Two ancient sarcophagi were unearthed earlier this month from beneath the baking Egyptian sands by a French-led archaeological mission, affiliated with France’s University of Strasbourg. They were discovered in the northern area of El-Asasef, a necropolis on the western bank of the Nile in southern Egypt, about 700km (435 miles) south of Cairo. On Saturday, they were opened in front of the eager eyes of a press conference.
Mostafa Waziri – Secretary-General of the Supreme Council of Antiquities said at the press conference “that the team made the find after working at the site since March.” Both coffins, according to a report on the BBC, were discovered “in perfect condition” and were opened by Egyptian antiquities officials “before international media on the same day.”
Minister of Antiquities, Khaled Al Anani, said, “One sarcophagus was rishi-style, which dates back to the 17th dynasty, while the other sarcophagus was from the 18th dynasty.”
Dating back to the 13th century BC, the 18th dynasty saw famous pharaohs including Tutankhamen and Ramses II. According to an article in the Daily Mail “About 300 meters of rubble was removed over five months to uncover the tomb, which contained colored ceiling paintings depicting the owner and his family.”
The coffin containing the remains of the 3000-year-old woman was opened in the afternoon and according to the piece in the Daily Mail, “Earlier in the day, authorities also revealed in the same area the tomb of the overseer of the ‘mummification shrine’ identified as Thaw-Irkhet-if.” This Egyptian high priest would have been a highly respected and powerful figure in society during his lifetime. It is known that it was he who managed the mummification shrine discovered at the Mut Temple in the Precinct of Mut, an Ancient Egyptian temple compound located in the Valley of Kings; one of the four key ancient temples that creates the Karnak Temple Complex.
The ancient Egyptian goddess Mut was the wife and consort of the god Amun-Ra and mother of Khonsu, the god of the moon. She was also worshiped as the Mother Goddess, Queen of the Goddesses, The Sky Goddess and Lady of Heaven and her symbols were the vulture, lioness and the crown of Uraeus (rearing cobra). The priest’s tomb also contained “the miniature figurines of servants to serve the dead in the afterlife and five colored masks and about 1,000 Ushabti statutes.” Mostafa Waziri of the Supreme Council of Antiquities told reporters “the tomb was found to be extravagantly decorated with scenes that showed the life of the family of this Egyptian priest and his wife, who was called Kharousekhmet-Nefret, along with pharaonic royalty.”
Egypt has yielded over a dozen ancient discoveries since the beginning of this year and archaeologists in Luxor’s west bank seem to be on something of a roll.
These latest discoveries, hopes the Supreme Council, will improve the nation’s outward image abroad and possibly even revive interest among historical travelers who once flocked to Egypt to visit the iconic pyramids, pharaonic temples and tombs, that have steered clear of the country since the 2011 political uprising.