From one of 250 wooden sarcophagi uncovered last year at Egypt's famed necropolis of Saqqara comes the first complete papyrus scroll discovered in a century. And it's a long one. The scroll containing sections of the Book of the Dead stretches 52 feet long, per Live Science. The scroll, described by Mostafa Waziri, secretary-general of Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities, has been dubbed the "Waziri papyrus," per Ars Technica. It's believed to be at least 2,300 years old. It was found inside a coffin in a tomb near the Step Pyramid of Djoser, the first of the Egyptian pyramids and the central feature of a mortuary complex.
The tomb dates to the Late Period, between 712BC and 332BC, Zahi Hawass, the former Egyptian minster of antiquities, tells Live Science, adding that more precise dates and information on the owner will be shared at a later date. It was royals and later elites who typically enlisted scribes to craft the funerary texts, Ars Technica reports. Sections of the Book of the Dead were first written on walls of tombs or painted onto objects before landing on the inside of coffins or on linen shrouds. They were commonly written on papyrus by around 1475BC, according to the outlet.
There are 192 known spells that make up the book, though no example contains them all. Spells were usually chosen based on a deceased person's afterlife needs. The resulting scrolls could range from just a few feet long up to 130 feet long, per Ars Technica, which notes "such finds are increasingly rare." A release suggests this papyrus, recovered from inside one of five tombs discovered last March, was translated from Egyptian hieratic—or abridged hieroglyphics used by priests—into hieroglyphs and then into Arabic. It will be presented at the opening of the Grand Egyptian Museum in Cairo later this year. (Read more discoveries stories.)