Egyptian archaeologists are preparing to open a huge black sarcophagus, found sealed and buried in Alexandria, Egypt.

The box is almost three meters long and two meters high. It was discovered in a long, unopened tomb during a survey of a plot of land for a building construction. The tomb likely belongs to a noble man and not a king, so although it’s unlikely to belong to Alexander the Great, it gives hope to archeologists that they can find Alexander’s tomb someday, which is rumored to also be in Alexandria.

“We are hoping this tomb may belong to one of the high dignitaries of the period,” said Ayman Ashmawy, the head of ancient Egyptian artefacts at the Egypt’s ministry of antiquities. He’s referring to Ptolemaic period, which began after the death of Alexander the Great in 323BC.

“The alabaster head is likely that of a nobleman in Alexandria. When we open the sarcophagus, we hope to find objects inside that are intact, which will help us to identify this person and their position.”

But unsealing it will require extensive work. “It’s risky to open it directly – we need to prepare,” said Ashmawy, explaining that the sarcophagus would be opened on site. “It’s difficult to move it intact and open [it] in a museum,” he said. “It’s five meters underground and the whole thing weighs over 30 tonnes. The lid alone is 15 tonnes.”

Currently, a team of engineers are preparing to visit the site to provide heavy lifting equipment and structural supports to allow archeologists to remove the sarcophagus lid. Once inside, mummification and restoration specialists will be on hand to ensure the contents, exposed for the first time in millennia, are preserved.

 

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