When the archaeologists opened the tomb of high priest Imhotep in the 1932 classic film The Mummy, they didn’t drop over and die. Their faces didn’t melt off like they did in Raiders of the Lost Arc. The curse of the Scroll of Thoth followed ten years later. Mostafa Waziry and his team of mummification and restoration specialists opened the black, granite casket they found in Alexandria, Egypt, last week.
“The sarcophagus has been opened, but we have not been hit by a curse,” Waziry, the head of Egypt’s Supreme Council for Antiquities, announced, according to the BBC. “We’ve opened it and, thank God, the world has not fallen into darkness. I was the first to put my whole head inside the sarcophagus… and here I stand before you … I am fine.”
Fine, except for the sewage.
The 30-ton black granite sarcophagus, which dated to a time after Alexander the Great conquered the area in 332 B.C., contained three mummies, which decomposed after sewage water “leaked through the grove in this area,” Dr. Mostafa Ministers, Secretary-General of the high council of Antiquities, said on the Ministry of Antiquities Facebook page.
Shaaban Abdul, who specializes “in the study of mummies and skeletons, confirmed that the initial preview of bone structures suggests that they are most likely to belong to three officers or military soldiers, where one of the skeletons found a blow to the arrow,” the Facebook post adds.
The red liquid appears to have entered the sarcophagus through a crack on its right side. Analysis of the skeletal remains is ongoing. Some observers believed it could contain the corpse of Alexander the Great. The line of pharaohs who ruled after Alexander the Great’s death in 323 B.C. stretched to Cleopatra VII, who killed herself in 30 B.C., when the Roman Empire took over Egypt. It is believed the people buried in the tomb may have died in battle. The exact age of the skeletons is unclear. Any objects buried with the skeletons could have been destroyed by the sewage.
The sarcophagus was discovered in the Sidi Gaber district of Alexandria. Archaeologists were inspecting the site before construction took place. It is the largest found in Alexandria, measuring nearly 9 feet long, 5 feet wide and 6 feet tall. It was found covered in a thick layer of mortar. So far no inscriptions or works of art have been found on the outside or inside of the sarcophagus. An alabaster head of a man was found near the sarcophagus when it was discovered but no other relics have been found.
The mysteries of ancient Egypt are coming clear in the country and beyond. A 2,200-year-old gold coin with a depiction of the King Ptolemy III, was recently unearthed. A statue of a Nubian king with an inscription written in Egyptian hieroglyphics was found at a Nile River temple in Sudan. An artifact depicting the female pharaoh Hatshepsut surfaced in the U.K. A marble head depicting the Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius was found in Southern Egypt. Tattered remains of an ancient priestess were found in a 2,500-year-old Egyptian coffin long thought to be empty, was found in Australia. The oldest tattooed female Egyptian mummy was discovered in the U.K. More than 40 mummies and a necklace containing a “message from the afterlife” was found in an ancient cemetery in Egypt.
The sarcophagus was transferred to Alexandria National Museum for conservation and further study.
Culture Editor Tony Sokol cut his teeth on the wire services and also wrote and produced New York City’s Vampyr Theatre and the rock opera AssassiNation: We Killed JFK. Read more of his work here or find him on Twitter @tsokol.
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