Archaeologists Uncover 4,500-Year-Old Egyptian Tomb of High Priest in Sarcophagus

May 8, 2019 Updated: May 13, 2019

Archaeologists working near the pyramids of Giza have discovered an ancient Egyptian burial ground dating back to around 2500 B.C. and hosting the tombs of rich, high-ranking officials.

The remarkable find includes a limestone family tomb from Egypt’s fifth dynasty, a period spanning the 25th to the 24th century B.C., the country’s Ministry of Antiquities said while unveiling the site.

The tomb contains the mummies of two people: Behnui-Ka, who held the impressive title “the Priest, the Judge, the purifier of kings: Khafre, Userkaf and Niuserre, the priest of goddess Maat, and the elder juridical in the court;” and Nwi, also known as “the chief of the great state, the overseer of the new settlements, and the purifier of King Khafre.”

Khafre, who built the second of the three famous pyramids of Giza, is believed to have reigned for around 25 years.

Archaeologists also found various artifacts elsewhere in the tomb, officials said, including a limestone statue of one of the powerful men, his wife, and their son.

Other parts of the burial site were used more extensively from around the seventh century B.C., they added.

A number of wooden coffins dating back to that era were found, with several featuring bright colors and elaborate decorations.

Some of the coffins also featured hieroglyphics on their lids and were found close to fragments from wooden masks.

An excavation worker works inside a burial shaft at the Giza pyramid plateau, on the southwestern outskirts of the Egyptian capital Cairo, on May 4, 2019, following the discovery of several Old Kingdom tombs and burial shafts. (©Getty Images | MAHMOUD KHALED)
©Getty Images | MAHMOUD KHALED

Adjacent the rich tomb there is a second burial site containing dozens of workers who helped build the pyramids, including masons, artisans, carpenters, and other skilled workers.

The Ministry is hopeful the new discoveries will help boost tourism to Giza, one of the area’s key sources of revenue, which was hit by the turmoil that followed the 2011 Arab Spring and has been slow to recover.

©Getty Images | MAHMOUD KHALED
Sarcophagi are seen inside a burial shaft at the Giza pyramid plateau, on the southwestern outskirts of the Egyptian capital Cairo, on May 4, 2019, following the discovery of several Old Kingdom tombs and burial shafts. (© Getty Images | MAHMOUD KHALED)

They stated that the “discoveries and archaeological projects carried out do not only have a scientific and archaeological value but it is a good promotion to Egypt as well as showing to the whole world Egypt’s true image and soft power.”

Giza’s long-awaited Grand Egyptian Museum has been built with this aim. Expected to open in mid-2020, the $1 billion museum will rehouse and restore some of the country’s most precious relics.

Artifacts discovered in the recently unearthed burial shaft at the Giza pyramid plateau, on the southwestern outskirts of the Egyptian capital Cairo, on May 4, 2019, are displayed following the discovery of several Old Kingdom tombs and burial shafts. (©Getty Images | MAHMOUD KHALED)
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