Egyptian authorities opened a 2,000-year-old sealed black granite sarcophagus on Thursday, an artifact that has become a media sensation since it was discovered in the Egyptian city of Alexandria on July 1.
According to Egypt Today, the sarcophagus contains three male mummified bodies, one of which appears to have sustained head injuries. Unfortunately, the bodies were damaged by sewer water that leaked into the chamber. Still, further details about the bodies are expected to be forthcoming as experts continue studying the remains.
One thing is certain, though, according to Secretary-General of the Supreme Council of Antiquities Mostafa Waziri: The occupants of the sarcophagus were likely not members of the Ptolemaic dynasty, as some commentators had proposed. The lack of any discernible inscriptions or expensive items within the tomb suggests they are not bonafide Ptolemies, the Greco-Egyptian royal family that reigned from 304 and 30 BC—bookended by the larger-than-life leaders Alexander the Great and Cleopatra.
Waziri also pushed back on hype about mummy curses, which predictably flourished on the internet after the coffin was discovered. “The sarcophagus has been opened, but we have not been hit by a curse,” he said.
Measuring nine feet long, five feet wide, and six feet tall, the sarcophagus was found during construction in the Sidi Gaber district of Alexandria. Like many tantalizing archeological finds, especially from Egypt, it attracted worldwide attention and a flood of energetic speculation.
“Egyptian archaeology is probably the most sensationalized archaeology there is,” Christopher Monroe, an archeologist and Near Eastern Studies expert at Cornell, told me in an email. “Egyptomania is fun and helpful to the Egyptian economy, but it is unfortunate how it distracts from truly interesting research.”
Likewise, Jens Notroff, an archeologist based at the German Archaeological Institute, told me that the sarcophagus is “an exciting find” but not particularly out of the ordinary.
According to Alexandria Governor Mohamed Sultan, the three mummies will now be transferred to the Alexandria National Museum for further study, while the sarcophagus will be moved to Egypt’s Military Museum.
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