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Archaeologists hail ‘dream discovery’ as pink granite sarcophagus is unearthed near Cairo

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The pink granite sarcophagus of a high-ranking Egyptian noble has been found in an ancient burial chamber near Cairo, where it has been for thousands of years.

It belonged to Ptah-em-wia, who served as head of the treasury under Ramesses the Great, and has been described by archaeologists as a “dream find.”

Engraved on all sides with emblems, hieroglyphs and titles, the 3,300-year-old stone coffin was found in pristine condition and in its original tomb 7 meters underground.

Professor Ola El Aguizy, who discovered the sarcophagus in Saqqara, hopes the find will shed light on those who ruled Egypt after Tutankhamun.

The archaeologist from Cairo University said: ‘The hieroglyphs on the sarcophagus confirm that it is Ptah-em-wia and also the titles mentioned on the sarcophagus are the same as those on the walls of the tomb itself.

‘It only emphasizes that he is a nobleman and very close to the king, because his titles related to the temple of millions of years in Thebes prove that he played a very important role in the governance of that time.

“He could be matched with the Treasury Secretary these days.”

The pink granite sarcophagus of Ptah-em-wia, a high-ranking Egyptian nobleman, has been found in an ancient burial chamber near Cairo, where he has lain for thousands of years

Professor Ola El Aguizy (pictured), who discovered the sarcophagus in Sakkara, hopes the find will shed light on those who ruled Egypt after Tutankhamun

Professor Ola El Aguizy (pictured), who discovered the sarcophagus in Sakkara, hopes the find will shed light on those who ruled Egypt after Tutankhamun

Professor El Aguizy and her team descended into the burial chamber by sitting in a large metal bucket that had to be hoisted up and down by hand

Professor El Aguizy and her team descended into the burial chamber by sitting in a large metal bucket that had to be hoisted up and down by hand

The sarcophagus was unveiled in the fourth series of Lost Treasures of Egyptwhich premiered on National Geographic on Sunday.

The surface tomb was discovered by Professor El Aguizy last season, but she wasn’t able to descend into the underground chamber until this year.

The archaeologists had to move several tons of sand to create a shaft that they could use to reach the first level of the tomb, which is located near King Unas’s pyramid.

There they found a 3,000-year-old stone masonry, which had to be reinforced before they could safely descend further.

It had a small depression in the floor that concealed a second shaft, which the team descended by sitting in a large metal bucket that had to be hoisted up and down by hand.

This second underground level was the burial chamber and was where the sarcophagus lay.

The archaeologists had to move several tons of sand to create a shaft that they could use to reach the first level of the tomb

The archaeologists had to move several tons of sand to create a shaft that they could use to reach the first level of the tomb

Finding the coffin in such good condition and in the tomb of its original owner are both rarities in Saqqara.  Tomb robbers were active in the area in ancient times and most of the tombs were subsequently reused multiple times so that not much of the original owner's belongings would remain.

Finding the coffin in such good condition and in the tomb of its original owner are both rarities in Saqqara. Tomb robbers were active in the area in ancient times and most of the tombs were subsequently reused multiple times so that not much of the original owner’s belongings would remain.

WHAT WAS SAQQARA?

Saqqara is famous as an Egyptian village with ancient burial sites of Egyptian royalty.

Saqqara contains numerous pyramids, including the Step Pyramid of Djoser, which is widely believed to be the oldest pyramid in the world.

The site extends for approximately 8 km along the edge of the desert plateau, bordering Abū Ṣīr to the north and Dahsr to the south.

In 1979, the ancient ruins of the Memphis area, including Ṣaqqārah, Abū Ṣīr, Dahshūr, Abū Ruwaysh, and the Pyramids of Giza, were jointly designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Source: Encyclopædia Britannica

Finding the coffin intact and in the tomb of its original owner are both rarities in Saqqara.

Although it was found in good condition, part of the lid had broken off and had been left in the corner of the room, according to the Egyptian Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities.

The archaeologists claim this was the result of tomb robbers breaking open and looting the coffin.

Tomb robbers were active in the area in ancient times and most of the tombs were subsequently reused multiple times so that not many of the original owner’s belongings would remain there.

However, Ptah-em-wia was the original builder of the tomb where his sarcophagus was found.

His chest shows an overview of all his titles, including Grand Overseer of the Cattle and Royal Scribe.

He oversaw the treasury of the Egyptian pharaoh King Ramesses II in the era after Tutankhamun’s death.

It also has an image of a human figure with his hands crossed in front of his chest and the face of Ptah-em-wia with a false chin.

Professor El Aguizy said: ‘This sarcophagus is a good example of the New Kingdom style of elite sarcophagi.

It is made of granite and is inscribed with the usual symbols of the gods: the sky goddess Nut on the lid covering the chest with her wings opened to protect the deceased, the four sons of the sun god Horus surrounding the sarcophagus with prayers for the protection of the deceased.

“The features of the face and beard also reveal the fine artistic features of New Kingdom art and the high rank of the deceased.”

According to the show’s producer, this is the “find of the season” and hugely significant in the archaeological world.

Professor El Aguizy’s team will now fully study the sarcophagus to discover the whole story of Ptah-em-wia’s life.

The eight-part series reveals the secrets of the ancient civilization by crawling through graves and following excavations with the latest technology.

you can watch Lost Treasures of Egypt on National Geographic with a Disney Plus subscription.

Professor Ola El Aguizy said: 'The hieroglyphs on the sarcophagus confirm that it is Ptah-em-wia and also the titles mentioned on the sarcophagus are the same as those on the walls of the tomb itself'

Professor Ola El Aguizy said: '[The sarcophagus] emphasizes only that he is a nobleman and quite close to the king, as his titles relating to the temple of millions of years in Thebes prove that he played a very important role in the governance of that time'

Professor Ola El Aguizy said: ‘The hieroglyphs on the sarcophagus confirm that it is Ptah-em-wia and also the titles mentioned on the sarcophagus are the same as those on the walls of the tomb itself. It only emphasizes that he is a nobleman and very close to the king, because his titles related to the temple of millions of years in Thebes prove that he played a very important role in the governance of that time’

The above-ground grave was discovered by Professor El Aguizy last season, but she was only able to descend into the underground chamber this year.

The above-ground grave was discovered by Professor El Aguizy last season, but she was only able to descend into the underground chamber this year.

According to the show's producer, this is the 'find of the season' and hugely important in the archaeological world

According to the show’s producer, this is the ‘find of the season’ and hugely important in the archaeological world

WHO WAS RAMSES II?

The sun's rays illuminate the statues (pictured) in the Great Temple at Abu Simbel in Egypt twice a year

The sun’s rays illuminate the statues (pictured) in the Great Temple at Abu Simbel in Egypt twice a year

Ramesses II lived from 1279 BC to 1213 BC.

According to the Ancient History Encyclopedia, the pharaoh was known to the Egyptians as Userma’atre’setepenre, meaning “guardian of harmony and balance, strong in right, chosen of Ra.”

Ramesses II was the third pharaoh of the 19th dynasty, who is said to have declared a decisive victory at the Battle of Kadesh over the Hittites.

Ramesses II supposedly showed off the result of this battle to increase his reputation.

However, the battle ended in a draw and was not exactly a win for either side.

In fact, it resulted in the earliest known peace treaty, drafted in 1258 BCE.

Ramesses II is often associated with the pharaoh depicted in the book of Exodus in the Bible.

But there is no archaeological or historical evidence linking the two figures.

Ramesses II fathered more than 100 children before his death in 1213 BC. – more than any other pharaoh.

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