A silver face mask gilded with gold, a mummification workshop, mummies and sarcophagi have all been discovered at a tomb complex in Saqqara, Egypt, an Egyptian-German team announced this morning (July 14).
The complex contains several burial shafts dug into the ground, some of them extending more than 100 feet (30 meters) deep, the team said in a statement.
Archaeologists also found the remains of what they think is a mummification workshop, a place where people were mummified before burial, in the tomb complex. It contains bowls and measuring cups that have the names of oils and other substances used for mummification written on them. Inside the workshop, they also discovered two large basins that were likely used to dry mummies with natron and prepare bandages that would be used to wrap them, the statement said.
The workshop is in the remains of a building made of mudbrick and limestone. This building is above a large shaft that leads down to several burial chambers holding mummies, sarcophagi, alabaster vessels (used to hold the organs of the deceased) and shabti figurines — the Egyptians believed these figures could act as servants for the deceased in the afterlife.
At least some of the finds date back around 2,500 years, including the silver face mask, which dates to sometime between 664 B.C. and 404 B.C., the statement said.
A gilded mummy mask decorated with half-precious stones was discovered covering the face of one of the mummies.
The eyes of the face mask contain calcite, obsidian and a black gemstone.
"The finding of this mask could be called a sensation," Ramadan Badry Hussein, head of the Egyptian-German team, from the University of Tübingen in Germany, said in the statement. "Very few masks of precious metal have been preserved to the present day, because the tombs of most ancient Egyptian dignitaries were looted in ancient times."
The mask was found on the face of a mummy hidden inside a badly damaged wooden coffin that has an image of a goddess called, Mut, on it. From the writing on the coffin that is still legible, researchers can tell that the man was a priest who served, Mut.
The head of the Egyptian-German archaeological mission Badry Hussein announced in the press conference that a discovered mask probably belonged to a priest who was alive during the 26th dynasty, as it seems from the initial readings of the decrepit writings on the uncovered item.
“There is a layer of masking and calcification on the discovered mask, after initial examination, it was found that the mask was made of gold-plated silver while his eyes was made of Black Onyx,” Hussein declared to the media on the sidelines of the press conference.
The head of the supreme council of Antiquities Mostafa Waziry announced that the importance of this discovery lies in that it was found in Saqqara, which no archaeological mission had visited since 1900.
Waziry pointed out that the discovered mummification workshop hosted 1,500 Ushabti statues, explaining that the well in which the workshop is located in is connected to another well and is expected to be uncovered during the upcoming period.
Minister of Antiquities Khaled Anany announced on Saturday the discovery of more than five stone coffins at Saqqara area, and declared it “a great archaeological discovery”.
Anany added that the Egyptian-German mission succeeded in uncovering a complete mummification workshop which contains burial chambers with mummies dating back to the 26th and 27th dynasty.
The discovered items included three mummies, a group of canopic vessels made of calcite and a number of Ushabtis as well.
“The importance of such a discovery lies in its relevance to an important issue that the whole world is concerned with, which is the mummification, methods of embalming, its workshops and tools,” Anany recounted in the press conference.
Excavation and mapping of the tomb complex are ongoing. The research is sponsored by the German Research Foundation. Many of the team's German researchers are from the University of Tübingen.
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