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The remains of a sarcophagus containing mummified cats. Credit: Ministry of Antiquities

Egyptian Tomb Yields Sarcophagi Filled with Mummified Cats and Beetles Plus Sealed Door Yet to be Opened

Archaeologists in Egypt have unearthed a fascinating tomb complex with rare finds in Saqqara.  Within the complex they found dozens of mummified cats and an extremely rare collection of mummified scarab beetles within seven sarcophagi, some dating back more than 6,000 years. Egyptologists are also excited about the discovery of a sealed door to what is presumably an unlooted tomb and will be opening it in the coming weeks.

The Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities announced that the discovery was made at the edge of the King Userkaf pyramid complex in the Saqqara Necropolis, and consists of three New Kingdom tombs and four Old Kingdom tombs, the most important of which belonged to Khufu-Imhat, the overseer of the royal buildings in the royal palace.

Rare Mummified Scarab Beetles

Dr. Mostafa Waziri, Secretary General of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, announced that the Egyptian mission unearthed the first-ever mummified scarab beetles in the Memphis necropolis. Two large mummies of scarabs were found inside a rectangular limestone sarcophagus with a vaulted lid decorated with three scarabs painted in black. D. Waziri said that an analysis on the beetles revealed they were wrapped in linen and very well-preserved. Another collection of scarab mummies was also found inside a smaller, limestone sarcophagus decorated with one scarab painted in black.

The two sarcophagi containing mummified scarab beetles.

The two sarcophagi containing mummified scarab beetles. Credit: Ministry of Antiquities

Dozens of cat mummies

Dozens of cat mummies were also unearthed along with 100 wooden gilded statues of cats and one made from bronze dedicated to the cat goddess Bastet, which was considered a personification of the sun. Toward the beginning of the 3rd millennium, Bastet was associated with all cats and each feline was considered a physical representation of her spirit. Mummified cats were presented as religious offerings in her honor.

One of the wooden cat statues found in the tomb complex.

One of the wooden cat statues found in the tomb complex. Credit: Ministry of Antiquities

Cobras and Crocodiles

Painted wooden sarcophagi of Cobras with mummies found inside them were also discovered along with two wooden sarcophagi of crocodiles.

Within the debris, archaeologists unearthed around 1000 amulets made of faience and dedicated to different deities, including Anubis, Horus, and Isis, as well as other faience amulets in the shape of the Udjat eye, and five bronze amulets for deities.

Crocodile sarcophagus found in the tomb comple

Crocodile sarcophagus found in the tomb complex. Credit: Ministry of Antiquities

Cobra sarcophagus containing a mummified snake.

Cobra sarcophagus containing a mummified snake. Credit: Ministry of Antiquities

Sealed Door

As archaeologists were preparing the site to present the latest discoveries, they found the sealed, intact door of a Fifth Dynasty tomb. The Fifth Dynasty of the Old Kingdom ruled Egypt from about 2,500 BC to 2,350 BC. It is very unusual to find a door still intact, meaning its contents may still be untouched. The plan is for the door to be unsealed in the coming weeks.  

The entrance to one of the tombs.

The entrance to one of the tombs. Credit: Ministry of Antiquities

Top image: The remains of a sarcophagus containing mummified cats. Credit: Ministry of Antiquities.

By Joanna Gillan

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