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Archaeologists may have found Egypt’s oldest mummy

CAIRO, EGYPT- JANUARY 26: Egyptian archaeological workers excavating the site of the Step Pyramid of Djoser in Saqqara during the announcement of new discoveries at the Director Bridge in Saqqara, on January 26, 2023 in Giza, Egypt. (Photo by Fadel Dawod/Getty Images)

(CNN) — Archeologists have uncovered what may be the oldest mummy ever found in Egypt.

The 4,300-year-old mummy was a rich, important 35-year-old man called Djed Sepsh, archaeologist Zahi Hawass, Egypt’s former antiquities minister, told CNN Friday.

“It is the oldest mummy, complete and covered in gold, ever found in Egypt,” he said, adding that it was “the most amazing discovery.”

Hawass said he and a team of 10 assistants discovered the mummified man 20 meters (66 feet) underground at the Gisr el-Mudir enclosure, in the shadow of the ancient Step Pyramid of Djoser in the village of Saqqara.

The mummy was in a 25-tonne stone coffin — with the lid alone weighing five tonnes — in one of the shafts the team entered, according to Hawass.

He said when the team opened the lid, they found the “oldest, most beautiful mummy covered in layers of gold, with a band on the head and a bracelet on the chest, which indicates this was a rich man.”

Among the many other Old Kingdom artifacts discovered were two tombs, Hawass said, one of which dated back to the reign of King Unas during the Fifth Dynasty, between 2494 and 2487 BC.

Three statues representing one person were also found in a shaft, and nine other statues were found behind a false door.

The statues are important because they give us “knowledge for the first time about art in the Old Kingdom. It includes double statues, single statues, servant statues, all type of different statues,” the archeologist said.

Another stone coffin similar to the one with the mummified wealthy man was also unearthed and will be opened next week.

Hawass said the discovery means the cemetery was for very important people, “second after the King”.

The Step Pyramid was the first pyramid that the ancient Egyptians ever built, between 2667 and 2648 BC during the early Third Dynasty, and is the oldest known ancient Egyptian stone structure, according to the country’s Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities.

Saqqara, a vast necropolis about 32 kilometers (20 miles) south of Cairo, has been the site of many astonishing discoveries, including the funeral temple of Queen Nearit — wife of King Teti, the first king of the sixth dynasty of the Old Kingdom — in 2021.

In the same year, archeologists discovered the tomb of the chief treasurer to King Ramses II, who ruled Egypt between 1279 to 1213 BC, at the site. A large trove of ancient bronze statues and sarcophagi was also unearthed there in May last year.