In Photos: Largest ever intact embalming workshop uncovered in Saqqara

Nevine El-Aref , Saturday 27 May 2023

Two embalming workshops, the largest and most complete found to date, dedicated to humans and animals have been uncovered at the Saqqara Necropolis in a stunning discovery that is unlikely to be the last at the valuable archaeological site.



The mission, under the leadership of Secretary-General of the Supreme Council of Antiquities Mostafa Waziri, also unearthed two tombs from different historical periods, along with a significant collection of artifacts. 

The embalming workshops date back to the 30th Dynasty (380-343 BC) and the Ptolemaic period (305-30 BC), while the two tombs belong to the Old and New Kingdoms, according to Waziri

The human embalming workshop is a rectangular building with multiple rooms containing stone beds measuring two metres long and 50 cm. These beds were used for the mummification of the deceased. They were covered with plaster and featured gutters. Among the artifacts found within the workshop were clay pots, tools and ritual vessels used for mummification.


The other workshop, also rectangular in shape, was constructed with mud walls and stone floors. It consisted of several rooms where a collection of clay pots and animal burials were unearthed. Bronze tools used in the mummification process were also found. The workshop contained five stone beds, distinct from those discovered in the human embalming workshop.

"According to initial studies, it is believed that this particular workshop was used for the mummification of sacred animals," Waziri said.

According to Sabri Farag, the general director of the Saqqara archaeological site, the first tomb that was uncovered belongs to a prominent official named Ne Hesut Ba from the Old Kingdom’s Fifth Dynasty, dating to around 2400 BC. Ne Hesut Ba held the esteemed positions of head of scribes and priest of Horus and Maat.


Mohamed Youssef, the director of the Saqqara site, described the Old Kingdom tomb as a mastaba structure (a flat-roofed structure) with a painted stone facade. The names of the deceased and his wife are inscribed on the facade, along with hieroglyphic texts depicting their various titles. The walls of the tomb depict scenes of daily life, cultivation, hunting and offerings.

The second tomb belongs to a Qadish Priest named Men Kheber from the New Kingdom’s 18th Dynasty, dating to around 1400 BC.


The tomb is cut from the rock with a decorated door and lintel bearing the names of the deceased and his wife. The tomb is decorated with scenes showing the deceased in different positions before offering tables. The interior of the tomb contained a one metre alabaster statue of the tomb's owner. The statue portrays the deceased wearing a long dress and a wig, holding a lotus flower in one hand. The statue is adorned with hieroglyphic text written in blue.

Among the other findings was a collection of wooden statues depicting a man named Nesu Henu and his wife from the Fifth Dynasty, as well as an anthropoid painted coffin from the third intermediate period. 


A collection of ushabti figurines was also unearthed.

During a press conference held on Saturday at the Bubastian necropolis in Saqqara, Minister of Tourism and Antiquities Ahmed Issa highlighted the importance of the site, which houses the famous Step Pyramid of Djoser and numerous pyramids of kings and queens.


He emphasized the work carried out to develop the area as a unique tourist destination, aligns with Egypt's National Tourism Strategy. The strategy aims to increase tourism to the country by 25 to 30 percent per year, he said.

The minister expressed gratitude to the excavation mission and the Supreme Council of Antiquities for their dedicated work in preserving Egypt's heritage.


“I witnessed their hard work during my visit last month to the necropolis of the sacred animals (Bubastian) to check upon the work being achieved and met the working members of the mission who revealed this new discovery.”

“They are also responsible of discovering so much more, continuing to make headlines in local and international news over the past years. This has helped promote Egypt and one of its incredible tourist destinations.”

“I assure you that Egypt, especially the archaeological site of Saqqara, has not yet revealed all its secrets and there are many more to come,” Issa asserted.


Short link: