If you’ve been paying attention to the news, you likely heard about the discovery of a 30-ton sealed granite sarcophagus in Egypt. Because the massive coffin (which measures 8.7 feet in length and 5 meters deep) dates back to a time after Alexander the Great conquered the area in 332 B.C., there was speculation that his remains were inside. There was even hysteria that opening the coffin could unleash a curse. When archaeologists opened the sarcophagus, they found evidence of neither.
What they did find is a disgusting, sloppy mess. According to a post by Egypt’s Ministry of Antiquities, the coffin was filled with sewage that appears to have leaked in via a nearby road. Egypt Today reports that the stench was so bad, the space had to be evacuated for at least an hour for the tomb to air out.
In the sludge were three skeletons. Based on a preliminary examination, Shaaban Abdel Moneim, a specialist in the study of mummies and skeletons, believes they are all male. One of the skeletons was shot in the head by an arrow. These findings led the experts to hypothesize that they were officials, possibly members of the military.
Antiquities reports that authorities have taken samples for analysis. After the sarcophagus is removed from the tomb (read below), the skeletons will be transferred to the Alexandria National Museum for restoration and addition study. Further research will be conducted to pinpoint their cause of death. As IFLScience reports, dating techniques will also be used to determine where, exactly, they fit in Alexandria’s history.
The sarcophagus is the largest-ever found in the Side Gabe district of Alexandria. A layer of mortar between the lid and sarcophagus body indicated that the coffin had never been opened. Nearby, a bust of a man is carved into alabaster. Archaeologists suspect he owned the tomb.
Removing the sarcophagus from its resting place won’t be easy. Waad Abul-Ela, head of the Projects Sector at the Ministry, told Egypt Today that the plan is to lift the 30-ton coffin in a two-part process. After filling the area around the coffin, they will lift it with a tow truck “in a scientific way that does not harm the antiquity.”
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Image Credit: EGYPTIAN ANTIQUITIES MINISTRY