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Nearly sixty ancient Egyptian mummies, some of them dating back to the little-known First Dynasty period, have been unearthed in a vast necropolis south of Cairo.
Egypt's tourism and antiquities minster Khalid el-Anany said that at least 59 sealed sarcophagi, most of them containing intact mummies, were found buried in three wells. The graves have lain undisturbed for more than 2,600 years.
"I consider this is the beginning of a big discovery," he said, adding that experts believe there are many more coffins yet to be discovered in the same area.
At the press conference where Mr el-Anany announced the find, one of the sarcophagi was opened to display the centuries-old mummy within.
The find was made on the Saqqara plateau, an area that is known to have at least 11 pyramids, including the 200-foot Step Pyramid of Djoser
Hundreds of other ancient tombs of priests and officials have been found on the site, ranging from the 1st Dynasty (2920 BC – 2770 BC) to the Coptic period (395-642).
The initial batch of thirteen coffins from this find was recovered from the 36-foot deep well last month. Mr Al-Anany wrote on Twitter: "(It's) an indescribable feeling when you witness a new archeological discovery."
Mostafa Waziri, the secretary general of Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities, said preliminary studies show that most of the decorated coffins appeared to have been made for priests and other top officials from the Pharaonic Late Period (664-525 BC).
He added that archaeologists had also found around 28 statuettes of Ptah-Soker, the main god of the Saqqara necropolis, as well as a finely-carved fourteen-inch statuette of god Nefertum in bronze, inlaid with precious stones.
A name inscribed on the figure’s base, Priest Badi-Amun, is thought to be that of its owner.
The Saqqara site forms a major part of a huge necropolis that was built to house the dead from Egypt's ancient capital of Memphis.
The site also includes the iconic Great Pyramid of Giza, the Pyramid of Khafre, and the Pyramid of Menkaure, as well as a number of smaller pyramids an great tombs.
The ruins of the ancient city, which were designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1979, are open to the public as an open-air museum.
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- Ancient Egypt
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