CAIRO (Al Jazeera/AP) – Egyptian archaeologists have uncovered a Pharaonic tomb near the capital, Cairo, containing what may be the oldest and “most complete” mummy yet to be discovered in the country.
The 4,300-year-old mummy was found at the bottom of a 15-meter shaft in a recently uncovered group of tombs dating back to the fifth and sixth dynasties of the Old Kingdom near the Step Pyramid at Saqqara, Zahi Hawass, director of the team, told reporters on Thursday.
The mummy, of a man named Hekashepes, featured a “gold-leaf covering” and was in a limestone sarcophagus that had been sealed in mortar.
“I put my head inside to see what was inside the sarcophagus: a beautiful mummy of a man completely covered in layers of gold,” Hawass said. “This mummy may be the oldest and most complete mummy found in Egypt to date.”
Among other tombs found was one belonging to Khnumdjedef, an inspector of officials, supervisor of nobles and priest during the reign of Unas, the last pharaoh of the fifth dynasty. It was decorated with scenes of daily life.
The vast burial site at the ancient Egyptian capital, Memphis, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is home to more than a dozen pyramids, animal graves and old Coptic Christian monasteries.
The Saqqara site is part of a sprawling necropolis at Egypt’s ancient capital of Memphis that includes the famed Giza Pyramids as well as smaller pyramids at Abu Sir, Dahshur and Abu Ruwaysh. The ruins of Memphis were designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in the 1970s.
Thursday’s unveiling comes amid a flurry of new discoveries announced by Egyptian authorities over the past week. Near the southern city of Luxor, authorities said they found dozens of burial sites from the New Kingdom era, dating from 1800 B.C. to 1600 B.C. Discovered nearby were the ruins of an ancient Roman city, it said.
In a separate announcement Tuesday, a group of scientists from Cairo University revealed previously unknown details about a mummified teenage boy dating to about 300 B.C. By using CT scans, the team of scientists was able to shed new light on the boy’s high social status by affirming the intricate details of the amulets inserted within his mummified body and the type of burial he received.
Egypt often publicly touts its ancient discoveries to attract more tourists, a significant source of foreign currency for the cash-strapped North African country. The sector suffered a long downturn after the political turmoil and violence that followed a 2011 uprising.