The last time the Egyptian government opened a sealed sarcophagus on live TV, the stench of sewer water sent everyone (except those who actually wanted to drink it and obtain superpowers) running from the room. And yet, they decided to try it again. This time, the results were much different. Did someone peek first?
“(Egyptian archeologists have discovered) a new tomb… with very nice paintings.”
That very unexciting announcement was made by Antiquities Minister Khaled al-Anani while standing in front of the temple of Queen Hatshepsut on the west bank of the Nile near the Valley of the Kings. The tomb was found in the El-Assasif necropolis in Luxor and actually contained more than just some “very nice paintings.” (Pictures here.) Archeologists recovered sarcophagi, statues and about 1,000 “Ushabatis,” which are funerary figurines made of wood, faience (tin-glazed earthenware) and clay. The tomb dates back to the Middle Kingdom and hieroglyphics indicate it belonged to “Thaw-Irkhet-If,” mummification supervisor at the Temple of Mut in Karnak. You would think that meant his mummy would be in tiptop condition, but his wasn’t the sarcophagus opened on live TV.
“One sarcophagus was rishi-style, which dates back to the 17th dynasty, while the other sarcophagus was from the 18th dynasty. The two tombs were present with their mummies inside.”
Minister Khaled Al Anani was definitely more excited about these mummies found in a separate tomb because they were so well-preserved. Discovered near the tomb of Padiamenopé (a prophet and head of priests-readers) by a French team led by of Prof. Frédéric Colin of the University of Strasbourg, one mummy belonged to a woman named Pouyou or Pouya who lived during the 18th Dynasty (1550-1295 BCE). The second mummy was unidentified and dated back to the 17th Dynasty (1580-1550 BCE). There were also other unidentified mummies found outside of the sarcophagi and may have been relatives off Pouyou. While the sarcophagi had never been opened, they appeared to have been reburied at the time of the construction of Padiamenopé's tomb around 700 BCE. (Pictures here.)
No one ran out of the elaborate ceremonial opening of the sarcophagus retching because they apparently had really been unopened and were without leaks. As expected, the Minister use this as an opportunity to promote Egyptian tourism … which is fine as long as the excavations are done carefully and the remains and artifacts are preserved and treated with respect. In this case, the announcement was sponsored by Orascom Investment Company which funds these types of events. They expect to be back because digs at both sites are ongoing.
Let’s hope the good intentions continue as the tourist dollars increase.