Egypt makes ‘major discoveries’ at Saqqara archaeological site

File picture. A picture shows wooden sarcophagi on display during the unveiling of an ancient treasure trove of more than a 100 intact sarcophagi, at the Saqqara necropolis 30 kms south of the Egyptian capital Cairo, on November 14, 2020. - Egypt announced the discovery of an ancient treasure trove of more than a 100 intact sarcophagi, the largest such find this year. The sealed wooden coffins, unveiled on site amid fanfare, belonged to top officials of the Late Period and the Ptolemaic period of ancient Egypt. They were found in three burial shafts at depths of 12 metres (40 feet) in the sweeping Saqqara necropolis south of Cairo. (Photo by Ahmed HASAN / AFP)

The wooden sarcophagi, which date back to the New Kingdom, were found in 52 burial shafts at depths of 10 to 12 meters.

Egypt announced Saturday the discovery of a new trove of treasures at the Saqqara necropolis south of Cairo, including an ancient funerary temple.

The tourism and antiquities ministry said the “major discoveries” made by a team of archaeologists headed by famed Egyptologist Zahi Hawass also included more than 50 sarcophagi.

The wooden sarcophagi, which date back to the New Kingdom, were found in 52 burial shafts at depths of 10 to 12 meters (40 feet), the ministry said in a statement.

It quoted Hawass as saying that the “funerary temple of Queen Naert, the wife of King Teti” as well as three warehouses made of bricks were found on the site.

Saqqara, home to more than a dozen pyramids, ancient monasteries, and animal burial sites, is a vast necropolis of the ancient Egyptian capital of Memphis, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

In November, Egypt announced the discovery of more than 100 intact sarcophagi, in the largest such find of the year.

The sealed wooden coffins, unveiled alongside statues of ancient deities, dated back to more than 2,500 years and belonged to top officials of the Late Period and the Ptolemaic period of ancient Egypt.

At the time, Antiquities and Tourism Minister Khaled al-Anani predicted that “Saqqara has yet to reveal all of its contents.”

In the statement released Saturday, Hawass said the latest discovery could shed new light on the history of Saqqara during the New Kingdom, between the 16th century BC and the 11th century BC.

The discovery was made near the pyramid where King Teti, the first pharaoh of the Sixth Dynasty of the Old Kingdom, is buried.

Egypt hopes archaeological discoveries will spur tourism, a sector which has suffered multiple shocks, from a 2011 uprising to today’s coronavirus pandemic.

Later this year, and after several delays, authorities hope to inaugurate a new museum — the Grand Egyptian Museum — at the Giza plateau, home to the famed Giza pyramids.

There has been a flurry of excavations in recent years in Saqqara, home to the step pyramid of Djoser, one of the earliest built in ancient Egypt.

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