Tomb of Unknown Queen unearthed at Saqqara

On the 100-year anniversary of unearthing King Tutankhamun’s tomb, archaeologists discover hundreds of tombs and mummies buried in Saqqara. Egyptian archaeologists rewrite history with the discovery of a tomb of a previously unknown queen.

The New Kingdom Tomb of Queen Neith, along with a cache of 300 coffins and 100 mummies, was unearthed at the ancient necropolis of Saqqara.

The latest finds from a team of archaeologists working at the ancient necropolis of Saqqara include the tomb of a previously unknown Egyptian queen as well as a new trove of 300 coffins, over 100 mummies, and other antiquities.

Tomb of Unknown Queen unearthed at Saqqara
Tomb of Unknown Queen unearthed at Saqqara

The discoveries were made not far from Cairo, and follow the recent unearthing of objects relating to king Teti and the sarcophagus of King Ramesses II’s treasurer. Earlier this year, the Egyptian authorities also announced that a tomb of a royal dignitary had been found at the site.

For the past two years, archaeologists have been working at Saqqara, an archaeological site in Giza, about 20 miles (32 kilometers) south of Cairo. The latest cache of mummies likely contains the remains of Tutankhamun’s generals and advisors. Even more intriguing is a pyramid that experts now believe was dedicated to an ancient queen who is being identified for the first time.

“We have since discovered that her name was Neith, and she had never before been known from the historical record,” Egyptologist Zahi Hawass, the nation’s former minister of antiquities, told Live Science. “It is amazing to literally rewrite what we know of history, adding a new queen to our records.”

Egyptologist Zahi Hawass and one of the mummies discovered at Saqqara, a dig site outside of Cairo. Photo courtesy of Zahi Hawass.

Excavations also uncovered a series of 22 interconnected tunnels. Unlike earlier discoveries at Saqqara, the majority of which date to the Old Kingdom or the Late Period, Hawass believes these are New Kingdom burials, from 1570 BC and 1069 BC.

“Burials from the New Kingdom were not known to be common in the area before, so this is entirely unique to the site,” Hawass added. “The coffins have individual faces, each one unique, distinguishing between men and women, and are decorated with scenes from the Book of the Dead. Each coffin also has the name of the deceased and often shows the Four Sons of Horus, who protected the organs of the deceased.”

“This shows that mummification reached its peak in the New Kingdom,” Hawass said. “Some coffins have two lids, and the most amazing coffin so far has a mask of a woman made completely of solid gold.”

He added, “Inside the coffins and tomb shafts are also various artifacts, including games such as the ancient game of Senet, shabtis [small figurines], statues of the god Ptah-Sokar and even a metal axe found in the hand of an army soldier.” In addition, researchers found a pyramid commemorating a queen whose identity was previously unknown.

The dig at Saqqara has been underway since 2020, yielding a wealth of new finds. The most recent include a mummy of a woman with a solid gold mask, gaming pieces for the ancient game of Senet, a massive limestone sarcophagus, and a soldier buried with a metal axe in his hand.

The nation plans to display some of these artifacts at the forthcoming Grand Egyptian Museum, slated to finally open next year in Giza.