Size matters in a lot of areas (you know what we mean) but in archeology, the tiniest of finds are often more important that the biggest. That may be the case in Alexandria, Egypt, where archeologists have uncovered the largest granite sarcophagus ever found in that ancient city and a huge stone head that may be the image of the potentially large resident of the coffin. However, they’re more excited about a find in a huge (there’s that size word again) Greco-Roman era bath — a tiny gold coin with the face of King Ptolemy III, the 3rd century BCE ruler who helped build the Great Library of Alexandria, promoted freedom of religions and was an ancestor of Cleopatra.
In announcing the discovery, Dr Ayman Ashmawy, head of the Ancient Egyptian Antiquities Sector of the Egyptian government, seemed more excited about the coin that the unusual fact that the mortar sealing the sarcophagus has never been broken, so the lid has never been opened nor the contents disturbed or removed. The black granite sarcophagus is 6 feet (185 cm)tall, 8.6 feet (265 cm) long, 5.4 feet (165 cm) wide and was discovered buried 16 feet deep in the unknown tomb … at least until the identity of the big giant head (no, it’s not William Shatner) (5.4 ft). And no, it’s not a life-size replica of the owner of the coffin – there are most likely a Russian doll’s nest of coffins inside the big granite box and the mummy will probably be smaller in size than in historical stature. (Photos here.)
Speaking of small, the coin found at the San El-Hagar archaeological site is one inch (2.6 cm) in diameter and says “Land of Prosperity” and Ptolemy’s name on the tails side. The bath itself (photo here) is 52.5 feet (16 meters) by 11.5 feet (3.5 meters) long – plenty of room for soaking or laps (or wet orgies). If that’s not enough artifacts for one week, a small bronze statue of Osiris, god of the afterlife, was discovered unexpectedly and unceremoniously by workings removing waste at the King Djoser step pyramid. (Photos here).
There are no coins or wall graffiti or baths or full statues to identify the owner of the sarcophagus or the 15.5 inch (40 cm) head, nor are there any identifying features on the face. Alabaster is a soft rock and much of the face is worn away. The best solution is to open the coffin, but plenty of approvals have to be obtained and papers signed first.
All of these finds are further proof that size doesn’t always matter when it comes to Egyptian artifacts and you can’t throw a stone there without hitting a tomb. Just don’t get caught.