Mysterious sarcophagus opened in Alexandria

Egyptian archaeologists have unsealed and opened a mysterious granite sarcophagus discovered on a construction site i...

Posted: Jul 20, 2018 1:51 PM
Updated: Jul 20, 2018 1:51 PM

Egyptian archaeologists have unsealed and opened a mysterious granite sarcophagus discovered on a construction site in Alexandria -- only to find the remains of three mummies in a pool of leaked sewage water.

Photos released Thursday evening by Egypt's Ministry of Antiquities show a team of archaeologists climbing down the 16-foot-deep (5 meter) pit and wedging the black sarcophagus open with a wooden plank. The experts had to wear masks over their mouths and noses to block the reportedly foul smell.

An archaeologist at the site, Shabaan Abdul, said that the remains most likely belonged to three military officers, according to a post on the ministry's Facebook page.

A ministry official, Aiman Ashmawy Ali, told CNN that the sarcophagus had been found in a previously unexcavated section of one of Alexandria's largest ancient cemeteries.

"One of the mummies had a trace of an arrow in the head," he said in a phone interview. "It proves he died in a conflict. Maybe that explains three mummies in one big sarcophagus."

The contents of the sarcophagus have been the subject of intense speculation since the relic was uncovered earlier this month. But not only were no treasures found within, the mummies inside had disintegrated beyond recognition.

Joseph Manning, a professor of ancient history at Yale University, said that while such finds are not especially unusual, this particular case merited further investigation.

"As far as I can see, there's no inscription on the sarcophagus, which is strange," he said. "You're not going to see someone important buried like this."

University of Auckland Egyptology Professor Anthony Spalinger stressed that granite was both expensive and difficult to cut.

"They would have taken it downstream and carved it in the area," he said in a phone interview. "It implies that there was wealth involved."

Somewhat unusually, experts said, the three mummies were buried without any belongings. The only other item discovered at the site was an alabaster bust, its features destroyed beyond recognition.

Manning, who said the archaeological find "looked like a non-elite burial," has a theory on its origins: that although the sarcophagus appeared to date back to the Ptolemaic Kingdom (305 B.C. to 30 B.C.), it may have been used more than once.

"It is conceivable to me that (the sarcophagus has been) reused in a later period," he said. "I'd want to know a lot more."

Ali acknowledged that it is difficult to date the sarcophagus without an inscription. But more answers can be expected after forensic examinations, which will take place at the Alexandria National Museum, according to Egyptian state media reports.

Further excavation at the site may prove difficult, however, as the finding was made on a privately-owned construction site.

"(The) Ministry of Antiquities and the Egyptian government have procedures (for) checking any building before it is renewed or repaired," Ali said. "This sarcophagus was found according to regular procedures."

Such measures are considered necessary in a country where the remnants of ancient Egypt are regularly smuggled and sold. In June, Egyptian state media reported the return of over 100 artifacts smuggled into Naples, Italy. In a separate incident, nine other relics were sent back to the Ministry of Antiquities from France.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 68433

Reported Deaths: 2980
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Marion14863719
Lake7101271
Elkhart459777
Allen3635158
St. Joseph315479
Hamilton2513104
Cass17519
Hendricks1750105
Vanderburgh172612
Johnson1652118
Porter119539
Tippecanoe110311
Clark108145
Madison84765
LaPorte83829
Kosciusko81912
Howard81065
Bartholomew74347
Marshall74222
Floyd69444
Monroe68630
Delaware63852
Noble63728
Boone63546
Dubois62612
Hancock62337
Jackson5524
LaGrange54210
Warrick51630
Shelby51126
Grant49629
Vigo47410
Dearborn46528
Morgan42532
Henry36118
Clinton3573
White34710
Montgomery34321
Lawrence32827
Wayne3179
Decatur31432
Harrison29422
Miami2582
Scott25010
Daviess24619
Greene23934
Franklin22410
DeKalb2224
Putnam2228
Jennings21012
Jasper2082
Gibson2004
Steuben2003
Ripley1887
Perry17212
Starke1657
Orange16424
Wabash1613
Posey1580
Fayette1557
Jefferson1492
Whitley1486
Fulton1462
Carroll1452
Wells1342
Knox1310
Huntington1183
Washington1161
Spencer1143
Newton11010
Tipton1075
Randolph1034
Clay975
Jay820
Adams812
Rush794
Owen781
Sullivan761
Pulaski721
Brown701
Fountain632
Benton600
Blackford532
Ohio514
Pike460
Parke451
Switzerland430
Crawford420
Martin420
Vermillion380
Union320
Warren191
Unassigned0200

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 93963

Reported Deaths: 3539
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Franklin17254514
Cuyahoga12753477
Hamilton9160248
Lucas4944318
Montgomery405778
Summit3294217
Marion288444
Butler271459
Mahoning2411253
Pickaway235742
Stark1690132
Lorain163476
Warren163435
Columbiana158260
Trumbull1433103
Fairfield125425
Delaware120618
Licking112543
Clark108613
Lake104336
Wood92458
Clermont85511
Medina83533
Miami76937
Tuscarawas74713
Portage71760
Allen65442
Greene62611
Belmont58926
Richland54012
Ashtabula53945
Mercer53513
Geauga53143
Erie52427
Wayne49958
Ross4014
Huron3764
Ottawa35925
Athens3451
Madison33310
Sandusky33217
Holmes3226
Darke32127
Hancock3202
Auglaize2225
Lawrence2200
Union2161
Jefferson2063
Washington19722
Putnam19217
Scioto1881
Coshocton1866
Muskingum1811
Knox1692
Crawford1685
Preble1662
Seneca1613
Shelby1604
Morrow1582
Hardin15012
Clinton1486
Fulton1401
Champaign1381
Ashland1333
Highland1321
Defiance1294
Williams1243
Logan1231
Wyandot1207
Brown1121
Guernsey1117
Hocking1119
Carroll1085
Henry1061
Perry1062
Fayette970
Monroe9118
Van Wert691
Jackson670
Pike660
Paulding610
Gallia581
Adams532
Vinton302
Meigs250
Harrison201
Morgan200
Noble170
Unassigned00
Fort Wayne
Clear
54° wxIcon
Hi: 76° Lo: 54°
Feels Like: 54°
Angola
Clear
52° wxIcon
Hi: 75° Lo: 53°
Feels Like: 52°
Huntington
Clear
53° wxIcon
Hi: 73° Lo: 53°
Feels Like: 53°
Decatur
Scattered Clouds
72° wxIcon
Hi: 75° Lo: 53°
Feels Like: 72°
Van Wert
Scattered Clouds
72° wxIcon
Hi: 74° Lo: 52°
Feels Like: 72°
Sunny Wednesday
WFFT Radar
WFFT Temperatures
WFFT National

Community Events