Hidden room — with ancient pink sarcophagus — emerges from sand-filled tomb in Egypt

Photo from the Egyptian Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities

Archaeologists unearthed the sarcophagus of a high-ranking official in ancient Egypt, according to officials.

Excavations at the Saqqara necropolis exposed a burial well in the middle of a cemetery near a pyramid, the Egyptian Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities said in a news release on Sept. 19. After a week removing the sand from the well, archaeologists lowered themselves down the 26-foot shaft in a bucket, The Guardian reported and photos show.

At the bottom? More sand. Emptying as they went, archaeologists found a hallway at the bottom of the shaft with two rooms – entirely empty.

A little further, they unearthed a curved staircase that led them to the main burial chamber, the ministry said.

The tomb held a pink granite sarcophagus about 3,200-years-old, decorated in hieroglyphics and covered by a partially broken lid, officials said. The sarcophagus was empty, the mummy inside stolen long ago by tomb raiders.

Once translated, the hieroglyphics revealed who the mummy was: Ptah-im-wea, a “royal secretary, chief overseer of cattle, head of the treasury” of Ramses II and “responsible for the divine offerings to all the gods of Upper and Lower Egypt,” AFP reported.

Archaeologists discovered Ptah-im-wea’s tomb last year, but officials only recently announced it contained his sarcophagus.

Ptah-im-wea – whose translated name has many variations, including “Ptahemwea” and “Ptah-M-Wia,” – was a high-ranking official during the reign of Ramses II. Ramses was the second-longest reigning pharaoh in Egyptian history and widely considered one of the most powerful, the Smithsonian Magazine reported. His success relied upon a massive bureaucratic state, of which Ptah-im-wea was a significant part.

For archaeologists, the sarcophagus was a “dream discovery,” they told The Guardian.

The Saqqara necropolis – also spelled Sakkara or Saccara in English – is about 15 miles south of Cairo and boasts Egypt’s oldest pyramid and largest archaeological site. Saqqara was the burial site for the ancient Egyptian capital of Memphis for over 3,000 years, the Smithsonian Magazine reported.

Previous excavations in Saqqara discovered a pottery vessel containing 2,600-year-old cheese, eight tombs, over 100 coffins, and hundreds of other statues of cats and ancient Egyptian gods, the ministry said.

Google Translate was used to translate the news release from the Egyptian Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities.

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