It has lain within a burial chamber, undisturbed, for thousands of years. Now a remarkable Egyptian sarcophagus has emerged from deep beneath the sands near Cairo, to the excitement of archaeologists, who describe it as a hugely significant “dream discovery”.
The giant granite sarcophagus is covered in inscriptions dedicated to Ptah-em-wia, who headed the treasury of King Ramses II, Egypt’s mightiest pharaoh.
Ola El Aguizy, emeritus professor of the faculty of archaeology at Cairo University, discovered it in Saqqara, an ancient necropolis about 20 miles south of Cairo. Last year, El Aguizy, who heads the archaeological mission at the site, uncovered Ptah-em-wia’s surface-level tomb. Now she has found his underground burial chamber with the sarcophagus, which could reveal more about those who ruled Egypt after Tutankhamun.
Finding a complete sarcophagus in its original tomb is incredibly rare. El Aguizy told the Observer: “The discovery of this sarcophagus in its original place in the burial shaft was very exciting because it is the sarcophagus of the owner of the tomb, which is not always the case. Sometimes the sarcophagus is for a different person of a later period, when the tomb was used in later periods. But this time it is not the case.”
She said that Ptah-em-wia’s titles listed in the hieroglyphs emphasise his closeness to the king, proving that he had “a very important role in the administration of that time”.
She added that the sarcophagus is inscribed with emblems of deities, including the sky goddess Nut on the lid, covering the chest with opened wings to protect the deceased.
Her team will now study it to uncover the full story of Ptah-em-wia’s life.
National Geographic cameras captured everything while shooting the latest excavation season for an eight-part documentary series, Lost Treasures of Egypt, which started yesterday.
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