Gold-Covered Mummy Was Undisturbed for 4.3K Years

It 'may be the oldest and most complete mummy found in Egypt to date'
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 27, 2023 9:37 AM CST

Since 2,300BC, a time when a few mammoths still walked the Earth, the gold-covered mummy of a man named Hekashepes lay in a limestone sarcophagus at the bottom of a shaft 50 feet deep, undisturbed by grave robbers. Egyptian archaeologists say the lid of the sarcophagus, one of several major recent finds made at a site south of Cairo, was still sealed with mortar when they found it. Inside was what they believe is the oldest non-royal mummy and the oldest mummy covered in gold leaf ever found. Hekahapes wasn't a pharoah, but "of course he was important," Dr. Zahi Hawass, director of the excavation team, tells CBS. "For someone to make a sarcophagus like this, 15 meters under the ground, he should be a very important man."

Hawass says the sarcophagus weighed around 45 tons and it took hours to remove the 5-ton lid. "I put my head inside to see what was inside the sarcophagus: a beautiful mummy of a man completely covered in layers of gold," Hawass says, per Al Jazeera. "This mummy may be the oldest and most complete mummy found in Egypt to date." Hawass and his team said Thursday that three other tombs uncovered at the burial site of Saqqara included that of Mari, a "secret keeper" who could perform important religious rituals, and that of a judge and writer called Fetek, the BBC reports.

Another tomb "was for a priest who was in charge of the pyramids complex of King Unas, the last king of the 5th Dynasty," Hawass says. The veteran archaeologist says other finds at the site include 14 statues found down a 33-foot shaft that could be even older than the tomb of Hekashepes, CBS reports. They are among the largest statues as well as the oldest ever found in the area, which was an active burial site for more than 3,000 years. (More ancient Egypt stories.)

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