Egypt revealed on Saturday a rare trove of 30 ancient wooden coffins that have been well-preserved over millennia in the archaeologically rich Valley of the Kings in Luxor.
The antiquities ministry officially unveiled the discovery made at Asasif, a necropolis on the west bank of the Nile River, at a press conference against the backdrop of the Hatshepsut Temple.
This is the first discovery in Asasif by dedicated Egyptian hands, comprised of archaeologists, conservationists and workers, head of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, Mostafa al-Waziri, told reporters.
The 30 ornately decorated coffins of men, women and children were found only a meter (three feet) underground, stacked in two rows. They are believed to belong to family members of high priests.
Waziri explained that excavations of the site in the 19th century had revealed royal tombs, but this latest discovery had yielded a collection of priests’ burials.
The sarcophagi date back to the 22nd Dynasty, founded around 3,000 years ago in the 10th century BC.
Despite their age, black, green, red and yellow paintings of snakes, birds, lotus flowers and hieroglyphics that cover the coffins are still clearly visible.
“We only did remedial first-aid on these well-preserved coffins. They are considered to be in great condition because there were hardly any settlements” around the site, local antiquities ministry restorer Saleh Abdel-Gelil told AFP.
According to Antiquities Minister Khaled el-Enany, discoveries of ancient Egyptian relics had slowed after the 2011 Arab Spring revolution that toppled long-time autocrat Hosni Mubarak and plunged the country in political turmoil.
But several high-level officials, including President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, have in recent weeks affirmed Egypt’s stability following rare, small-scale protests in September that drew a heavy-handed response from security forces.
“Some people, we don’t have to mention names, don’t want us to have these discoveries... that impress the world,” said Enany before throngs of tourists, referring to Egypt’s detractors.
“These discoveries are priceless for Egypt’s reputation,” he added.
Enany said the “important” Asasif collection will be moved to the recently opened Grand Egyptian Museum next year.
Egypt has sought to promote its archaeological heritage and recent finds in a bid to revive its vital tourism sector, which has suffered due to political insecurity and terror attacks.