CAIRO: Millions of viewers around the world watched on live TV on Monday as a team of Egyptian archaeologists opened a 2,500-year-old tomb containing the mummified remains of a high priest and two other mummies. The historic event was shown as it happened on “Expedition Unknown: Egypt Live,” which was broadcast simultaneously on the Discovery Channel, Travel Channel and Science Channel.
“The adventure in archaeology makes me totally forget the pain,” said renowned Egyptian archaeologist Zahi Hawass as he walked through tunnels at Al-Ghorifa in Middle Egypt, about 165 miles south of Cairo, to the sarcophagus, which is part of a large complex of chambers, tunnels and tombs. He was accompanied by Josh Gates, the host of “Expedition Unknown.”
“The tomb is of great importance for two reasons, as it wasn’t opened before and it is for a full ancient Egyptian family,” Hawass said.
In addition to the remains of the high priest, viewers watched as two other mummies were discovered, those of a man and a woman. The remains of the man, who is thought to have been a singer in a temple of an Egyptian god known as Thoth, were found in a family tomb. In addition to the large sarcophagus for the father, it contained the remains of his wife and three children. There was also a sixth skeleton, belonging to another family member.
“This tomb shows the strength of the bond between the family members in ancient Egyptian civilization,” said Hawass.
The archaeologists also found the skeleton of a dog in the family tomb which, Hawass said, reflected the tradition of ancient Egyptians burying their pets with them. King Amenhotep, he noted, built two tombs just for his pets.
Colorful canopic jars, used by the ancient Egyptians during the mummification process to store and preserve the internal organs of their owners, were also found in the family tomb The team also found a Senet, a board game the rules of which are the subject of conjecture.
“Tell your children that you touched an ancient game, dating back to 2,500 B.C,” Hawass told Gates.
TV presenter Chris Jacobs and Dr. Mostafa Waziri, secretary-general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities of Egypt, provided commentary during the live broadcast.
Waziri was particularly excited about the discovery of a mysterious wax mask which is thought to have been cast from the high priest.
“We have been excavating at this site for about a year and a half; however, this is the first time we have found a wax mask,” he said.
There were plenty of reactions on social media to the discoveries.
“Tweets show that numerous people around the world are eagerly following the discovery, and how Egyptian civilization has great treasures and history,” said Waziri.
Archaeologist Sarah Ahmed noted that the high priest enjoyed a special status, as clearly reflected by his tomb.
“The sarcophagus is for a priest described as ‘The Great of Five’ and he was the priest for Nit (goddess of weaving, war, and hunting) and the major goddess Hathor,” she added.
“The eye-catching wrapped body was covered with gold from the feet to the chest. Among the golden objects, there were ones depicting the goddess Isis and the four children of god Horus.
“Inside the tomb, interesting secrets were revealed. The place included a jar with mummification materials, a fact that proves that the priest was mummified privately.”
Sierra Kristen, a student, wrote on Twitter: “Watching Expedition Unknown program with my family made us all excited to see what is found and learn more about Egypt.”