Funerary Temple Found in Saqqara

Major Egyptian discovery includes fifty-two 3,000-year-old New Kingdom coffins, and a papyrus with a chapter of the Book of the Dead

Funerary Temple Found in Saqqara, Coffin

Saqqara Coffin  Credit: Ministry of Antiquities

On January 17, 2021, the Egyptian archaeological mission announced the discovery in Saqqara of an Old Kingdom funerary temple. They also found a four-meter-long papyrus showing chapter 17 of the Book of the Dead. And in the burial shafts they excavated, the researchers discovered New Kingdom coffins, the first to be found in the Saqqara area from 3,000 years ago.

The researchers excavated the funerary temple of Queen Nearit, wife of King Teti, the first king of Dynasty Six of the Old Kingdom, more than 4,000 years ago. In addition to discovering the layout of the temple, they found three mud-brick warehouses attached to the temple to store offerings, provisions, and tools.

Book of the Dead Papyrus found in Funerary Temple Found in Saqqara

Book of the Dead. Photo: Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities

Also announced were the fifty coffins from the New Kingdom (16th-century to 11th-century B.C.E.) The coffins were shaped to the outline of the mummy’s body (anthropoid), and decorated with gods that were worshipped at that time, as well as passages from the Book of the Dead. This find was the first concrete confirmation that Saqqara was not only used for burial in the Late Period, but also during the New Kingdom. The coffins were found 10-12 meters underground down burial shafts; their depth may have been a factor in preserving these coffins long enough to be discovered in the modern era of archaeological preservation.

Many other items dating back 3,000 years to the New Kingdom were announced as well, including wooden funerary masks, ushabti statuettes made of wood, stone, and faience (glazed ceramics), and artifacts in the shape of birds. Large amounts of pottery, including many pieces traded from the Levant, Syria, and Crete, were found. There were also games, including one called Senet, which is explained in, “Board Games in Biblical Gath” (Biblical Archaeology Review, Sept/Oct 2017).

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This is the most important discovery this (2021) year, according to Dr. Zahi Hawass, Egypt’s ex-Minister of Antiquities. He believes this, along with other discoveries, will help make Saqqara even more of a tourist and cultural draw. More importantly, it enhances modern understanding of Saqqara’s history, during the time of King Teti’s worship in the New Kingdom, and before.

Originally published in Bible History Daily on January 18, 2021

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