802 tombs discovered in necropolis of Lisht in Egypt, now they discover ‘Book of the Dead’

802 tombs discovered in necropolis of Lisht in Egypt, now they discover 'Book of the Dead' 2

Egypt continues to discover facts about its past. In September 2018, more than 800 tombs had been discovered in a relatively unknown archaeological site.

802 tombs discovered in necropolis of Lisht in Egypt, now they discover 'Book of the Dead' 3
The large collection of ancient burials at Lisht in Egypt could offer insights into life and death in the Middle Kingdom roughly 4,000 years ago. © Sarah Parcak | National Geographic

The artifacts were buried in a necropolis about four thousand years old, in the village of Lisht, at the Saqqara region of Sahara desert. In the old cemetery, a team of researchers found exactly 802 tombs. The site is between two pyramids, one to the south and one to the north.

The tombs have a characteristic style, carved in rocks and wrapped in bricks and limestone. According to Egypt’s Ministry of Antiquities, the necropolis, built at the foot of a mountain, has two parts.

In the first, a patio leads to a corridor with a vaulted ceiling (illustrated with hieroglyphs) and ends in a hall with a small room decorated with inscriptions.

The second part consists of a large burial site in an open courtyard. The site also houses a funeral chamber, where a limestone coffin was found, and an empty geometric shaped room whose function is unknown.

The discovery may bring new information about life in ancient Egypt, as the tombs offer clues about the health, economy and culture of the people who lived there for millennia.

The excavation is part of a project that aims to rescue several historic sites in Egypt. After the economic and political crisis that hit the country between 2009 and 2013, there were several looting and destruction of archaeological sites.

Book of the Dead

The latest trove of Egypt was found in 22 burial shafts at Saqqara, south of Cairo, and date back four millennia. The finds include a long papyrus Book-of-the-Dead roll said to guide the dead “through the underworld.”

802 tombs discovered in necropolis of Lisht in Egypt, now they discover 'Book of the Dead' 4
A 13-foot-long (4 meters) copy of chapter 17 of the Book of the Dead was found in the burial shafts. The name of the papyrus’s owner Pwkhaef is written on it. The Book of the Dead helped guide the deceased through the afterlife. (Image credit: Egyptian Antiquities Ministry)

Former antiquities minister and famed Egyptologist Zahi Hawass told reporters at the vast Saqqara site south of Cairo that among the finds were 50 ‘cursed’ sarcophagi and a 4-meter-long Book-of-the-Dead papyrus.

Such texts were purported to guide the newly buried through the perceived underworld. The finds date back to the Sixth Dynasty that ruled Egypt from 2323 BC until 2150 BC, he said.

More than 50 wooden coffins dating back to the subsequent “New Kingdom,” between 1570 BC and 1069 BC, were also unveiled on Sunday. The plans for the temple’s layout were also found, Hawass added.

“This is the first time that coffins dating back to 3,000 years have been found in the Saqqara region,” he said, referring to other recent finds.

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