Egyptian archaeologists have uncovered an ancient treasure trove of more than a 100 intact sarcophagi, dating back more than 2,500 years ago, 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.
Archaeologists opened one coffin to reveal a mummy wrapped in a burial shroud adorned with brightly coloured hieroglyphic pictorials.
Saqqara, home to more than a dozen pyramids, ancient monasteries, and animals burial sites, is a vast necropolis of the ancient Egyptian capital of Memphis, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The huge find came just over a month after archaeologists in the area found 59 other well-preserved and sealed wooden coffins, also dating back more than 2,500 years ago.
“Saqqara has yet to reveal all of its contents. It is a treasure,” Antiquities and Tourism Minister Khaled al-Anani said at the unveiling ceremony.
“Excavations are still underway. Whenever we empty a burial shaft of sarcophagi, we find an entrance to another.”
More than 40 statues of ancient deities and funerary masks were also discovered, he said.
Another two wooden statues were found in the tomb belonging to an ancient judge of the 6th dynasty, according to Mostafa Waziri, secretary general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities.
The sarcophagi will be distributed among several museums in Egypt including the yet-to-opened Grand Egyptian Museum at the Giza plateau.
The minister attributed the flurry of discoveries in Saqqara to extensive excavation works in recent years.
Another discovery in the vast necropolis is expected to be announced in the coming weeks, Anani added.
Archaeologists also hope to find an ancient workshop for manufacturing wooden coffins for mummies soon, said Waziri.
Egypt hopes archaeological discoveries will spur tourism, a sector which has suffered multiple shocks ever since a 2011 uprising up until today’s coronavirus pandemic.