Ancient Egyptian Sarcophagus of High Priest Opened by Discovery Explorers Live on TV

The sarcophagus of a 2,500-year-old Ancient Egyptian high priest has been opened on live TV by experts working with the Discovery Channel. The mummy was found alongside a "mysterious wax head," which is believed to be an exact cast of the priest, the network said. Its features were so detailed "he could have easily been picked out on the street," a statement from Discovery said.

Expedition Unknown: Egypt Live aired on April 7 at 8 p.m. ET on Discovery. It was the first time an ancient Egyptian sarcophagus had been opened during a live broadcast. The program was hosted by Chris Jacobs and explorer Josh Gates. They were joined by egyptologist Dr. Zahi Hawass and Mostafa Waziri, the secretary-general of Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities.

The tomb explored is located at the archaeological site of Al-Ghorifa, about 165 miles south of Cairo. The burial site was discovered in the 1920s when an antiquities inspector came across a sarcophagus of a high priest. The necropolis was found to be a large complex of chambers, tunnels and tombs that have been undisturbed for thousands of years.

Ancient Egypt Sarcophagus
The sarcophagus of the high priest. Discovery Communications, LLC

During the two hour program, the team took viewers through the burial site and into the inner chambers. As well as the high priest tomb, the team also found two other mummies—one of which was found inside the 'Family Tomb,' a room where an entire family and their dog would have been laid to rest. Inside this tomb, the team also found jars that had been used to store a mummy's organs.

The remains of the second mummy found at the site. This person would have been a singer in a temple dedicated to the god Thoth. Discovery Communications, LLC

Inscriptions on the sarcophagus revealed this mummy was once a singer in the temple of the ancient Egyptian deity Thoth—the god of writing, knowledge and the moon who was often depicted with the head of a baboon or ibis.

After visiting the Family Tomb, the team went to the sarcophagus of the high priest. This person would have been a "Great of the Five Priest of Thoth" and his coffin was decorated with artifacts and gold banding.

The high priest mummy. Discovery Communications, LLC
The wax head of the high priest. Discovery Communications, LLC

"Nineteen years ago, we opened the Valley of the Golden Mummies live on television. And now, almost 20 years later, Dr. Hawass called with another discovery of that magnitude that deserved another live broadcast. We're thrilled to be part of these two epic events here in Egypt," Leslie Greif, executive producer on Expedition Unknown, said in a statement.

"This has been such an amazing experience," Gates said. "There aren't many people who can say they've gone down into unexplored ancient tombs—especially with a living legend like Dr. Hawass. We were able to document spectacular artifacts and mummies and bring viewers along in real time. It was the thrill of a lifetime."

Hawass added: "Never in my 50 years in archaeology have I experienced something on such a grand scale as this. The findings here are completely special and totally unique. This is what keeps me going. It is what keeps me feeling young and alive."