Mummies of cats, scarabs found in newly discovered Egyptian tombs

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Egyptian archaeologists are preparing to open an apparently untouched Fifth Dynasty tomb at the edge of the King Userkaf pyramid complex south of Cairo, officials said Saturday.
The necropolis was built between 2,500 and 2,350 years BC, not long after the Great Pyramid of Giza.

The facade and the sealed entrance of the chamber are intact, said Mohamed Youssef, director of the Saqqara research area.

While investigating the area, archaeologists also discovered seven other previously unknown tombs with sarcophagi containing dozens of mummies of cats and around 100 wooden cat statues, alongside one in bronze dedicated to cat goddess Bastet. The researchers also found a collection of mummified scarab beetles.

"The scarab is something really unique," said Mostafa Waziri from Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities.

"A couple of days ago, when we discovered those coffins, they were sealed coffins with drawings of scarabs," he added. "I had never heard about them before."

Read more: Tomb of Egyptian priestess uncovered near Giza pyramids

One of the sarcophagi belonged to Khufu-Imhat, overseer of the buildings in the royal palace, according to Egyptian officials.

Spared by grave robbers

Ancient Egyptians mummified human bodies to preserve them for the afterlife, while also preserving the bodies of pets and wild animals for companionship or protection. Both scarabs and cats were powerful religious symbols in the ancient Egyptian religion.

While many wealthy Egyptians were laid to rest in lavish burial chambers throughout the nation's history, most of the tombs were later raided by grave robbers. This makes pristine tombs, like the one discovered in Saqqara, very rare.

Researchers are set to open the tomb in the coming weeks, Youssef said.

The freshly discovered tombs lie in a buried ridge which might offer many more similar discoveries, Egyptian officials said.

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dj/jm (Reuters, AP)

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