The recent archaeological discovery of 59 Ancient Egyptian coffins, announced on 3 October, is considered the largest of its kind in 2020.
The large number of intact coffins has stayed undisturbed in their resting place for the better part of 2,600 years.
Although there is still much work to be done to identify the remains in the burials, preliminary studies show that the coffins belong to elite individuals, including priests and top officials, from the 26th Dynasty of the Late Pharaonic Period, between 664-525 BCE.
The 26th Dynasty or the Saite period in Ancient Egypt, founded by the Pharoah Psamtik I, was the last native dynasty to rule Egypt before the Persian conquest in 525 BCE. During this era, Egypt enjoyed the benefits of stable rule by a single strong family.
The 26th Dynasty faced a world in which Egypt was no longer concerned with its role in international power politics, but with its survival as a nation. The long and rich traditions behind them, however, fortified the culture, which saw a new phase of artistic expression in stone monuments and statuary.
The archaeological discovery in Saqqara also included a collection of 28 statues of the main god of Saqqara Necropolis, Ptah-Soker, the creator-god and maker of things, who was also a patron of craftsmen, especially sculptors.
Earlier, the Egyptian archaeological mission headed by Secretary-General of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, Mostafa Waziri, announced the discovery of a carved bronze statue of the god Nefertumat the Saqqara necropolis.
The 35cm bronze statue, representing the god of the lotus blossom, is inlaid with precious stones with the name of its owner, the Priest Badi-Amun, written on its base.
The newly discovered bronze statue of the god Nefertum was found lying beside the 26th Dynasty coffins.
Egypt’s Minister of Tourism and Antiquities Khaled Al-Anani said the coffins discovered in Saqqara will be transported to the restoration centre at the Grand Egyptian Museum (GEM), along with 30 ancient wooden coffins that were discovered last October in Luxor. This will take place in preparation for their display in the museum once it is officially inaugurated.
Last month, the mission also discovered a group of 14 intact wooden coffins in three burial wells, as well as a further discovery of 13 coffins at the Saqqara Necropolis.
Waziri confirmed that the archaeological discovery in Saqqara has not yet ended, with excavation work ongoing to unearth more coffins in the archaeological area.
Initial studies indicate that these coffins are still intact and have not been opened since they were buried inside the well.
Saqqara, 32 km south of Egypt’s capital Cairo, is one of the world’s most important archaeological sites, and was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in the 1970s. Saqqara is a vast, ancient burial ground, which served as the necropolis for the ancient Egyptian capital, Memphis.
Memphis city is believed to have been founded by the Pharaoh Menes, and was the capital of Ancient Egypt during the Old Kingdom. It remained an important city throughout Ancient Egyptian history.
Saqqara was part of the necropolis in Memphis, and is famous for its 5,000-year-old Step pyramid of Djoser.
The area hosts at least 10 other pyramids, along with hundreds of tombs of ancient officials and other sites that range from the First Dynasty (2920 BCE to 2770 BCE) to the Coptic period (395 CE to 642 CE).
The site has yielded some remarkable finds, including limestone and wooden coffins, a huge cat cemetery and a rare collection of mummified scarab beetles. A bronze statue of the god Nefertam and a wooden obelisk decorated with hieroglyphs were also recently uncovered.