The pyramid of an undocumented ancient Egyptian queen, along with a cache of coffins, mummies, and artifacts and a series of interconnected tunnels, has been unearthed in Egypt. It was discovered in the ancient necropolis Saqqara in Giza, just 20 miles south of Cairo, not far from King Tut’s tomb.
The trove is thought to have belonged to some of Tut’s closest generals and advisors.
Archaeologists have been digging in Saqqara for the past two years. Earlier this year, they uncovered five painted tombs, the tomb of an ancient dignitary, and a sarcophagus belonging to King Ramses II’s treasurer.
The team had initially focused its efforts on the nearby pyramid of Teti, the first king of the Sixth Dynasty of Egypt.
“Teti was worshipped as a god in the New Kingdom period, and so people wanted to be buried near him,” said Zahi Hawass, an Egyptologist working on the dig who once served as Minister of Antiquities, in an email to Live Science.
“However, most burials known in Saqqara previously were either from the Old Kingdom or the Late Period,” Hawass continued. “Now we have found 22 [interconnected] shafts, ranging from 30 to 60 feet, all with New Kingdom burials.”
There, buried within these shafts, they found a massive limestone sarcophagus and 300 coffins from the New Kingdom period, also known as the Egyptian Empire, which lasted from the 6th century B.C.E. to the 11th century B.C.E.
“Burials from the New Kingdom were not known to be common in the area before, so this is entirely unique to the site,” explained Hawass. “The coffins have individual faces, each one unique, distinguishing between men and women, and are decorated with scenes from the [ancient Egyptian funerary text] Book of the Dead. Each coffin also has the name of the deceased and often shows the Four Sons of Horus, who protected the organs of the deceased.”
Inside the coffins, archaeologists found the bodies of well-preserved mummies. Despite opportunities for decay and looting, the mummies remained untouched and in good condition.
Additionally, inside the coffins and tomb shafts, they also found artifacts such as games, small figurines known as shabtis, and statues of the god Ptah-Sokar, who represents the cycle of birth, death, and resurrection.
A pyramid commemorating a previously unknown queen named Neith was also discovered. “It is amazing to literally rewrite what we know of history, adding a new queen to our records,” Hawass told LiveScience.
A selection of the findings found at Saqqara will be on view at the Grand Egyptian Museum in Giza when it opens next year.