According to Hawass, archaeologists have unearthed the oldest known gold-covered mummy in Egypt at the Tombs of Saqqara in Memphis.
Archaeologists have made a number of fresh discoveries in the Tombs of Saqqara in Memphis, the ancient Egyptian capital, including a mummy that is 4,300 years old and wrapped in gold leaf.
The mummy, which contained the remains of a man named Hekashepes, was discovered at the bottom of a 33-foot shaft in a sealed stone sarcophagus.
“I put my head inside to see what was inside the sarcophagus: a beautiful mummy of a man completely covered in layers of gold,” says Zahi Hawass, Egypt’s famous (and controversial) former antiquities minister, to the Associated Press Mohamed Wagdy.
The discovery is not the oldest known Egyptian mummy, despite several news sites’ claims to the contrary. Instead, it is “the oldest complete mummy covered in gold,” according to Hawass, who explains this to Live Science’s Owen Jarus.
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Hawass explains to CNN’s Amarachi Orie and MiaMia Alberti that in addition to the layers of gold surrounding him, the mummy wore a band on his head and a bracelet on his chest, indicating that he was a man of an immense fortune.
He was also sporting a garment with a belt, which Francesco Tiradritti, an Egyptologist at the Kore University of Enna in Italy who was not involved with the discovery, tells Live Science may have been an ancient attempt to “preserve… the living appearance of the deceased.” A move like that might provide fresh perspectives on historical religious beliefs.
At the location, several more tombs were also found. They belonged to a priest named Khnumdjedef, a judge and author named Fetek, and a priest who may have been named Messi, according to a statement by Hawass on social media. Another belonged to Meri, a member of the royal staff known as “the keeper of the secrets.”
“This discovery is so important as it connects the kings with the people living around them,” Ali Abu Deshish, another archaeologist involved in the excavation, tells Kathryn Armstrong of BBC News.
All of the discoveries are from the Fifth and Sixth Dynasties of the Old Kingdom or around 2500 and 2100 B.C.E. The dig turned up statues, wall murals, amulets, utensils, and pottery in addition to the mummies. According to CNN, Hawass is particularly interested in the variety of statues discovered during the dig since they provide information about art in the Old Kingdom.
Archaeologists also found a 2,000-year-old mummy with a golden tongue at an ancient Egyptian site called Taposiris Magna.
The recent announcements of many previous Egyptian archaeological findings, including updated scans of the 2,300-year-old “Golden Boy” mummy and a stash of 2,500-year-old mummified crocodiles, precede the current discoveries.