Ancient Egypt: Eight Mummies Discovered in Ornately Decorated Sarcophagi

An ancient sarcophagus unearthed by archaeologists in Egypt. Egypt Ministry of Antiquities

Archaeologists in Egypt have uncovered eight intricately decorated ancient coffins buried in a sprawling necropolis of pyramids south of Cairo.

Egypt's Ministry for Antiquities announced the macabre haul —discovered near the pyramid of King Amenemhat II in the Dahshur Necropolis—on Facebook Wednesday.

All eight of the limestone sarcophagi are have an outer layer of cartonnage—papyrus or linen covered in plaster—decorated with a painted human form. Three of these are well-preserved, the Ministry stated. Images show one sarcophagus painted with deep ochre and blue.

At more than 2,000 years old, the mummies hail from ancient Egypt's Late Period (664 B.C.E. to 332 B.C.E).

The Dahshur Necropolis, which sits about 25 miles south of Cairo, is home to a number of important pyramids. Although the recently-uncovered mummies are relatively young—in ancient Egyptian terms—the first Dahshur pyramid was built around 2600 B.C.E, during the reign of King Sneferu.

Sneferu's lopsided Bent Pyramid—an evolution from earlier step pyramids—was built with smooth edges. The sloping top section walls built at a different angle to the base because of a miscalculation, Encyclopaedia Britannica reported.

The second Sneferu-era pyramid, the North Pyramid (also known as the Red pyramid), was far more successful in design. The first true pyramid of ancient Egypt, it was built during the time of the Old Kingdom (2575 B.C.E. to 2130 B.C.E.).

As well as pyramids linked to Amenemhat II and Sneferu, Dahshur is home to the Black Pyramid and the pyramid of King Senusret III. Although the Black Pyramid—built during the Middle Kingdom (2055 B.C.E. to 1650 B.C.E.) reign of Amenemhat III—is poorly preserved, it remains a large and imposing structure.

Lavish hordes of jewels and other important artifacts have previously been discovered in royal tombs at Dahshur.

Egypt's Ministry of Antiquities has shared lots of archaeological news in recent months as part of an attempt to woo visitors back to the country. Tourist numbers dropped after the Egyptian Revolution of 2011 and the political unrest that followed.

The Ministry has recently shared the discovery of the remains of a heavily pregnant woman buried in a tomb some 3,500 years old. Previous announcements include the discoveries of a sphinx statue, an ancient village about two thousand years older than the Pyramids of Giza and some 800 tombs recently uncovered in an ancient gravesite.

Outside of Egypt, archaeologists have recently discovered the remains of an ancient sacrificial llama in Peru and a medieval board game secreted in a hidden chamber of a castle in what is now Russia.