Egypt finds rare intact mummy near Saqqara pyramid

Wed Feb 11, 2009 10:32am EST
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By Cynthia Johnston

SAQQARA, Egypt (Reuters) - Egyptian archaeologists found a rare intact mummy dating to pharaonic times when they opened a sealed limestone sarcophagus on Wednesday in the shadow of the world's oldest standing step pyramid at Saqqara.

The well-preserved mummy, which escaped plunder by thieves in ancient times, could contain scores of gold amulets in the folds of its linen wrappings, Egypt's chief archeologist Zahi Hawass said.

"It is a typical mummy of the 26th dynasty...This mummy should contain amulets, golden amulets, to help the deceased go to the afterlife," Hawass told reporters after ascending from the mummy's burial chamber, accessible only by a rope pulley.

"To find an intact mummy inside a limestone sarcophagus is not common. It's rare. It's very rare," he said.

Archaeologists found the ancient mummy when they removed the lid of its sarcophagus deep in a burial chamber in the desert on the western side of Saqqara, about 20 km (12 miles) south of Cairo. Thirty other mummies were also found in the same room.

The 26th dynasty ruled Egypt from about 664 to 525 BC, immediately before Persians occupied the area. Hawass said the mummy found in the sarcophagus, believed to be the original owner of the burial room, would undergo scans to determine if it did contain amulets.

It is unusual to find intact burials in well-known necropolises such as Saqqara, which served the nearby city of Memphis, because thieves scoured the area in ancient times.


<p>An Egyptian worker brushes off the dust of a mummy unearthed by Egyptian archaeologists from a sealed limestone sarcophagus, at the Step Pyramid of Saqqara, one of the earliest large stone structures in the world, February 11, 2009. REUTERS/Asmaa Waguih</p>