Archaeologists Unearth Ancient Egyptian Tomb and Stunning Trove of Artifacts

Excavations at Saqqara revealed burials, colorful masks and statues of the goddess Isis

A mask uncovered during recent excavations at Saqqara Egyptian Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities

Researchers have discovered an ancient Egyptian tomb in the necropolis of Saqqara, which is about 20 miles south of Cairo.

Carved into rock over 4,000 years ago, the tomb sheds new light on the craftsmanship and funerary practices of ancient Egyptians, providing “invaluable insights into the history of this region,” as excavation leader Nozomu Kawai, an archaeologist at Japan’s Kanazawa University, tells Ahram Online’s Nevine El-Aref.

Archaeologists from Japan and Egypt collaborated to complete the dig at the ancient site of Saqqara, a strip of land running five miles along the Nile’s west bank. Once the burial ground for the Egyptian capital of Memphis, Saqqara is home to archaeological sites that span many centuries. Along with tombs and temples, the necropolis boasts sites such as the famed Step Pyramid, built in the 27th century B.C.E.

In addition to the tomb, the team unearthed “a number of architectural elements, burials and archaeological finds of different historical eras,” per a translated Facebook post from Egypt’s Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities.

Saqqara Skeleton
The site contained burials dating back as far as the Second Dynasty and spanning many centuries that followed. Egyptian Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities

The burials included the remains of a small child and an adult, according to a statement from the ministry. The adult was buried wearing a colorful mask.

Ancient Egyptians often buried their dead wearing decorative masks. These objects were not created to depict the wearer’s own face, but an idealized, youthful visage, which facilitated the deceased’s journey into the Egyptian afterlife.

The researchers also discovered newer burials, including remains from the Ptolemaic period (around 304 to 30 B.C.E.) and a coffin from the 18th Dynasty (roughy 1550 to 1295 B.C.E.). Though the coffin was damaged, it held a well-preserved vessel made of alabaster, the white mineral Egyptians often used to make perfume containers, jars and funerary decorations, according to Ahram Online.

“The artifacts and burials uncovered provide a window into the lives of those who lived in this ancient civilization,” Mostafa Waziri, secretary-general of Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities, tells the publication.

Additionally, researchers found two terracotta statues of Isis, the Egyptian goddess associated with magic and resurrection, and one of the child deity Harpocrates riding a goose. The goose symbolizes “an evil spirit over which the Divine Child triumphs,” Kawai tells Live Science’s Owen Jarus.

The team also recovered amulets, pottery tools and ostraca—pieces of pottery—that feature hieratic inscriptions, or cursive hieroglyphics. These kinds of grave goods were buried with the dead in the hopes that they could be used in the afterlife.

As Kawai tells Ahram Online, “We hope to uncover more secrets of the Saqqara archaeological site in the upcoming seasons, further enriching our understanding of this historically significant area.”

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