Egypt’s New Archaeological Discovery Includes Pyramid of Previously Unknown Queen & 300 Mummies
By: Norah Soufraji/ Arab America Contributing Writer
Archaeologists Continue to Unearth Egypt’s Ancient Treasures
In Arabic, Egypt is often referred to as Um al-dunya meaning “mother of the world”. For centuries archaeologists have marveled at the vast architectural achievements of Ancient Egypt and are still unearthing the treasures of the past thousands of years later. This week’s news of an archaeological discovery made in Saqqara, an excavation site in Giza, is an exciting development. The site is thought to be the resting place of a previously unknown Egyptian queen and as many as 300 mummies.
The excavation site at Saqqara has proven to be one of Egypt’s most important historical areas for the last 5,000 years. The vast necropolis is one of the oldest building complexes in the world and was the site of Egypt’s first ancient capital, Memphis. The most famous structure unearthed at this site is the Step Pyramid of Djoser, commissioned by the Pharaoh of the same name from the Third Dynasty. Djoser is known as the founder of the Old Kingdom and his statue, composed of limestone, is thought to be the oldest Egyptian life-size statue in existence. An additional sixteen pharaohs had their own pyramids built at Saqqara, which served as a massive funerary complex.
Throughout the centuries the Saqqara complex lost and regained importance as the capital was moved from Memphis to cities such as Thebes, Akhetaten, Pi-Ramesses, and others and then moved back to Memphis again. Regardless, Saqqara consistently remained a strategic military and economic center. It was also consistently used as a site for ceremonial religious rites. Symbols of the Underworld god Osiris have been uncovered as well as the “Bubasteion” which is a series of catacombs dedicated to cats in honor of the Cat-goddess Bastet.
Uncovering an Unknown Queen
Archaeologists have known for centuries that Saqqara had much more to offer beneath the surface. The newest pyramid that was recently discovered is thought to belong to a queen who was previously unknown to history until now. Internationally acclaimed Egyptologist Zahi Hawass revealed that the queen was from the First Dynasty and was named after the goddess Neith. Neith, the goddess, was simultaneously known as a creator of the cosmos, an embodiment of fate, wisdom, motherhood, and war. However, despite the renown of her namesake, little is known about Queen Neith. That is likely to change as archaeologists investigate the newly unearthed pyramid built in her honor.
In an interview with NBC news, Hawass said “I really believe that this year and next year, this site is going to be the most important site in Egypt,” and “I always say that we found until now only 30 percent of our monuments, 70 percent are buried underneath the ground.”
Beneath the Surface
In Saqqara’s vast complex of some of Egypt’s oldest pyramids there is a network of tunnels. That is where another of the latest discoveries was found. An astonishing 300 mummies and well preserved coffins were unearthed from the tunnels. According to Hawass there is a network of 22 interconnected shafts that go as deep as 60 feet below the surface. Of the 300 mummies, many are believed to have connections to King Tut’s generals and advisors. King Tut himself is buried 400 miles away in the Valley of the Kings, a New Kingdom burial complex. This latest development in Saqqara, a site thought to only house the remnants of the Old Kingdom, fascinates archaeologists like Hawass because the latest discoveries are all dated from the New Kingdom period.
In addition to the mummies, various New Kingdom artifacts were also uncovered such as amulets and papyrus. Many of these items are associated with King Teti, another New Kingdom pharaoh who was believed to have been worshiped during his time.
Old Kingdom Meets New Kingdom
In 2023, the brand new Grand Museum of Giza is set to open and house many of the artifacts that were discovered in Saqqara’s latest excavation. We can likely expect more exciting news of discoveries to follow. Saqqara, home of the oldest pyramids in the world, will continue to capture the imaginations of Ancient Egypt enthusiasts the world over. The discoveries in Saqqara span an astonishing 5,000 years of the history and grandeur of Ancient Egypt, a length of time which often boggles the mind. After all, Queen Cleopatra lived in a time that is closer to the creation of the iphone than when the first Pyramids of Giza were built. We cannot wait to see what hidden treasures are unearthed next!
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