Egypt on Thursday unveiled four tombs, including a gold-inlaid mummy discovered in the Saqqara necropolis south of Cairo, and the “secret protector” of a former king.
The expansive burial site in the ancient Egyptian capital of Memphis, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is home to more than a dozen pyramids, animal tombs, and former Coptic Christian monasteries.
Archaeologist Zahi Hawass, Egypt’s minister of antiquities, announced the latest discovery from the fifth and sixth dynasties between the 25th and 22nd centuries BC to reporters at the excavation site.
Hawass said the largest tomb “adorned with scenes from everyday life” belonged to Khnumdjedef, a priest, inspector and chief of the nobles.
It was found in the pyramid complex of Unas, the last king of the fifth dynasty who ruled about 4,300 years ago.
Another tomb belonged to Meri, who, according to Hawass, served as the pharaoh’s appointed “secret protector”; it was the title of a priest held by a senior court official who gave him the power and authority to perform special religious rituals.
Hawass added that the third tomb belongs to a priestess in the pyramid complex of pharaoh Pepi I, and the fourth belongs to a judge and writer named Fetek.
Mostafa Waziri, head of Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities, told reporters that Fetek’s tomb contains the “biggest collection of sculptures” ever found in the region.
Under a 15-metre shaft, Hawass said he also found a large limestone sarcophagus that remained sealed “as the ancient Egyptians left it 4,300 years ago.”
According to Hawass, it contained a “gold-leaf plated” mummy belonging to a man named Hekashepes, who described it as one of the oldest and most complete non-royal mummies ever found in the country.
Egypt has announced many important archaeological discoveries in recent years.
Critics say the excavation rush prioritizes exhibited finds over rigorous academic research to attract media attention.
But the discoveries have been a key component of Egypt’s attempts to revive its vital tourism industry after years of political unrest as well as the Covid pandemic.
The government’s plans, the long-delayed opening of the Grand Egyptian Museum at the foot of the pyramids in Giza, aim to attract 30 million tourists a year by 2028, up from 13 million before the pandemic. .
The country with a population of 104 million is experiencing a serious economic crisis.
According to official figures, Egypt’s tourism industry provides 10 percent of GDP and nearly two million jobs.