Vividly painted wooden coffins housing an anthology of pharaonic-era mummies were uncovered near the Lahun pyramid in Egypt, the director of the excavation said on Sunday.
The mud-brick Lahun pyramid is believed to be constructed by the pharaoh Senusret II in the 12th dynasty, who reigned 4,000 years ago. According to Reuters, the mummies are the first to be discovered beneath the sand surrounding the pyramid in the depths of the desert rock, but the excavation team anticipates more findings very soon.
This is not the first time for the site to be excavated, as archaeologists searched for artifacts there more than a century ago.
“The tombs were cut on the rock itself, and they vary in architectural designs,” said archaeologist Abdul Rahman Al-Ayedi, head of excavations at the site. “Most of the mummies we discovered were with these bright and beautiful colors.”
Coffins decorated with bright hues of green, red and white bearing images of their occupants were unearthed at the site.
Ayedi believes a new understanding of Egyptian funerary architecture and customs of the Middle Pharaonic Kingdom all the way to the Roman era could be learned from the exploration of the dozens of tombs encompassing the site near Fayoum, 35 miles south of Cairo.
The archaeologists unearthed dozens of mummies, thirty of which were very well-preserved with prayers purposed to help the deceased in the afterlife inscribed upon them. Some of the tombs were erected on top of gravesites from earlier eras.
Egypt may soon publicize an additional Lahun pyramid finding of importance, Ayedi said. The site, once enveloped in slabs of white limestone, revealed that it could possibly be thousands of years older than previously thought.
Ayedi told reporters, “The prevailing idea was that this site has been established by Senusret II, the fourth king of the 12th dynasty. But in light of our discovery, I think we are going to change this theory, and soon we will announce another discovery.”
He said teams had made a discovery of an artifact that was dated earlier than the 12th dynasty, but did not include any specifics on the item and promised an official statement would be made within days.
Ayedi’s ambition in excavating at Lahun, Egypt’s southernmost pyramid, is to uncover more than what was discovered at the first excavation in the 19th century. He believes the results of that expedition do not match the significance of the site.
“The size of the site is huge. So I thought that we could unearth a lot of elements in this site. At the beginning of the excavation, I thought that we may rewrite the history of the area, and I was right,” he announced.
Down a 16-meter well, the archaeologists discovered the main entrance to the pyramid just last year. Later, they found storage jars and other various objects, and in recent months, they uncovered the mummies in the surrounding desert rock.
This year has brought many significant discoveries in Egypt, whose economy is supported heavily on tourism. In February, an uncommon find of an intact mummy sealed in a sarcophagus was unearthed at the world’s oldest standing step pyramid at Saqqara, near Cairo.
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