Seven ancient tombs and dozens of cat mummies discovered in Egypt

Rare mummified scarab beetles are also among the finds at Saqqara complex

Archaeologists have discovered seven Pharaonic Age tombs containing dozens of cat mummies and rare mummified scarab beetles on the edge of the Userkaf pyramid complex at the ancient necropolis of Saqqara, south of Cairo. Video: Reuters

 

Archaeologists in Egypt have discovered seven Pharaonic Age tombs containing dozens of cat mummies, as well as wooden statues depicting other animals and birds.

Mostafa Waziri, secretary general of Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities, told reporters that the discovery near the capital Cairo also includes mummies of scarab beetles, the first ever to be found in the area.

An archaeologist works outside a newly discovered tomb, at the Saqqara area in Egypt. Photograph: Mohamed Abd El Ghany/Reuters
An archaeologist works outside a newly discovered tomb, at the Saqqara area in Egypt. Photograph: Mohamed Abd El Ghany/Reuters

Of the statues found, those depicting cats were the majority, reflecting the reverence ancient Egyptians showed the felines.

Other statues depicted a lion, a cow and a falcon.

An apparently pristine Fifth Dynasty tomb was also among the discoveries. Archaeologists plan to open it in the coming weeks.

The seven tombs were found over the past six months on the edge of the Userkaf pyramid complex at the ancient necropolis of Saqqara, south of Cairo.

The tomb dating from the Fifth Dynasty of the Old Kingdom is unusual because the facade and door are intact, meaning its contents may still be untouched, said Mohamed Youssef, director of the Saqqara area.

The Fifth Dynasty ruled Egypt from about 2,500BC to 2,350BC, not long after the great pyramid of Giza was built.

The tombs lie in a buried ridge that has only partially been uncovered and could offer many more similar discoveries, Mr Waziri said. Excavations in the area had halted in 2013 before resuming earlier this year.

Saqqara served as the necropolis for Memphis, the capital of ancient Egypt for more than two millennia.

Ancient Egyptians mummified humans to preserve their bodies for the afterlife, while animal mummies were used as religious offerings.

Two large scarabs wrapped in linen and in very good condition were found inside a limestone sarcophagus with a vaulted, decorated lid, the antiquities ministry said in a statement.

A mummified scarab beetle on display at the Saqqara area in Egypt. Photograph: Mohamed Abd El Ghany/Reuters
A mummified scarab beetle on display at the Saqqara area in Egypt. Photograph: Mohamed Abd El Ghany/Reuters

Another collection of scarab mummies was found inside a smaller sarcophagus.

“The [mummified] scarab is something really unique. It is something really a bit rare,” Mr Waziri said.

The gilded statues of cats included a bronze statue dedicated to the cat goddess Bastet.

The team also found painted wooden cobra and crocodile sarcophagi, as well as objects including amulets, canopic jars, writing tools and papyri baskets. –AP/Reuters