In one of the richest archaeological hauls in Egypt, 30 colourful ancient wooden coffins were discovered in the city of Luxor. Last Saturday, the coffins were opened to reveal extremely well-preserved mummies.
The 3000 year old coffins, containing the mummies of “men, ladies and youngsters” were discovered in a cache at the Al-Asasif cemetery on Luxor’s west bank. Egyptian Antiquities Minister Khaled El-Enany said that,” “It is miles the significant big human coffin cache ever found since the damage of the 19th century.”
It is also the first cache of coffins discovered by an Egyptian archaeological mission. Mostafa Waziri, secretary general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities mentioned that the discovery is the largest in the country in the past century. “The last one was in 1891, [led by] foreigners. 1881, [also] foreigners. But … 2019 is an Egyptian discovery,” Waziri said. “This is an indescribable feeling, I swear to God.”
The modern-day city of Luxor is a part of the ancient town of Thebes that was once the bustling royal capital of ancient Egypt. Since the explorations in the area were started in December 2017, many important discoveries have been made. The plans include a search for tombs of Queen Nefertiti and her daughter, who was King Tutankhamen’s widow.
The coffins are set to undergo extensive restoration and will eventually be moved to the Grand Egyptian Museum next to the Giza pyramids, which is set to be inaugurated in 2020.
The coffins were found below the sand in two rows, with some placed on top of others. The intricate designs and engravings on the coffins indicate that they belong to important people. They date back to the 10th century BC under the rule of the 22nd Pharaonic dynasty. The interior of the coffins remain “in true condition of preservation, colours and full inscriptions,”
Apart from male and female mummies, the coffins also contain the remains of two children. The mummies were wrapped in cloth but their genders could be identified by the shape of the hands marked on the coffin. Coffins which were carved with the hands open meant they were female, while if the hands were balled into fists, they held males.
The inscriptions on the coffins include scenes from the Book of the Dead, along with a series of spells that enabled the soul to navigate the afterlife. The vivid colour range of the designs are still intact as the ancient Egyptians used natural colours based on limestone, red oak, and turquoise mixed with egg whites.
The discovery will also enhance knowledge about the ancient burial rights and how each gender was given the equal amount of respect. Renowned archaeologist Zahi Hawass, said, “This will enrich our knowledge as Egyptologists about the belief of the afterlife.”