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Archaeology

Archaeologists in Egypt discover mummification workshop

Among the artefacts were mummy masks, fragments of cartonnages and embalmers’ tools, which could unlock secrets about the oils they used

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 14 July, 2018, 10:54pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 14 July, 2018, 10:53pm

Archaeologists in Egypt have stumbled upon a new discovery dating back more than 2,500 years near the famed pyramids at an ancient necropolis south of Cairo.

The discovery, which includes a mummification workshop and a shaft, used as a communal burial place, is at the vast Saqqara necropolis part of the Memphis, a Unesco World Heritage Site. Memphis, the first capital of ancient Egypt, and its large necropolis are home to a wide range of temples and tombs as well as the three pyramids of Giza.

The latest find, announced at a press conference on Saturday, belongs to the Saite-Persian Period, from 664-404 BC. The site, which is south of Unas pyramid, was last excavated more than 100 years ago, in 1900.

Among the artefacts found were a gilded silver mummy mask, fragments of mummy cartonnages, canopic cylindrical jars and marl clay and faience cups. Many of them will be displayed in the Grand Egyptian Museum which is still being built, but the first phase is expected to be inaugurated later this year.

Down the 30-metre-deep shaft lie several mummies, wooden coffins and sarcophagi. The shaft is made up of burial chambers carved into the bedrock lining the sides of two hallways.

In the mummification workshop, an embalmer’s cachette was found that archaeologists believe will reveal more about the oils used in the mummification process in the 26th Dynasty.

“We are in front of a gold mine of information about the chemical composition of these oils,” archaeologist Ramadan Hussein said at the press conference.

“It’s only the beginning,” said Antiquities Minister Khaled al-Anani. He told reporters that the sites are likely to yield more discoveries after further excavation.

Egypt has gone to great length to revive its vital tourism industry, still reeling from the political turmoil that followed a 2011 uprising. It hopes such discoveries, along with the inauguration of the museum at the Giza plateau, will help encourage more people to visit.