GIZA, Egypt — A century after the discovery of by Tutankhamun tomb has made headlines around the world, in the sweltering desert heat just outside Cairo, a small team continues to make new discoveries in ancient Egypt.
Digging layer by layer at the Saqqara site in Giza, moving the earth one bucket at a time, archaeologists have found a giant hoard of ancient coffins and mummies, as well as ceramic amulets said to have been used in burial rituals and thick papyrus documents.
Egyptologist Zahi Hawass, Egypt’s former minister of state for antiquities, told NBC News on Wednesday that the site contains countless other artifacts related to another pharaoh, King Tetiand his followers who worshiped him as a god for 1000 years after his death.
The remains of King Tutankhamun’s closest generals and advisers were also at the site, which is about 20 miles south of the North African nation’s capital, he said.
“I really believe that this year and next year this site will be the most important site in Egypt,” Hawass said, referring to a network of underground chambers hidden 20 meters below Egypt’s oldest pyramids. .
“I always say that we have found so far only 30% of our monuments are still there, 70% are buried under the ground,” he said.
The discovery of so many new coffins in the area could be because “Teti was revered as a god in the New Kingdom, and everyone wanted to be buried alongside him,” Hawass said, adding that his team had found nearly 300 coffins in the vicinity of its pyramid this year, most in good condition.
He is believed to have ruled for around 12 years between 2300 and 2181 BC. AD, Teti was the first king of the Sixth Dynasty of Ancient Egypt.
Although Teti’s sarcophagus is 4,300 years old, people continued to be buried near it for more than 1,000 years later because they wanted its protection, Hawass said.
After the mummies are exhumed from the site, archaeologists X-ray them to determine their age at death, any illnesses they might have had during their lifetime, and what might have killed them. The teams then carry out a careful conservation process and begin recording and archiving the newly discovered antiquities.
Hawass said the coffins and antiquities found at the site will likely be displayed at the Grand Egyptian Museum in Giza, which is due to open next year, although the project has been stalled several times due to instability. politics and lack of government funding, according to the museum’s website.
Many items associated with Tutankhamun are also on display there, although the young king’s famous death mask and sarcophagus are still on display at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, in the interests of tourism preservation, Hawass said.
TutankhamunThe tomb of was discovered in 1922 nearly 400 miles south of the Giza site in the Valley of the Kings in Luxor, by British archaeologist Howard Carter.
Considered to have become pharaoh at the age of 8 or 9, around 1334 BC. AD, Tutankhamun reigned until his death 10 years later and is said to have suffered from numerous illnesses and disabilities, including a flat foot, circulatory problems and malaria.
Undisturbed by grave robbers, the grave was almost completely intact when Carter discovered it. “Inside he discovered there were four large shrines and he pulled them out with ropes,” Hawass said.
“And under the shrines he found the golden coffins, three coffins,” he said, adding that among the 5,000 artifacts found in the burial chambers was a golden dagger to protect Tutankhamun in the beyond, an ornate throne engraved with his mother and father’s love story, and containers of beer and wine.
“In ancient Egypt, gold was like dust,” said Hawass, who couldn’t quantify how much that inheritance applied to modern Egyptians.
“As an archaeologist, if you gave me all the money from the United States and England, I would say no,” he said. “This heritage belongs to everyone.
Kelly Cobiella and Laura Saravia reported from Giza. Leila Sackur reported from London.