The number of Egyptian coffins unearthed in Saqqara keeps rising. The first article I wrote on the discovery was back in September when I reported that at least 13 coffins dating back about 2,500 years ago had been discovered. What was so fascinating about these coffins was that they remained completely sealed and untouched since their burials. (The article can be read here.)
Then in October, I provided an update that more than 80 coffins had been unearthed in addition to 28 statuettes, several ushabti figurines and numerous amulets. Other breaking news was that on October 3rd, archaeologists opened one of the coffins that revealed a mummy that was wrapped up in ornate burial linen with colorful designs and inscriptions. (That article can be read here.)
And now there is more news as the number of coffins found has jumped up to 160. And that’s not all as some of the tombs have curses written on the walls. In an email to Business Insider, Salima Ikram, who is an Egyptologist at the American University in Cairo, explained that the curses were to scare off possible trespassers and grave robbers. “They generally state that if the tomb is entered by an impure person (probably in body and/or intention), then may the council of the gods punish the trespasser, and wring his or her neck like that of a goose,” she stated.
One example was in the tomb of the vizier Ankhmahor who was a pharaoh's official from more than 4,000 years ago during Egypt's 6th dynasty. In a rough translation, the curse was written so that if a trespasser “might do against this, my tomb, the same shall be done to your property”. Additionally, there is a warning that the vizier knew magic and secret spells that could cause “impure” trespassers to be filled with a “fear of seeing ghosts”.
In a new Netflix documentary “Secrets of the Saqqara Tomb”, Ikram said that the tombs were like afterlife houses for the deceased and if anyone were to disrupt those places they would be punished in a horrible way – perhaps even death if anyone was to disrupt a royal tomb.
While the punishments for disrupting a noble’s tomb normally included beatings and perhaps their nose being removed, the curse written on Ankhmahor’s tomb was much less violent. In fact, the writings indicated that he would protect the trespasser in the court of Osiris who was believed to have judged the deceased individuals prior to passing over into the afterlife.
Ikram went on to say that similar curses were found in other tombs across Egypt “with the majority being recorded from the Old Kingdom (between 2575 and 2150 BC)”. And for those who are scared of the curses, she stated that “If people wear gloves and masks, it should be fine”. After everything the world has gone through in 2020, I think I would definitely take a curse very seriously.
Pictures of some of the coffins and from inside the burial chambers can be seen here.