Ancient Egypt has fascinated scientists and archaeologists for centuries now, yet we’re still discovering amazing things about the civilisation.
Although we know the Egyptians liked to bury and commemorate people of importance in elaborate ways – such as mummifying them or burying them with objects thought to be necessary in the afterlife – for an artefact to still be in tact, after more than 2,000 years buried underground, is remarkable.
Archaeologists working in Egypt have uncovered just that. A massive black sarcophagus – thought to be the largest ever found in Alexandria – has been discovered during an excavation in the city, on the northern coast of Egypt.
As Science Alert reports, the giant black coffin is 185cm tall, 265cm long and 165cm wide and alongside the artefact, a large alabaster head was also discovered.
Experts are assuming the bust represents whoever’s buried in the sarcophagus, though it’s yet to be confirmed.
It’s a rare and intriguing find for archaeologists, as they believe the sarcophagus hasn’t been opened since it was sealed.
In a Facebook post for Egypt’s Ministry of Antiquities, Head of the Ancient Egyptian Antiquities Sector, Dr Ayman Ashmawy said:
The tomb contains a black granite sarcophagus considered to be the largest to be discovered in Alexandria. The tomb was found at a depth of 5m beneath the surface of the land.
It’s noted there’s a layer of mortar between the lid and the body of the sarcophagus indicating it hadn’t been opened since it was closed in antiquity.
An alabaster head of a man was also found and most probably belongs to the owner of the tomb.
The fact it’s still intact is rare for discoveries like this, as most tombs were plundered and damaged over the centuries.
Scientists believe the site, as a whole dates, back to the Ptolemaic period, between 305BCE and 30BCE. Ptolemy I was one of Alexander the Great’s generals, his descendants ruled Egypt after Alexander’s death. At this time, Alexandria was the capital of Egypt.
The burial was stumbled upon at a construction site on July 1, as excavators cleared the site for a new building.
The tomb is now under guard as experts try to work out what’s inside. The size of the sarcophagus suggests it was someone of high importance.
The new discovery has left archaeologists with many questions – who’s inside, what artefacts might also be buried there, and why is the sarcophagus so large?
The rare find of an unopened sarcophagus also presents the dilemma of whether to open it at all.
As Live Science reports, experts may decide, to prevent damage, they’ll use x-rays, CT scans and other scientific tests to determine the tomb’s contents without having to open it.
If you ask me, it’s definitely an alien with a crystal skull, or the Ark of the Covenant, or the Holy Grail. Then again I may have just watched Indiana Jones too much? Either way, it belongs in a museum!
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Charlie Cocksedge is a journalist at UNILAD. He graduated from the University of Manchester with an MA in Creative Writing, where he learnt how to write in the third person, before getting his NCTJ. His work has also appeared in such places as The Guardian, PN Review and the bin.