During excavation work carried out by the Egyptian-German mission of the University of Tübingen, working at Saqqara, a new burial chamber was uncovered at the bottom of a communal burial shaft 30 metres deep connected to the mummification workshop discovered along with a large tomb complex with five burial chambers in 2018.
After more than a year of excavation and documentation, the mission discovered the sixth burial chamber hidden behind a 2,600-year-old stone wall.
Mostafa Waziri, secretary general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, announced that the newly discovered chamber contained four wooden coffins in poor state of preservation.
Dr Ramadan Badri Hussein, archaeological supervisor at the Ministry of State for Antiquities Affairs, said that one of the coffins belongs to a woman called Didibastett. She was buried with six canopic jars, which contradicts with the custom in ancient Egypt which was to embalm the lungs, stomach, intestines and liver of the deceased, and then to store them in four jars under the protection of four gods, known as the Four Sons of Horus.
The mission examined the content of Didibastett’s two extra canopic jars using a computerised tomography (CT) scan. Preliminary analysis of the images indicates that the two jars contain human tissue.
Based on this result, there is a possibility that Didibastett had received a special form of mummification that preserved six organs of her body. The mission’s radiologist is currently conducting a thorough study of the images in order to identify the two extra organs.
After studying texts on the coffins and sarcophagi in the burial chambers, the mission identified priests and priestesses of a mysterious snake goddess, known as Niut-shaes. Indications are that the priests of Niut-shaes were buried together, and that she became a prominent goddess during the 26th Dynasty.
A priestess and a priest of Niut-shaes, who were buried in the same burial chamber, were possibly Egyptianised immigrants. Their names, Ayput and Tjanimit, were common to the Libyan community that settled in Egypt from the 22nd Dynasty (ca. 943-716 BC) onward. Ancient Egypt was a multicultural society that received immigrants from different parts of the ancient world, including Greeks, Libyans, and Phoenicians among others.
Hussein said that the mission conducted non-invasive testing, called X-ray fluorescence, on the gilded silver mask that was discovered on the face of the mummy of a priestess of the goddess Niut-shaes. This test determined the purity of the mask’s silver at 99.07 percent, higher than Sterling Silver at 93.5 percent. This gilded silver mask is the first discovered in Egypt since 1939, and the third such mask to ever be found in Egypt.
An international team of archaeologists and chemists from the University of Tübingen, the University of Munich and the Egyptian National Research Centre in Cairo carried out chemical testing on the residue of oils and resins preserved in cups, bowls and pots found in the mummification workshop. Early results of these tests give a list of mummification substances, including bitumen (tar), cedar oil, cedar resin, pistachio resin, beeswax, animal fat, and possibly olive oil and juniper oil, among others. The team is finalising a report for scientific publication.
In July 2018, Khaled El-Enany, minister of tourism and antiquities, announced to the world the unprecedented discovery of a mummification workshop complex at Saqqara from the 26th Dynasty (ca. 664-525 BC). It included an embalmer’s cachette of pottery, and a communal burial shaft.
This shaft is 30 m. deep and has six tombs.
The tombs contained around 54 mummies and skeletons, five large sarcophagi, a dozen calcite (Egyptian alabaster) canopic jars, thousands of shawabtis figurines, and a rare gilded silver mummy mask.
This discovery was rated among the top 10 archaeological discoveries of 2018 by Archaeology Magazine and Heritage Daily.
The mission of the University of Tübingen will resume its full investigation of the 26th Dynasty cemetery at Saqqara in the winter of 2020.