Archaeologists continue to uncover the "subterranean world" below the famous Egyptian city of Saqqara, which houses not only the Pyramid of Djoser, thought to be the oldest, but also a giant graveyard, according to the Channel 5 series "Egypt's Great Treasures". Its host Bettany Hughes branded the site "an Egyptian City of the Dead" and "an archaeological treasure trove." According to her, beneath the site, there are "thousands, possibly millions, of mummified bodies".
She likewise noted that some of the finds that have already been made are hard to explain.
"All these mummies are remarkable enough, but archaeologists have also discovered something else. There aren't just humans hidden here, but animals, too, in numbers that beggar belief. Eight million mummified dogs in one mass grave, four million ibis birds in another," she noted, adding that there are also cats, baboons, crocodiles, fish and others.
The site was discovered in 1850 by Auguste Mariette, who spotted the head of a sphinx amid desert dunes, tracked a series of tunnels and found one enormous undisturbed tomb, made of solid granite and weighing around 90 tonnes. A bizarre discovery awaited them when they blew up a mysterious coffin and found a massive mummified bull.
"They realised that the ancient Egyptians had built these huge coffins and this entire site has an underground cemetery for enormous, prized bulls," she explained.
Apart from historians, the site is also a tourist magnet. Earlier this August, the country's Ministry of Antiquities and the Ministry of Housing signed a protocol to preserve Egypt's archaeological and cultural heritage, and develop services in the Saqqara Archeological Area.