The 4,300-year-old mummy was found covered in layers of gold near the Step Pyramid of Saqqara.
Egyptian archaeologists have discovered a pharaonic tomb near the capital, Cairo, containing what may be the oldest and «most complete» mummy yet to be discovered in the country.
The 4,300-year-old mummy was found at the bottom of a 15-metre (49ft) shaft in a newly discovered group of tombs dating to the Old Kingdom’s Fifth and Sixth Dynasties near the Step Pyramid of Saqqara, Zahi Hawass, the team’s principal, told reporters on Thursday.
The mummy, of a man named Hekashepes, featured «gold leaf covering» and was in a limestone sarcophagus that had been sealed with mortar.
“I stuck my head inside to see what was inside the sarcophagus: a beautiful mummy of a man completely covered in layers of gold,” Hawass said. «This mummy is perhaps the oldest and most complete mummy found in Egypt to date.»
Among the other tombs discovered, that of Khnumdjedef, inspector of civil servants, supervisor of nobles and priest during the reign of Ounas, the last pharaoh of the fifth dynasty. It was decorated with scenes of daily life.
Another tomb belonged to Meri – «keeper of secrets and assistant to the grand chief of the palace».
The priestly title of «secret keeper» was held by a high palace official conferring power and authority to perform special religious rituals.
A third tomb belonged to a priest from the pyramid complex of Pharaoh Pepi I, and the fourth to a judge and writer named Fetek, Hawass added.
Fetek’s tomb included a collection of the «largest statues» ever found in the area, said Mostafa Waziri, head of Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities.
Many statues were found among the tombs, including one representing a man and his wife and several servants.
The vast burial site of Egypt’s ancient capital, Memphis, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is home to more than a dozen pyramids, animal tombs and ancient Coptic Christian monasteries.
In a separate announcement earlier this week, a group of scientists from Cairo University revealed previously unknown details about a mummified teenager dating to around 300 BC.
Using CT scans, the team of scientists shed new light on the boy’s high social status by confirming the intricate details of the amulets inserted into his mummified body and the type of burial he received.