Perfectly preserved mummies in 3,000 year old colourful coffins discovered in Egypt

Phoebe Weston
AP

Perfectly preserved mummies were found in 30 colourful wooden coffins found on the Nile River’s west bank near Luxor, Egyptian archaeologists have revealed.

Adorned with delicate inscriptions and paintings, they were discovered in the Asasif Necropolis and are considered the most significant find of their type in more than 100 years.

They were opened for the first time by Egypt’s antiquities authorities this weekend.

“It is the first large human coffin cache ever discovered since the end of the 19th century,” the Egyptian Antiquities Minister Khaled El-Enany said during a ceremony in Luxor. He added that the coffins were “exceptionally painted and preserved.”

The coffins were for men, women and children from the 22nd dynasty (945-715 B.C.) and had been collected and hidden by a priest for fear of being looted.

When discovered last week, the coffins were in two layers, with 18 coffins on top of 12 others.

Mr El-Anany said the mummies found in the coffins included 23 adult males, five adult females and two children.

Archaeologists opened the coffins of a man and a woman, both wrapped in cloth.

Their gender can be distinguished by the shape of their hands, said Mostafa Waziri, secretary general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, who explained that ancient women were buried with their hands open while men’s hands were closed.

The two mummies seemed well preserved with the outer wrappings still intact, completely covering their faces and bodies.

Mr El-Anany said further excavations are underway in the necropolis, which includes tombs dating back to the Middle, New Kingdom and Late Periods (1994 B.C. to 332 B.C.).

He said the coffins will be moved to the Grand Egyptian Museum that Egypt is building near the famed Giza Pyramids in Cairo in November.

The museum has been under construction for well over a decade and is intended to showcase Egypt’s ancient treasures while drawing tourists to help fund its future development. Authorities have said the museum will open next year.

The coffins’ discovery is the latest in a series of new finds that Egypt has sought publicity for in the hopes of reviving its key tourism sector, which was badly hit by the turmoil following a 2011 uprising that toppled longtime autocrat Hosni Mubarak.

Earlier this month, Egypt unveiled two archaeological discoveries in Luxor including an industrial zone at the city’s West Valley, also known as the Valley of the Monkeys.

Additional reporting by PA

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