Initial analysis shows skeletons from huge Egyptian sarcophagus are two men, one woman

Nevine El-Aref , Sunday 19 Aug 2018

Intricate gold panels were also found alongside the three skeletons

Alexandria Sarcophagus
Antiquities experts examine remains found inside the granite sarcophagus.

The three skeletons found inside a massive granite sarcophagus unearthed in Alexandria last month have been analysed and found to be a young woman and two men, Egyptian antiquities officials have said, and intricate gold panels have also been discovered inside the coffin.

Mostafa Waziri, secretary-general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, told Ahram Online that preliminary studies on the remains were carried out by a team of researchers headed by Zeinab Hashish, director of the Department of Skeleton Remains Studies at the Ministry of Antiquities, who determined the gender and age of the skeletons by looking at the anatomy of the skulls, pelvises and longitudinal bones.

Antiquities experts examine remains found inside the granite sarcophagus.

He added that the team had also found several square intricately decorated panels made of gold, measuring approximately 5cm by 3cm. Waziri said that the delicate artwork depicted on the panels may refer to military rankings.

Gold panels found inside a granite sarcophagus.

Nadia Kheider, head of the Central Department of Antiquities of Lower Egypt, said that according to the studies, the first skeleton belonged to a woman between the age of 20 to 25, with a height of around 160 to 164 cm.

The first skeleton

The second one belonged to a man between the age of 35 to 39, with a height ranging between 160 to 165.5 cm, while the third skeleton is also male, aged between 40 and 44 years old and with a height of 179 to 184.5 cm.

The second skeleton found inside the granite sarcophagus.

She said that analysis of the third skeleton’s skull show a 17cm-wide round cavity, which the man had sustained a considerable amount of time before death.

“This means that the cavity might be a result of a trepanation,” Hashish told Ahram Online. She explained that trepanation is the scraping or drilling of a hole in the skull, and is the oldest surgical intervention in history, found in prehistoric human remains.

This form of surgery was rare in ancient Egypt, however, and few skulls with this injury have been found. The Qasr Al-Eini Hospital Museum holds some examples, however, and some skulls found in the tomb of 18th-dynasty treasurer Maya and his wife Merit also show marks of trepanation.

Waziri suggested that most probably the burying processes inside the sarcophagus were carried out in two consecutive phases, as the skeletons were found one on top of the other.

Ayman Ashmawy, head of the Ancient Egyptian Antiquities Section at the ministry, said that the researchers have cleaned all the remains found inside the sarcophagus and archaeologically documented all the bones and skulls, as well as the gold panels.

Antiquities experts examine remains found inside the granite sarcophagus.

He explained that the strange colour of the liquid found inside the sarcophagus was probably a result of the contamination from sewage water, which caused the remains of the skeleton’s wrappings to decompose.

Several analyses are being carried out on the water to uncover more about its components, Ashmawy said.

Waziri said that more research and studies are being carried out, including DNA tests and CT scans on the bones, to find out more about the skeletons and determine if the three people were genetically related.

The sarcophagus was found in the Sidi Gaber district of Alexandria during the digging of foundations for a new residential building.

Officials have previously said it probably dates to the Ptolemaic (332–30 BC) or Roman (30 BC–642 AD) eras.

The initial discovery of the massive black granite coffin caused a stir; some speculated that it might contain the long-vanished remains of Alexander the Great, whose tomb was said to have been located in Alexandria. Others raised concerns about a curse; according to the BBC, Waziri assuaged fears, saying: "We've opened it and, thank God, the world has not fallen into darkness.

The discovery of the red liquid inside the sarcophagus when it was opened also prompted a reaction; an international petition demanding that the Egyptian government let people drink the liquid garnered thousands of signatures.



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