An Egyptian archaeological mission has discovered several mummies, intricately designed wooden sarcophagi and more than 1,000 funerary statuettes, known as Ushabti figurines, in a 3,500-year-old tomb located near the city of Luxor in Egypt. Archaeologists have hailed the latest discovery a major event in ancient Egyptian archaeology.
Egyptian officials from the antiquities ministry first announced the discovery of six well-preserved mummies and two partially preserved remains in the tomb near the southern city of Luxor, according to Phys.org. They later announced that two additional mummies had been found.
“There are 10 coffins and eight mummies. The excavation is ongoing,” AFP reports that Mostafa Waziri, the head of the Egyptian archeological mission, said.
According to a statement released by the Egyptian antiquities ministry on Tuesday, the newly-uncovered ancient tomb was found in the Draa Abul Nagaa necropolis near the famous Valley of the Kings.
The Valley of the Kings is a massive necropolis located on the west bank of the Nile, opposite the ancient city of Thebes (Luxor). Ancient Egyptian Pharaohs, nobles and senior New Kingdom officials from the 18th to 20th Dynasties (16th-11th century BC) were buried in the city in elaborately constructed tombs.
The newly excavated tomb, located near the Valley of the Kings, belonged to a nobleman named Userhat, who was a judge in the city of Thebes (now Luxor) during the New Kingdom 18th Dynasty (c. 1550–1298 BC).
According to the archaeologists, although the tomb dated back 3,500 years to the 18th dynasty, it was reused during the 21st Dynasty, about 500 years later. More mummies were reportedly added apparently to hide them away from tomb robbers who were very active during the period, according to Waziri, who led the archaeological mission.
“It was a surprise how much was being displayed inside,” said Antiquities Minister Khaled el-Enany.”We found a large number of Ushabti (small carved figurines), more than 1,000 of them.”
“This is an important discovery,” he added.
The ushabti, found inside a nine-meter shaft in the tomb, refers to miniature figurines often placed in the tombs of dead ancient Egyptian nobles, apparently to provide servants to serve the nobles in the afterlife. The practice probably developed from times in the remote past when servants were immolated and buried along with their masters to continue serving them in the afterlife.
According to Waziri, many of wooden sarcophagi or coffins were found to be well preserved. They were covered with colorful and intricate artwork, including carved representations of the faces of the dead.
The archaeologists said they were examining the mummies found wrapped in linen inside the coffins.
“It is a T-shaped tomb (which) consists of an open court leading into a rectangular hall, a corridor and an inner chamber,” the statement by the ministry added.
The team said they found another room in the tomb which they have not excavated. According to a spokesperson for the antiquities ministry, members of the team believe that other mummies might still be discovered in the tomb in the future.
The ministry expressed hope that recent discoveries would help to revive tourism in the country.
The country’s tourism industry suffered a major setback following the popular uprising against the regime of Hosni Mubarak in 2011 and subsequent fears of terrorist attacks.
At least six people died last December in a bomb explosion near the Great Pyramid of Giza, one of the major tourist attractions in Egypt. But the explosion, which occurred on Al Haram Street, a major route to the site of the pyramids outside central Cairo, did not kill any tourists, The dead were four local civilians, police officers and government administrative officers working in the area.
A few days before the incident, security officials shot and killed three gunmen tracked to a hideout in southern Egypt. The gunmen were believed to be members of the militia wing of the Muslim Brotherhood.
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