By Owen Jarus, Live Science Contributor | July 10, 2018 05:07pm ET  This black granite sarcophagus was found in a tomb in Alexandria, Egypt. Dating back over 2,000 years, it is the largest sarcophagus ever found in Alexandria, archaeologists believe. Credit: Courtesy Egypt Antiquities Ministry A massive black granite sarcophagus and a sculpture of a man who may be buried inside have been discovered in a tomb in Alexandria, Egypt. The granite sarcophagus looks foreboding: It’s nearly 9 feet long, 5 feet wide and 6 feet tall (2.7 by 1.5 by 1.8 meters). And, it may be the largest sarcophagus ever discovered in Alexandria, said Mostafa Waziri, general secretary of Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities, in a statement released by Egypt’s antiquities ministry. A thick layer of mortar covers much of the sarcophagus, suggesting that it has not been opened since it was buried, Waziri said in the statement. As such, the person buried in the sarcophagus, along with any clothing or jewelry they wore and any artifacts they were buried with, may still be intact, waiting to be discovered. [See Photos of Mummies Discovered at an Ancient Egyptian Cemetery] Additionally, an alabaster head of a man, which may depict the person whose remains are buried in the sarcophagus, was also found in the tomb where the sarcophagus was discovered, the statement said. This alabaster head of a man found near the sarcophagus may depict the person who was buried there. Credit: Courtesy Egypt Antiquities Ministry A team from Egypt’s antiquities ministry was inspecting an area of land in the Sidi Gaber district before construction work on a building began when the members came upon the mysterious coffin. It dates back to sometime between 304 and 30 B.C., a time after the death of Alexander the Great, when the descendants of Ptolemy I, who was one of Alexander’s generals, ruled Egypt. At this time, Alexandria — which Alexander the Great claimed to have founded (although people were living there earlier) — was the capital of Egypt. The discovery leaves archaeologists with a series of mysteries: Who is buried inside the sarcophagus? What artifacts are hiding inside? And, why is the sarcophagus so large? The sarcophagus appears not to have been opened since it was buried, archaeologists say. Credit: Courtesy Egypt Antiquities Ministry Rare opportunity While ancient tombs are often discovered in Egypt, they have often been looted, whether in ancient or modern times. Most sarcophagi are found already opened, their contents taken away and the bones of the mummies sometimes found scattered by looters. In this case, the sarcophagus appears not to have been opened yet, giving archaeologists a chance to study its contents and the person inside it. Archaeologists are being cautious with the sarcophagus. They have not opened it, and they may decide that, to prevent damage, they will use X-rays, computed tomography (CT) scans or another scientific test that will allow them to peer inside without opening the sarcophagus. Originally published on Live Science.

By Owen Jarus, Live Science Contributor | May 8, 2018 06:49pm ET Archaeologists are in the process of uncovering this carving at the tomb of a high general in Saqqara. Credit: Photo courtesy Egyptian antiquities ministry Archaeologists have discovered the sprawling, 3,300-year-old tomb of an army general named Iwrhya at the ancient Egyptian site of Saqqara. Hieroglyphic inscriptions found on the tomb walls say that Iwrhya "is a high army General, and High steward of the domain of Amun [and] High steward of the estates of Ramesses II in the domain of Amun," the Egyptian antiquities ministry announced in a statement today (May 8). Amun was an important godin Egypt (revered as the king of gods) around 3,300 years ago. Iwrhya's career started during the reign of pharaoh Seti I, who ruled Egypt from 1294 B.C. to 1279 B.C., and continued into the reign of pharaoh Ramesses II, which lasted from 1279 B.C. to 1213 B.C., the inscriptions say. [See Photos of the Tomb and Inscriptions at Saqqara] The tomb contains a number of rooms, including chapels, a forecourt and a room that excavators call the "statue room." The art found in the statue room portrays the owner's military actions and foreign relations with neighboring countries, according to the statement. These scenes include "mooring boats taking down their loads of Canaanite wine jars," the statement said. The Canaaniteslived in modern-day Israel and Palestine, and were, at times, ruled by the Egyptians. Additionally, a block "discovered in the sand [that was] probably detached from the northern wall shows quite an exceptional scene of an infantry unit and charioteers crossing a waterway with crocodiles," the statement said. Analysis of that scene suggests the crossing took place somewhere on the eastern border of Egypt, according to the statement. Excavations are ongoing, and human remains have yet to be found in the tomb. It's possible that the tomb was used to bury multiple family members, such as Iwrhya's son, Yuppa, and grandson, Hatiay — both of whom were mentioned in the inscriptions. It's also possible that Iwrhya may have been of foreign descent, according to the statement. A team led by Ola El Aguizy, a professor of Egyptology at Cairo University, discovered and excavated the tomb during the 2017-2018 field season. It is located at Saqqara to the south of a pyramid built by a pharaoh named Unas, who reigned more than 4,300 years ago. Saqqara contains a vast amount of archaeological remains that encompass thousands of years of Egyptian history. Originally published on Live Science.

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