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Tuesday, 10 April, 2001, 13:26 GMT 14:26 UK
Gilded mummies uncovered
Shawabtis, small statues that answer questions in the afterlife
Shawabtis, or small statues, were found inside a sarcophagus
Archaeologists in Egypt have discovered some of the most lifelike mummies ever found in the Bahariya oasis, some 400km west of Cairo.


They are beautifully gilded and the designs and drawings on the sarcophagi are exceptional

Antiquities director Zahi Hawass
The 22 mummies, dating back to the 6th century BC, were unearthed in what has become known as the Valley of the Golden Mummies.

Antiquities officials believe they have unearthed the body of the son of the Pharaonic-era governor in a stone sarcophagus.

Gold coins and wine jars were also found in the tombs. The coins are believed to be bribes for the ferryman in the afterlife.

'Beautifully gilded'

Cairo and Giza antiquities director Zahi Hawass said the mummies were "beautifully gilded" and the designs and drawings on the sarcophagi were "exceptional".

Stone sarcophagus in the Valley of the Golden Mummies
The mummies were unearthed in the Valley of the Golden Mummies
They were the latest findings to be made in a sleepy oasis which shot to international prominence when Egyptian officials announced the discovery of a vast burial ground full of mummies.

More than 200 mummies were found during an excavation in a huge cemetery in the Western Desert in 1999.

Some of them wore golden masks with designs of ancient Egyptian divinities on their chests.

Excavations

Others were coated in plaster or covered with linen and some lay in terracotta sarcophagi bearing representations of the human head.

Archaeologists are continuing to work in the Valley of the Golden Mummies, where they believe as many as 10,000 bodies from the Greco-Roman period may be buried.

Last year, archaeologists uncovered the body of a powerful local governor, Gad Khensu Eyuf Ankh, who ruled the oasis of Bahariya in the Western Desert during the rule of the Pharaoh Apris in the 7th Century BC.

The officials in charge of the excavations in Bahariya said archaeologists had been searching for the tomb for decades and had stumbled on it by chance.

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See also:

24 May 00 | Sci/Tech
Mayor's mummy found
14 Jun 99 | Middle East
Golden mummies discovered
01 Apr 00 | Middle East
Mummies yield medical secrets
28 Mar 00 | Middle East
Egypt's treasures in danger
17 Feb 00 | Middle East
Ancient sarcophagus discovered
14 Oct 99 | Middle East
Egypt unearths world's oldest stables
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