Ancient tombs and mummification workshops unearthed in Egypt
SAQQARA, Egypt — Ancient workshops and tombs dating back 4,000 years were unveiled by antiquities authorities Saturday, at a sprawling pharaonic necropolis outside Cairo, Egypt's capital.
Clay pots and other items apparently used to mummify humans and sacred animals were also found at the site in Saqqara, which is a part of Egypt's ancient capital of Memphis, Mostafa Waziri, secretary-general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, told reporters.
"We discovered the biggest embalming — we call it house — or workshop, one for humans and one for animals," Waziri said at a news conference at the UNESCO World Heritage site.
He said they had also discovered tombs dating back to the fifth dynasty 4,400 years ago, which were decorated with "daily life scenes and another life scenes" and images of harvest and cultivation.
The workshops and tombs date back to the 30th pharaonic dynasty (380 B.C. to 343 B.C.) and to the Ptolemaic period (305 B.C. to 30 B.C.), he said.
The animal embalming workshop was made with mud and stone floors, and was discovered alongside bronze tools that would have been used in the mummification process. Five beds made out of stone were discovered still standing inside the room, which would have been used to mummify the most sacred animals.
One of the tombs belonged to "Ne Hesut Ba," who was the head of scribes and the priest of Horus and Maat during the the fifth dynasty in around 2400 B.C., Sabri Farag, head of the Saqqara archaeological site, said in a separate news release.
The second tomb belonged to a Qadish priest named "Men Kheber" from the 18th dynasty (around 1400 B.C.), he said.
Old Kingdom tombs for humans were discovered painted with the names of the dead and their wives.
Inside the New Kingdom tombs, which date back to the 1500s B.C., alabaster statues of the tombs' owners were discovered still intact inside, with hieroglyphic text in blue.
In February, the discovery of an unusual set of ceramic vessels at the Saqqara necropolis shed light on how ancient Egyptians mummified bodies.
Chemical residue found in the jars allowed researchers to identify mixtures of fragrant or antiseptic oils, tars and resins, according to the study.
This, matched with writing inscribed on the exterior of the containers, provided researchers with new details about specific materials used in mummification, such as dammar tree resin and elemi oil, which are native to rainforests in Asia and Africa.
In recent years, Egypt's government has heavily promoted new archaeological finds to international media and diplomats. It hopes that such discoveries will help attract more tourists to the country to revive an industry that suffered from political turmoil following the 2011 uprising.
Charlene Gubash reported from Saqqara and Leila Sackur from London.
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