Egypt reveals new secrets: 2,000-year-old mummification workshops exposed
Sylvie Claire / May 29, 2023
Egypt unveiled on Saturday two workshops dedicated to the mummification of humans and animals at Saqqara, in the necropolis of Memphis, the capital of the Old Kingdom of the Pharaohs, "the largest and most complete" discovered to date.
The site of Saqqara, 15 kilometers south of Cairo and the famous pyramids of the Giza Plateau, is a Unesco World Heritage site, famous for the Step Pyramid of Pharaoh Djoser. The two workshops, one dedicated to the embalming of human mummies and the other to the embalming of "sacred animals", date from the 30th dynasty and the Ptolemaic period, i.e. between 2,400 and 2,000 years ago, explained Mostafa Waziri, head of the Supreme Council of Antiquities.
The room dedicated to human mummification is "divided into several rooms equipped with layers of stone covered in plaster, with gutters at the ends, measuring two metres by 50 centimetres, on which the bodies were placed", he explained.
Egyptian archaeologists discovered mummification instruments, earthen vessels and ritual objects, as well as in the area dedicated to animals. The ancient Egyptians mainly embalmed cats, but also crocodiles, and in March, Cairo announced the discovery of over 2,000 mummified ram heads, as well as mummies of sheep, dogs, goats, cows, gazelles and mongooses.
Two tombs, belonging to the chief scribe of the 5th dynasty, 4,400 years ago, and to a priest of the 18th dynasty, which ruled Egypt 3,400 years ago, were also unearthed. Both contain scenes of daily life and hieroglyphic inscriptions, according to the Ministry of Antiquities.
Egypt regularly announces archaeological discoveries, described by some experts as "announcement effects" of more political and economic than scientific significance. The country of 105 million inhabitants, which is in the throes of a serious economic crisis, is counting on the tourism sector (two million jobs and over 10% of GDP) to put its finances back on track. Its government is counting on 30 million tourists a year by 2028, compared with 13 million before Covid-19.