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Mummy count continues to grow at ancient Egypt burial site

A close-up showing one of the mummy filled coffins. The colors are remarkably well preserved despite the passage of over 2,000 years of time.
A close-up showing one of the mummy filled coffins. The colors are remarkably well preserved despite the passage of over 2,000 years of time.
(Image: © Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities)

The number of mummy-filled coffins found in a series of burial shafts at Saqqara in Egypt keeps growing, archaeologists with the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities reported. 

At the start of September, the team had found 13 coffins with mummies inside. By the beginning of October, that number had risen to 59, and now the number is over 100, archaeologists reported in a statement issued Saturday (Nov. 14). 

People are "asking how many coffins did we find. The answer is I don't know yet," said Mustafa Waziri, the secretary general of Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities, in a video released by the ministry and the Smithsonian Channel, which is filming the excavations. 

Related: Image gallery: Mummy evisceration techniques

Inside the burial shafts, the team also found 40 statues depicting the deity "Ptah-Soker," the ministry said. This deity is an amalgamation of "Ptah," who was the god of Memphis, and "Soker," who was the god of Saqqara. Archaeologists also found 20 wooden boxes showing depictions of Horus — an Egyptian sky god with a falcon head. Additionally, two wooden statues are inscribed with the name "Phnomus," though the researchers are still trying to figure out who that person was in antiquity.

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Two wooden statues (one shown here) that inscriptions say depict a man named "Phnomus" were found at Saqqara.

Two wooden statues (one shown here) that inscriptions say depict a man named "Phnomus" were found at Saqqara. (Image credit: Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities)
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Here, one of the mummy-filled coffins found within the burial shafts. In Egypt tombs were robbed in both ancient and modern times and it's rare to find so many coffins and artifacts not robbed.

Here, one of the mummy-filled coffins found within the burial shafts. In Egypt tombs were robbed in both ancient and modern times and it's rare to find so many coffins and artifacts not robbed. (Image credit: Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities)
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More than 100 mummy-filled coffins have been discovered so far at the Saqqara site.

More than 100 mummy-filled coffins have been discovered so far at the Saqqara site. (Image credit: Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities)
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A close-up showing one of the mummy filled coffins. The colors are remarkably well preserved despite the passage of over 2,000 years of time.

A close-up showing one of the mummy filled coffins. The colors are remarkably well preserved despite the passage of over 2,000 years of time. (Image credit: Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities)
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Some of the artifacts found with the mummy-filled coffins at Saqqara are in the process of being cleaned, conserved and analyzed.

Some of the artifacts found with the mummy-filled coffins at Saqqara are in the process of being cleaned, conserved and analyzed. (Image credit: Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities)
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Numerous small statues have been discovered at the burial site. They include 40 statues of the god "Ptah-Soker," examples of which are seen here.

Numerous small statues have been discovered at the burial site. They include 40 statues of the god "Ptah-Soker," examples of which are seen here. (Image credit: Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities)

Numerous shabti figurines were also found. Ancient Egyptians believed that shabtis acted as servants for the deceased in the afterlife. 

The various finds date back between roughly 712 B.C. and 30 B.C., according to the ministry statement. During this time period, ancient Egypt was occupied and controlled by foreign groups such as the Assyrians, Persians and Greeks. At times, Egypt would regain its independence only to lose it to another foreign power. Excavations continue at the site, and the archaeologists expect to find more coffins filled with mummies and other artifacts, said Khaled El-Enany, Egypt's antiquities minister. 

The Smithsonian Channel is filming a documentary called "Tomb Hunters" and released a statement claiming that some of the artifacts date back 4,500 years — to around the time when the Giza Pyramids were being built. The antiquities ministry statement has not confirmed this claim.

Originally published on Live Science.