Egypt unveils ‘one of a kind’ ancient tomb with intact colours and statues

PHOTO Excavation worker Saeed Abdel Aal stands at the recently uncovered tomb. AP: AMR NABIL

Egypt unveiled a well-preserved 4,400-year-old tomb decorated with hieroglyphs and statues south of Cairo on Saturday, and officials expect more discoveries when archaeologists excavate the site further in coming months.

The tomb was found in a buried ridge at the ancient necropolis of Saqqara. It was untouched and unlooted, Mostafa Waziri, secretary-general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, told reporters at the site.

He described the find as “one of a kind in the last decades”.

The walls are decorated with hieroglyphs and statues of pharaohs.

PHOTO Mustafa Abdo, chief of excavation workers, walks inside the tomb, where the colours were still intact after more than 4,400 years. AP: AMR NABIL

Mr Waziri said the tomb was unique because of the statues and its near-perfect condition.

“The colour is almost intact even though the tomb is almost 4,400 years old,” he said.

The tomb dates from the rule of Neferirkare Kakai, the third king of the Fifth Dynasty of the Old Kingdom.

Archaeologists removed a last layer of debris from the tomb on Thursday and found five shafts inside, Mr Waziri said. 

One of the shafts was unsealed with nothing inside, but the other four were sealed. 

They are expecting to make discoveries when they excavate those shafts starting on Sunday, he said. He was hopeful about one shaft in particular.

“I can imagine that all of the objects can be found in this area,” he said, pointing at one of the sealed shafts. 

“This shaft should lead to a coffin or a sarcophagus of the owner of the tomb.”

PHOTO Mostafa Waziri, secretary general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, points out carvings at the tomb. AP: AMR NABIL

The tomb is 10 metres long, 3 metres wide and just under 3 metres high, Mr Waziri said.

The tomb lies in a buried ridge that has only partially been uncovered. 

Mr Waziri said he expects more discoveries to be made there when archaeologists start more excavation work in January.

The Fifth Dynasty ruled Egypt from about 2,500 BC to 2,350 BC, not long after the great pyramid of Giza was built.

Saqqara served as the necropolis for Memphis, the capital of ancient Egypt for more than two millennia.

Ancient Egyptians mummified humans to preserve their bodies for the afterlife, while animal mummies were used as religious offerings.

Egypt has revealed over a dozen ancient discoveries this year.

The country hopes the finds will brighten its image abroad and revive interest among travellers who once flocked to its iconic pharaonic temples and pyramids but who fled after the 2011 political uprising.

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