unknown.
“We have since discovered that her name was Neith and she was never known from historical records before,” Hawass said. “It’s amazing to literally rewrite what we know about history by adding a new queen to our records.”
A selection of coffins and antiquities found at the excavation site will be on display at the Grand Egyptian Museum at Giza, scheduled to open next year.
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