Archaeologists at Saqqara have discovered two of the most extensive mummification workshops ever used for human and animal corpses in ancient Egypt.
The recent finds at Saqqara are fascinating and essential for understanding ancient Egyptian culture and religion.
“Today, we announce the discovery of the two biggest mummification workshops for humans and animals at the Saqqara Necropolis. This workshop is the one used for humans, including the beds on which the bodies were washed.” Mostafa Waziri, the secretary-general of Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities.
They also discovered two tombs (from different dynasties), an anthropoid coffin, and a significant collection of artifacts.
Saqqara, Egypt's most important archaeological site
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.
Saqqara was ancient Egypt's first capital and a 5,000-year-old burial ground active from the Archaic period to Roman-Greco times.
The mummification workshops were discovered near the Bubasteion, the goddess Bastet's sanctuary, associated with cats and protection.
Animal cults such as the Serapeum (Apis bull cult) and the Bubasteion were prominent in Saqqara.
Embalming and mummification
Both mummification workshops contained stone beds, canopic jars, ritual vessels, and tools used for embalming.
The embalming workshop for humans contained various rooms with plastered stone beds for mummifying the deceased and gutters along the sides.
The other workshop contained a collection of pots, bronze tools, and animal burials.
Initial studies suggest this workshop was used to mummify sacred animals.
One of the tombs belongs to Ne Hesut Ba, a High priest from the Old Kingdom's Fifth Dynasty, whose titles included head of scribes and priest of Horus and Maat.
The tomb is 4,400 years old and dates back to the fifth dynasty.
The second tomb belongs to Men Kheber, a priest from the 18th Dynasty. A large alabaster statue of the deceased was discovered inside the tomb. He wears a long dress, a wig and holds a lotus flower - a symbol of rebirth.
Mummification at Saqqara supported international trade networks connecting Egypt with the eastern Mediterranean, Asia, and possibly African rainforests.
Most of the substances used at the Saqqara workshop were imported—many of them from a considerable distance.
The embalming and funerary services at the Saqqara workshops kept the demand for materials active.
Rituals, beliefs, and practices of ancient Egyptians
These discoveries are important because they reveal new information about the mummification techniques, rituals, beliefs, and practices of the ancient Egyptians.
Saqqara was a pilgrimage site for everyday Egyptians.
The discovery of Saqqara's mummification workshops shows ancient Egypt's diverse funerary culture and reverence for humans and animals in the afterlife.
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*Photos by author
*Second and third photos from Ahram Online