Beyond the wonders of the hundred or so coffins that were found there in 2020, archaeologists were able to dig deeper at the start of 2021 and discover the funerary temple of King Teti's wife, Queen Nearit. And that's not even the start of it.
Could we be seeing a new chapter in Ancient Egypt's royal history written before our eyes? That seems to be what's happening right now in Saqqara, near the Pyramids of King Teti, the first Pharaoh of the Old Kingdom's Sixth Dynasty. Beyond the wonders of the hundred or so coffins that were found there in 2020, archaeologists were able to dig deeper at the start of 2021 and discover the funerary temple of King Teti's wife, Queen Nearit.
Headed by Zahi Hawass in cooperation with Bibliotheca Alexandrina and the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities, the dig has unveiled not just the temple of Queen Nearit, but a wide tomb fit for royalty, including three mudbrick warehouses full of offerings, provisions and tools used in the temple's construction. The dig also found 52 burial shafts, 10 to 12 metres deep, with coffins dating back to the New Kingdom - the first of their kind to be found in Saqqara, numbering in the hundreds, each less than 2,500 years old. While the coffins found last year were from the Old Kingdom, the presence of these New Kingdom coffins is unprecedented in Saqqara.
It's more than just tombs and coffins. There's just - SO MUCH STUFF found during the dig. A chapter of the Book of the Dead, statues of gods like Osiris, a wooden funerary mask dedicated to Anubis, ancient board games for the dead to play against one another in the afterlife, a bronze ax that showed that its owner led an army when he was alive. There's just so much you can tell about these people's lives, and that's not even all of it (did we mention all the pottery that shows there was commerce between Egypt and Crete, Palestine and Syria? Or the bones that showed exactly how someone died of a specific disease?).
Zahi Hawass already called this the most important discovery of 2021, and while we'd normally say it's too early to make claims like that, the sheer depth and breadth of this site is too much to handle. It has found not just the final resting place of a lost queen, but an entire era of burials that was never before seen in Saqqara. How many more secrets is Saqqara hiding? Only time will tell.