All posts by Archaeology World Team

Bronze Age Fashion – The “Egtved Girl” Showed Remarkably Modern Taste

Bronze Age Fashion – The “Egtved Girl” Showed Remarkably Modern Taste

The well-preserved Egtved Girl was one of the most well-known burials of the Danish Bronze Age found in 1921. Her woolen clothing, hair, and nails were perfectly preserved, but all her bones were missing.

Scientists who studied the remains of the ancient teenager and discovered surprisingly that the girl of Egtved was not from Denmark and had traveled great distances before her death.

A study published in the journal Nature details the results of modern tests done by scientists. Strontium isotope analysis on Egtved Girl’s molar, hair, and fingernails, combined with examination of her distinctive woolen clothing, have revealed she was born and raised hundreds of miles from her burial site in Egtved, in modern Denmark. Findings show she likely came from The Black Forest of southwest Germany, and she traveled between the two locations via ship frequently in the last two years of her life.

According to LiveScience, the Egtved Girl’s oak coffin was uncovered in 1921 from a Bronze Age archaeological site near Egtved, Denmark. The grave was found within a burial mound of dense peat bog and has been dated to 1370 BC.  

Inside the coffin, the 16 to the 18-year-old girl was buried. She is believed to have been of high status. The teenager had been laid on an ox hide and covered by a rough woolen blanket.

The clothing is worn by the Bronze Age teenager, Egtved Girl.

The contours of where her dead body had lain are still visible, pressed into the ox hide beneath her. She was of slim build, with mid-length blonde hair, and her clothing—a short string skirt and small, midriff-baring, sleeved top—caused a sensation when revealed in the 20s. Around her waist, she had worn a large, spiked bronze disc decorated with spirals. Even now people recreate the stylish Bronze Age fashion.

Other grave goods included bronze pins, a sewing awl, and a hair net. Local flowers decorated the top of the coffin (indicating a summertime burial), as did a small bucket of beer made of honey, wheat, and cowberries.

The Egtved Girl’s coffin during excavations in 1921.

Another body was found with Egtved Girl in her coffin. Ashes and bones comprised the cremated remains of a small child recovered near Egtved Girl’s head. The identity of the child, who was about five or six years old when he or she died, is not known. No DNA could be recovered from either set of remains, so their relationship is a mystery.

Scientists found that the soil composition of the grave worked as a microclimate, preserving some items and destroying others. Rainwater seeped into the hollowed-out, oak-trunk coffin, but it was starved of oxygen. These conditions decayed the bones completely away but left behind excellently-preserved fingernails, hair, scalp, a small part of her brain, and clothing.

Senior researcher Karin Margarita Frei, from the National Museum of Denmark and Centre for Textile Research at the University of Copenhagen analyzed the Bronze Age girls’ remains, according to Science Daily.

Hair and clothing found in the coffin of the Egtved Girl.

Analysis of the high-status teenager’s remains, as well as the cremated bones of the young child, showed that the pair had spent much of their lives in a distant land, thought to be Schwarzwald (the Black Forest) in Germany.

“If we consider the last two years of the girl’s life, we can see that, 13 to 15 months before her death, she stayed in a place with a strontium isotope signature very similar to the one that characterizes the area where she was born. Then she moved to an area that may well have been Jutland.

After a period of c. 9 to 10 months there, she went back to the region she originally came from and stayed there for four to six months before she traveled to her final resting place, Egtved. Neither her hair nor her thumb nail contains strontium isotopic signatures which indicates that she returned to Scandinavia until very shortly before she died.

As an area’s strontium isotopic signature is only detectable in human hair and nails after a month, she must have come to ‘Denmark’ and ‘Egtved’ about a month before she passed away,” Karin Margarita Frei told Science Daily.

The exceptionally-preserved hair of the Egtved Girl. Her burial dates to 1370 BC.

This movement makes sense to researchers. Kristian Kristiansen of the University of Gothenburg told Science Daily, “In Bronze Age Western Europe, Southern Germany and Denmark were the two dominant centers of power, very similar to kingdoms. We find many direct connections between the two in the archaeological evidence, and my guess is that the Egtved Girl was a Southern German girl who was given in marriage to a man in Jutland so as to forge an alliance between two powerful families.”

The bronze belt disc found on Egtved Girl may have come to the area via the busy trade routes of the day.  The spiral decorations are said to be related to a Nordic solar cult, and the bronze is thought to have originated somewhere in the Alps. Further, the wool that made up her clothing came from sheep outside of Denmark. The ‘fashionable’ Egtved Girl and her mysterious tiny companion have captivated people since their discovery in 1921. Modern research brings the life and death of the prehistoric girl to light in amazing detail and gives us a better understanding of early European people.

But she is not the only teenage girl found in Denmark that has created a stir in the last few years. In 2017, it was announced that another famous Bronze Age burial of a teenage girl, this time found in Jutland, Denmark was also a traveler from faraway lands. Strontium analysis of the 16- to 18-year-old Skrydstrup woman suggests she originally came from Germany, the Czech Republic, France, or Sweden.

As archaeologist Karin Frei of the National Museum of Denmark told ScienceNordic, “We can’t say with 100 percent certainty where she [the Skrydstrup woman] came from, and we may never be able to, but she definitely wasn’t Danish. It gives us so many new perspectives. Now we know that Egtved Girl was not an isolated case.” These studies show that early European mobility was more dynamic than previously believed; Bronze Age people were trading and traveling long distances, quickly.

Study Suggests New Dates for Spread of Farming Across Eurasia

Study Suggests New Dates for Spread of Farming Across Eurasia

Many people are familiar with the ancient Silk Road but fewer know that the exchange of items, ideas, technology, and human genes through the mountain valleys of Central Asia started almost three millennia before organized trade networks formed.

These pre-Silk Road exchange routes played an important role in shaping human cultural developments across Europe and Asia and facilitated the dispersal of technologies such as horse breeding and metal smelting into East Asia.

One of the most impactful effects of this process of ancient cultural dispersal was the westward spread of northeast Asian crops and the eastward spread of southwest Asian crops. However, until the past few years, a lack of archaeobotanical studies in Central Asia left a dearth of data relating to when and how this process occurred.

Dr. Xinying Zhou and his team from the IVPP in Beijing excavated the Tangtian Cave site during the summer of 2016

This new study, led by scientists from the Chinese Academy of Sciences and the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, provides details of recently recovered ancient grains from the far northern regions of Inner Asia.

Radiocarbon dating shows that the grains include the oldest examples of wheat and barley ever recovered this far north in Asia, pushing back the dates for early farming in the region by at least a millennium.

These are also the earliest domesticated plants reported from the northern half of Central Asia, the core of the ancient exchange corridor. This study pulls together sedimentary pollen and ancient wood charcoal data with archaeobotanical remains from the Tiangtian archaeological site in the Chinese Altai Mountains to reveal how humans cultivated crops at such northern latitudes.

This study illustrates how adaptable ancient crop plants were to new ecological constraints and how human cultural practices allowed people to survive in unpredictable environments.

The ancient relatives of wheat and barley plants evolved to grow in the warm and dry climate of the eastern Mediterranean and southwest Asia. However, this study illustrates that ancient peoples were cultivating these grasses over five and a half thousand kilometers to the northeast of where they originally evolved to grow.

In this study, Dr. Xinying Zhou and his colleagues integrate paleoenvironmental proxies to determine how extreme the ecology was around the archaeological cave site of Tangtian more than five millennia ago, at the time of its occupation.

The site is located high in the Altai Mountains on a cold, dry landscape today; however, the study shows that the ecological setting around the site was slightly warmer and more humid at the time when people lived in and around this cave.

The slightly warmer regional conditions were likely the result of shifting air masses bringing warmer, wetter air from the south. In addition to early farmers using a specific regional climate pocket to grow crops in North Asia, the analysis showed that the crops they grew evolved to survive in such northern regions.

The results of this study provide scholars with evidence for when certain evolutionary changes in these grasses occurred, including changes in the programed reliance of day length, which signals to the plant when to flower, and greater resistance to cold climates.

The ancient dispersal of crops across Inner Asia has received a lot of attention from biologists and archaeologists in recent years; as Dr. Spengler, one of the study’s lead authors, discusses in his recent book Fruit from the Sands, these ancient exchange routes shaped the course of human history.

The mingling of crops originating from opposite ends of Asia resulted in the crop-rotation cycles that fueled demographic growth and led to the imperial formation. East Asian millets would become one of the most important crops in ancient Europe and wheat would become one of the most important crops in East Asia by the Han Dynasty. While the long tradition of rice cultivation in East Asia made rice a staple of the Asian kitchen, Chinese cuisine would be unrecognizable without wheat-based food items like steamed buns, dumplings, and noodles.

The discovery that these plants dispersed across Eurasia earlier than previously understood will have lasting impacts on the study of cultivation and labor practices in ancient Eurasia, as well as the history of cultural contact and shifts in culinary systems throughout time.

These new discoveries provide a reason to question these views and seem to suggest that mixed small-scale human populations made major contributions to world history through migration and cultural and technological exchange.

“This study not only presents the earliest dates for domesticated grains in far North Asia,” says Professor Xiaoqiang Li, director of the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology in Beijing, “it represents the earliest beginning of a trans-Eurasian exchange that would eventually develop into the great Silk Road”.

Dr. Xinying Zhou, who headed the study and directs a research team at the IVPP in Beijing, emphasizes that “this discovery is a testament to human ingenuity and the amazing coevolutionary bond between people and the plants that they maintain in their cultivated fields.”

Mexico earthquake reveals lost ancient temple inside the pyramid

Mexico earthquake reveals lost ancient temple inside the pyramid

The remains of the great pyramid of Teopanzolco have long offered visitors to the southern Mexican site unique insights into the structure’s inner workings while simultaneously conjuring visions of the intricate temples that once arose from its series of bases and platforms.

Today, remnants of twin temples—to the north, a blue one dedicated to the Aztec rain god Tláloc, and to the south, a red one dedicated to the Aztec sun god Huitzilopochtli—still top the pyramid’s central platform, joined by parallel staircases.

Although archaeologists have intermittently excavated the Teopanzolco site since 1921, it took a deadly 7.1 magnitude earthquake to unveil one of the pyramid’s oldest secrets: an ancient shrine buried about six-and-a-half feet below Tláloc’s main temple.

According to BBC News, scientists from Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) discovered the temple while scanning the pyramid for structural issues.

The earthquake, which struck central Mexico on September 19, 2017, caused “considerable rearrangement of the core of [the pyramid’s] structure,” INAH archaeologist Bárbara Konieczna said in a statement.

For local news outlet El Sol de Cuernavaca, Susana Paredes reports that some of the most serious damage occurred in the upper part of the pyramid, where the twin temples are located; the floors of both structures had sunk and bent, leaving them dangerously destabilized.

The discovery was made at the Teopanzolco pyramid in Cuernavaca

To begin recovery efforts, archaeologists created wells in the temple dedicated to Tláloc and a corridor separating the two temples.

During this work, the team unearthed a previously unknown structure, which featured a similar architectural style—double facade walls covered in elongated stones and stucco-encased slabs—to that of the existing Tláloc temple.

In the statement, Konieczna notes that the temple would have measured about 20 feet by 13 feet and was probably dedicated to Tláloc, just like the one located above it. It’s possible that a matching temple dedicated to Huitzilopochtli lies on the opposite side of the newly located one, buried by later civilizations’ architectural projects.

The humidity of the Morelos region had damaged the temple’s stucco walls, according to a press release, but archaeologists were able to save some of the remaining fragments.

Below the shrine’s stuccoed floors, they found a base of tezontle, a reddish volcanic rock widely used in Mexican construction, and a thin layer of charcoal. Within the structure, archaeologists also discovered shards of ceramic and an incense burner.

Paredes of El Sol de Cuernavaca notes that the temple likely dates to about 1150 to 1200 C.E. Comparatively, the main structure of the pyramid dates to between 1200 and 1521, indicating that later populations built over the older structures.

The Teopanzolco site originated with the Tlahuica civilization, which founded the city of Cuauhnahuac (today is known as Cuernavaca) around 1200, as G. William Hood chronicles for Viva Cuernavaca. During the 15th century, the Tlahuica people were conquered by the Aztecs, who, in turn, took over the construction of the Teopanzolco pyramids.

Following the 16th-century arrival of the Spanish conquistadors, the project was abandoned, leaving the site untouched until its 1910 rediscovery by Emiliano Zapata’s revolutionary forces.

Family discover ‘perfectly preserved’ Roman tomb hidden beneath a home in southern Spain

Family discover ‘perfectly preserved’ Roman tomb hidden beneath a home in southern Spain

In Carmona, a city near Seville, Andalusia, a family made a remarkable discovery during building work on their houses.

They were stunned when they knocked a wall down the patio of their townhouse to find a small arched opening that led to an underground to a funerary chamber dating from the first century AD.

They found eight niches in the room, six of whom were occupied by funerary urns or chests containing what is thought to be human remains dating back more than 2,000 years.

An archaeological team dispatched by the town council to examine the site described it as “perfectly preserved” and said it was the most important discovery made in the area for decades.

Juan Manuel Román, an archaeologist employed by the council, emphasized “the outstanding importance of the discovery”.

“It’s been 35 years since a tomb was found in such a magnificent state of conservation,” he said, adding that it didn’t appear to have suffered any deterioration over the centuries since it was sealed.

“There is barely two fingers worth of sedimentation,” he added.

An initial study suggests the funerary urns are made of different limestones and glass and are sealed in protective lead casings. 

Vessels associated with funerary rights, including unguentaria (small bottles used to contain perfume or oil) and glass dishes where offerings would have been made, were also undamaged within the tomb.

The walls of the chamber are decorated with a geometric grid and there are inscriptions on three of the niches, perhaps indicating the name of those interred within. 

José Avilés, 39, the owner of the house, who is known by neighbours as Pepe, told local media that he was astounded by the discovery. “We never imagined when we were building an extension to the house that we should find such a thing,” he said.

“It’s all happened very quickly but our intention is to keep the chamber open, preserve it and protect it and somehow incorporate into the house,” he said.

“But we’ll have to see what the archaeological teams say,” he added. 

Work immediately started by the council’s archaeology department who said the artifacts found in the tomb would be closely studied and then go on display in the town’s archaeological museum.

Carmona, known as Carmo in Roman times, was one of the most important cities in Roman Spain and today is home to one of the most interesting Roman-era archaeological sites; the Roman Necropolis, a collection of over 300 tombs

Rare 3.8-million-year-old skull recasts origins of iconic ‘Lucy’ fossil

Rare 3.8-million-year-old skull recasts origins of iconic ‘Lucy’ fossil

The African skull aged 3.8 million years old is giving researchers a peek into humanity’s evolutionary history, a new study suggests.

The discovery explains what the face of a possible ancestor of the species famously represented by Lucy – the well-known Ethiopian skeleton discovered in the mid-1970s – may have looked like.

This thesis has been published in the British journal Nature, which was reviewed by superiors. The fossil cranium represents a specimen from a time interval between 4.1 and 3.6 million years ago when early human ancestor fossils are extremely rare, researchers say.

“The preservation of the specimen really is exceptional,” study co-author Stephanie Melillo, a palaeoanthropologist at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, told Nature. The skull was found in just two large pieces, which she says is unfathomably unlikely for a specimen of this age. “We just got really lucky with this find.”

The study was led by Yohannes Haile-Selassie of the Cleveland Museum of Natural History. 

According to Nature, the scientists who discovered the skull say it was a male and belongs to a species called Australopithecus anamensis.

A reconstruction of the facial morphology of the 3.8 million-year-old ‘MRD’ specimen of Australopithecus anamensis

That ancestral species is the oldest known member of Australopithecus, a grouping of creatures that preceded our own branch of the family tree, called Homo.

It was also thought to precede Lucy’s species, which is known as Australopithecus afarensis.

But features of the latest find now suggest that the new fossil’s species shared the prehistoric Ethiopian landscape with Lucy’s species, for at least 100,000 years, the study authors say. This hints that the early evolutionary tree was more complicated than scientists had thought, Nature said.

The species of the famous fossil Lucy, Australopithecus afarensis, might have coexisted with another ancient hominin species.

This overlap challenges the widely-accepted idea of a linear transition between these two early human ancestors. “This is a game-changer in our understanding of human evolution during the Pliocene,” Haile-Selassie said.

“What we’ve known about Australopithecus anamensis so far was limited to isolated jaw fragments and teeth,” he said during a press conference. “We didn’t have any remains of the face or the cranium except for one small fragment near the ear region.”

The age of the fossil was determined to be 3.8 million years old and was done by dating minerals in layers of volcanic rocks nearby.

The fossil was found in 2016, in what was once sand deposited in a river delta on the shore of a lake in Woranso-Mille in Ethiopia. “I couldn’t believe my eyes when I spotted the rest of the cranium. It was a eureka moment and a dream come true,” said Haile-Selassie.

Experts unconnected to the new study praised the work. Eric Delson of Lehman College in New York called the fossil “beautiful” and said the researchers did an impressive job of reconstructing it digitally to help determine its place in the evolutionary tree.

3,000-year-old Canaanite temple discovered in southern Israel

3,000-year-old Canaanite temple discovered in southern Israel

In southern central Israel, Tel Lachish’s new discovery consists of very rare inscriptions showing early precursors of Hebrew alphabet

An aerial view of the newly found temple at Tel Lachish.

In Tel Lachish National Park, the 3,000-year-old temple of Canaanite has unearthed by a team of Israelis and American archeologists.

Under the guidance of Prof. Yosef Garfinkel from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Prof. Michael Hasel from the University of southern Advent at Tennessee, the team published their findings in the Levant journal last month following years of excavations.

Located in south-central Israel, Tel Lachish is the site of the biblical Lachish, a major Canaanite city during the Middle and Late Bronze Ages that was later conquered by the Israelites. It was one of the only Canaanite cities to survive into the 12th century BCE.

“We excavated a new temple in the northeast corner of the site that [dates] to the 12th century BCE,” Garfinkel told The Media Line. “It was extremely rich with objects and also [had] an inscription, which is very, very rare. The last time a Canaanite inscription was found was about 40 years ago.”

The aforementioned inscription was found on a pottery shard and features the oldest-known example of the letter “samekh.”

An extremely rare find found at Tel Lachish shows a Caananite inscription and the oldest-known example of the letter “samekh” (highlighted). (T. Rogovski)

“Our inscription is Semitic: It’s Canaanite and later the Hebrew script developed from the same type of writing,” Garfinkel explained, adding that the discovery was “of tremendous importance to the history of the [Hebrew alphabet].”

The new temple marks the first time in a long while that a new Canaanite temple has been found; in fact, the majority of such structures were already unearthed in the early 20th century.

In addition, the Lachish temple was built in a symmetrical style which has only been seen in a few other places in Israel, among them Tel Megiddo, Hazor and Nablus.

“This is the first time that we have a symmetrical temple at Lachish,” Garfinkel said. “There are fewer than 10 of these in Israel.”

Itamar Weissbein, the lead co-author of the study and one of the excavators, told The Media Line that this is the third Canaanite temple found at Lachish.

The first two temples were discovered by a British expedition in the 1930s and an Israeli team in the 1970s, respectively.

“In general, temples in the ancient Near East were not like churches or synagogues that you [could] enter,” Weissbein said. “It’s a different type of cultic activity. Only a few elites – priests or maybe kings – entered to do some rituals there because it was a house of gods, not a house of worship in a way.”

Weissbein emphasized that worshippers would likely have been standing outside the temple in the courtyard, an area that has not been well-preserved over the centuries. Researchers were, however, able to glean some ideas about the cultic activities that took place inside the temple based on artifacts that they dug up.

“We found two figurines of male deities,” Weissbein stated. “They probably represent Baal, [who was] one of the main deities of the Canaanites, like a storm god or a fertility god … and another deity called Resheph, [who was] more of a warlike deity.”

Two ancient figurines found at the temple in Tel Lachish likely represent Baal and Resheph, deities worshipped by the Canaanites.

In addition to the ruins, the figurines and the inscription, Garfinkel’s team also found bronze cauldrons, jewelry, daggers, scarabs and a gold-plated bottle bearing an inscription with the name of the powerful Egyptian pharaoh Ramses II.

Iron Age temple discovered at Tel Motza near Jerusalem calls into question the Biblical claim that Solomon’s Temple was the only temple in the ancient Kingdom of Judah

Iron Age Temple Uncovered in Jerusalem Challenges Biblical Claim

Perhaps Solomon’s famous Temple was not the first or only Holy Temple in the world. Dating to around 900 BC, an Iron Age temple located near Jerusalem negates the long-held idea the ancient Kingdom of Judah (southern Israel) only had one temple, the First Temple, better known as Solomon’s Temple, which was operational between 10th century BC until it was destroyed in 586 BC.

The Iron Age site of Tel Motza, about 4 miles (6.4 kilometers) outside Jerusalem, has been known since the early 1990s and archaeologists found the remains of a settlement dated to the Neolithic period (about 6000 BC).

In 2012 a settlement from the First Temple period was discovered containing a cultic structure and 36 wheat granaries, indicating that Motza was part of an ancient economic center, and it is the presence of this one ancient religious complex that challenges the history of Judah presented in the Bible.

The Tel Motza Iron Age temple excavation site in Jerusalem.
The Tel Motza Iron Age temple excavation site in Jerusalem.

A new study of the temple by co-researcher Shua Kisilevitz, a doctoral student of archaeology at Tel Aviv University in Israel and an archaeologist with the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA), and review co-author Oded Lipschits, the director of the Sonia and Marco Nadler Institute of Archaeology at Tel Aviv University, was published in the January/February issue of the Biblical Archaeology Review magazine.

In the article, the researchers say the temple had been built about 900 BC and that they think it operated until the early 6th century BC.

And where this discovery is controversial is that the existence of this temple means that people living close to Jerusalem had their own place of worship, a cultic temple, which in itself suggests the rule of the Jerusalem high priests was “not so strong”, and that the kingdom was “not so well established” as the Bible leads us to believe, Kisilevitz and Lipschits, told Live Science.

A report in the Daily Mail detailing the study says the ancient temple could have held about 150 congregants who worshiped the god Yahweh, but they also used idols to communicate with the divine in the same period as the First Temple.

This contradicts the Jewish Bible that details the religious reforms of King Hezekiah and King Josiah, who consolidated worship at Solomon’s Temple in Jerusalem and allegedly stopped ‘all’ cultic practices out of its walls.

Kisilevitz told Live Science that the temple was a rectangular building with an open courtyard at the front that would have been a focal point for cultic worship, and inside they found a stone-built a sacrificial altar near pits for dead animal bodies.

Two human-like and two horse-like clay figurines were discovered smashed and buried in the courtyard, which was thought to have been associated with rainfall, fertility and harvest ritual of some kind. The researchers added that the horse-like figurines may be the “oldest known depictions of horses from the Iron Age of Judah.”

Figurine of a horse found in Tel Motza Iron Age temple in the excavation site.

The teams of archaeologists at Tel Motza unearthed dozens of grain storage silos (granaries) and associated administrative and religious buildings. This informs us that Tel Motza sold grain to the nearby Jerusalem.

Over time, the settlement is believed to have become an agricultural and economic “powerhouse,” the researchers wrote in the magazine piece. They also speculate that perhaps the temple was permitted to exist by the high priests at Solomon’s Temple because it was part of the granary and didn’t threaten centralized control of the kingdom.

During the time this temple was functional, new political groups and alliances emerged in the Levant, and it is believed that in the face of these changes people maintained traditional religious practices.

The researchers said this was evident in the temple’s artifacts and architecture, which they say are reminiscent of religious traditions from the ancient Near East that had been practiced since the third millennium BC.

Figurine of a ram found in Tel Motza Iron Age temple excavation site.

The discovery and analysis of this ancient Iron Age temple not only enlightens historians on the state formation of Judah during this period. It also determines that the state was nowhere near as centralized as it would later become and that in its formative days it depended not solely on the administrative elite at Solomon’s Temple, but on trading relationships with nearby settlements like Tel Motza, and maybe others yet to be discovered.

Untouched and Unlooted 4,400-yr-old Tomb of Egyptian High Priest Discovered

Untouched and Unlooted 4,400-yr-old Tomb of Egyptian High Priest Discovered

Egyptian archaeologists discovered the tomb of a priest dating back more than 4,400 years in the pyramid complex of Saqqara south of the capital Cairo.

Antiquities Minister Khaled al-Enany told an audience of invited guests, including AFP reporters: “It is exceptionally well preserved, coloured, with sculpture inside. It belongs to a high official priest…and is more than 4,400 years old,” he said.

Antiquities Minister Khaled el-Enani at a news conference at the site of discovery

The tomb was found in a buried ridge at the ancient necropolis of Saqqara. It was untouched and unlooted, Mostafa Waziri, secretary-general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, told reporters at the site, according to Reuters. Saqqara served as the necropolis for Memphis, the capital of ancient Egypt for more than two millennia.

The tomb belongs to “Wahtye,” a high priest who served during the fifth dynasty reign of King Neferirkare, the antiquities ministry said.

The tomb is 10 metres (33 feet) long, three metres wide and just under three metres high, Waziri said.

View of newly discovered Egyptian tomb belonging to high priest ‘Wahtye’

The walls are decorated with hieroglyphs and statues of pharaohs. Waziri said the tomb was unique because of the statues and its near perfect condition.

“The colour is almost intact even though the tomb is almost 4,400 years old,” he said.

Archaeologists removed a last layer of debris from the tomb on Thursday and found five shafts inside, Waziri said.

One of the shafts was unsealed with nothing inside, but the other four were sealed. They are expecting to make discoveries when they excavate those shafts starting on Sunday, he said. He was hopeful about one shaft in particular.

“I can imagine that all of the objects can be found in this area,” he said, pointing at one of the sealed shafts. “This shaft should lead to a coffin or a sarcophagus of the owner of the tomb.”

The frieze on the wall of the Egyptian tomb depicting livestock

In November, archaeology officials announced the discovery in Saqqara of seven sarcophagi, some dating back more than 6,000 years, during excavation work started in April by the same archaeological mission.

Three of those tombs contained mummified cats and scarabs.

Ancient Egyptians mummified humans to preserve their bodies for the afterlife, while animal mummies were used as religious offerings. The Saqqara necropolis is also home to the famous Djoser pyramid, a 4,600-year-old construction that dominates the site and was Egypt’s first stone monument.

The tomb, built by the master architect Imhotep for the Pharoah Djoser, stood 62 metres tall originally and is considered the oldest building in the world built entirely of stone.

Egypt has revealed over a dozen ancient discoveries this year.

The country hopes the finds will brighten its image abroad and revive interest among travellers who once flocked to its iconic pharaonic temples and pyramids but who fled after the 2011 political uprising.