The mummy of a palace priest was discovered by
archaeologists, lying in an underground tomb in Egypt.
The remains, which were recovered from a sarcophagus,
had lain undisturbed for more than 2,400 years. The mummy was found
in what was one of only three tombs from the time of the pharaohs
to have been unearthed intact in the modern era (to date). The
discovery was made inside a shaft which extended about twenty-eight
metres (ninety-two feet) into the ground.
The tomb in Abu Sir, twenty kilometres (twelve
miles) south of Cairo, was believed to date from between 525 BC
and 404 BC. Dignitaries and journalists gathered at the end of
February 1999 to see the lid lifted off the limestone sarcophagus
with a hoist.
The unveiling revealed a smaller basalt sarcophagus,
which contained a decayed wooden coffin. The mummy was wrapped in
decayed, brown rags. Facial features could be seen, including what
appeared to be a grimace.
Faruq Hosni, the Egyptian Minister for Culture,
said that according to inscriptions found in the tomb, the casket
contained the mummified remains of Iuf-Aa, what he described as a
'priest with administrative responsibilities' and 'the head of the
Objects of worship had been placed with the corpse
to protect it from evil spirits. Littered around the sarcophagus
were 408 statuettes which were placed there in order to assist the
priest in the afterlife, and canopic jars which contained the dead
man's intestines. They had been left in their place since the desert
tomb had first been opened in 1996.
Since then the tomb had been kept sealed because
it was deemed to be structurally unsound. Grave robbers had raided
almost every ancient Egyptian tomb, but they had managed to miss
Architects worked for months to brace the walls
and ceiling to prevent the possibility of a collapse. They also
installed stairs and ventilation ducts, and covered the walls to
preserve the still-vivid paintings.
Unlike the famous tomb of Tutankhamun, which was
discovered unopened in 1922, there were no treasures to be unearthed
from this tomb. But archaeologists said the new tomb was significant
because it provided information on burial practices and religious
beliefs in the early Persian period of Egyptian history - a time
about which historians still knew very little.