New Hoard Of Sealed Sarcophagi Discovered In Saqqara, Egypt

Archaeologists in Egypt have discovered dozens of new sarcophagi in the necropolis of Saqqara. The finds are expected to go on display at the new Grand Egyptian Museum.

Oct 20, 2020By Antonis Chaliakopoulos, MSc Museum Studies, BA History & Archaeology
Left: One of the sarcophagi, Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities, via CNN. Right: Egyptian prime minister Mustafa Madbouly and Egyptian Minister of Antiquities Khaled El-Enany, Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities, via AP


Archaeologists have discovered another trove of sealed Egyptian sarcophagi in the necropolis of Saqqara in Egypt. Although it is yet unknown what will happen with the new sarcophagi, it is expected that they will go on display at the new Grand Egyptian Museum in Giza, for at least some time.

According to the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities, the sarcophagi amount to dozens and date back to 2500 years ago. A collection of funerary artifacts and other finds accompany the discovery.

These are the latest news in a series of archaeological finds since the start of October. Back then, Egyptian archaeologists had unearthed another 59 unopened sarcophagi.

The New Sarcophagi From Saqqara

Egyptian prime minister Mustafa Madbouly and Egyptian Minister of Antiquities Khaled El-Enany, Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities, via AP

On October 19, the Egyptian Prime Minister Mustafa Madbouly and the minister of Tourism and Antiquities, Khaled El-Enany paid a visit to the necropolis of Saqqara alongside secretary-general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, Mustafa Waziri. Photos released by the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities show the three men examining the interior of a sarcophagus.

In a statement, the Minitry of Tourism and Antiquities said that archaeologists discovered a new collection of colorful, sealed sarcophagi buried more than 2,500 years ago in the necropolis of Saqqara. Alongside the funeral receptacles, the archaeologist found a collection of colorful, gilded wooden statues.

The specifics of the new discovery are, for the most part, still unknown. According to an Instagram post by El-Enany, the new sarcophagi amount to “dozens” and have remained “sealed since ancient times”!

The Saqqara Necropolis

One of the sarcophagi, Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities, via CNN

Saqqara is a world-famous ancient burial ground that served as the necropolis for the ancient capital of Memphis. The site includes the famed Giza Pyramids. Saqqara is located in close proximity to Cairo and is designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1979.

The vast necropolis features numerous pyramids, including many mastaba tombs. Of extreme importance is the Step pyramid of Djoser (or Step Tomb), the oldest complete stone building complex in history. The Pyramid was constructed in the 27th century BC during the Third Dynasty and recently underwent a $10 million restoration.

Just two weeks before the new discovery, the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities had announced the discovery of 59 sarcophagi. The first 20 were discovered in late September. These also date back at least 2600 years, and most had mummies inside. The discovery received extended news coverage due to the rarity of the finds.

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In general, it is rare for archaeologists to find so many sealed sarcophagi and in such a good condition. As a result, this was amongst the greatest archaeological discoveries of its kind in decades. The extended news coverage was also part of Egypt’s attempt to restart its tourist economy in a difficult time for the industry.

These are not the only high-quality finds coming from the Saqqara necropolis. Most notably, in 2018 archaeologists discovered the tomb of Wahtye, a high-ranking priest serving under King Neferikale Kakai 4,400 years ago.

The Grand Egyptian Museum In Cairo

The funerary mask of Tutankhamun will be exhibited in the new Grand Egyptian Museum, c. 1327 BC, via Wikimedia Commons

It is yet unknown what will happen with the new finds.

Khaled El-Enany had announced that the sarcophagi from two weeks ago would go on display at the new Grand Egyptian Museum. It is safe to assume that the ones from yesterday will follow.

The Grand Egyptian Museum cost $1 billion and will be the largest museum in the world dedicated to one civilization. The museum was scheduled to open in the last quarter of 2020, but due to COVID-19, its opening will take place in 2021.

Regarding the museum, El-Enany had said on October 9 that:

“The site is exceptional because it is overlooking the Great Pyramid of Giza. It has wonderful architecture, and the whole collection of the Tutankhamun camels will be displayed for the first time with more than 5,000 objects.”

The next months will see a complete rebranding of the Egyptian museum landscape. Except for the Grand Egyptian Museum in Cairo, museums will also open in Sharm El-Sheikh and Kafr El-Sheikh. In addition, the Museum of Royal Chariots will soon reopen in Cairo, following years of refurbishment.

Much awaited is also the pharaonic procession of 22 royal mummies which are planned to leave the Egyptian Museum in Tahrir Square to reach their new home at the National Museum of Egyptian Civilisation in Fustat.

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By Antonis ChaliakopoulosMSc Museum Studies, BA History & ArchaeologyAntonis is an archaeologist with a passion for museums and heritage and a keen interest in aesthetics and the reception of classical art. He holds an MSc in Museum Studies from the University of Glasgow and a BA in History and Archaeology from the University of Athens (NKUA) where he is currently working on his PhD.