Dozens of cat mummies and a rare collection of mummified scarab beetles have been discovered in seven sarcophagi, some dating back more than 6,000 years, at a site on the edge of the pyramid complex in Saqqara, south of Cairo.
Antiquities Minister Khaled el-Enany said the discovery was made by an Egyptian archaeological mission during excavation work started in April.
Three of the tombs had been used for cats, he said, while one of four other sarcophagi discovered at the site was unopened.
The tomb dates from the Fifth Dynasty of the Old Kingdom and is unusual because the facade and door are intact, meaning its contents may still be untouched, said Mohamed Youssef, director of the Saqqara area. He said experts plan to explore it in the coming weeks.
Mostafa Waziri, head of Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities, said the mission had also unearthed the first mummies of scarabs to be found in the area.
Two such mummies were found inside a rectangular limestone sarcophagus with a vaulted lid decorated with three scarabs painted in black, he said.
Another collection of scarab mummies was found inside a smaller sarcophagus.
“The [mummified] scarab is something really unique. It is something really a bit rare,” Waziri said.
“A couple of days ago, when we discovered those coffins, they were sealed coffins with drawings of scarabs. I never heard about them before.”
Among the dozens of cat mummies unearthed were 100 wooden, gilded statues of cats and one in bronze dedicated to the cat goddess Bastet.
Cats held a special place in ancient Egypt and were mummified as religious offerings.
A collection of wooden, gilded statues of a lion, a cow and a falcon was also unearthed at the Saqqara site.
The antiquities department also found painted wooden cobra and crocodile sarcophagi, a collection of gilded statues depicting animal features, as well as objects including amulets, canopic jars, writing tools and papyri baskets.
Agence France-Presse and Reuters