World News

Inside Egypt’s Mysterious Sarcophagus: Mummies, Curse-Free So Far

Posted July 19, 2018 7:48 p.m. EDT

When a black granite sarcophagus was found at the bottom of a pit in Alexandria, Egypt, this past week, the discovery immediately prompted questions and theories ranging from the sensible to the supernatural.

Images of the 30-ton stone vessel — dating back some 2,000 years — were striking. And people were curious: Who, or what, was inside? Some suggested it could contain the remains of a nobleman, or even Alexander the Great.

The answer was decidedly less exciting when the sarcophagus was opened Thursday. Inside were three skeletons floating in foul-smelling sewage that had leaked into the vessel from the road above through a small crack in the sarcophagus, according to Egypt’s Ministry of Antiquities.

“Unfortunately the mummies inside were not in the best condition, and only the bones remain,” Mostafa Waziri, secretary-general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, told reporters at the site, according to Reuters.

Waziri was also quick to dispel the notion that opening the sarcophagus might unleash a curse, a rumor that spread quickly online when the sarcophagus was discovered.

“We’ve opened it and, thank God, the world has not fallen into darkness,” Waziri said. “I was the first to put my whole head inside the sarcophagus, and here I stand before you. I am fine.”

Shaaban Abdel Moneim, an expert on mummies, said in a statement released by the Ministry of Antiquities, that the preliminary examination of the skeletons indicated they most likely were the remains of three military officers.

One skeleton appears to show signs the skull was punctured by an arrow.

The skeletons and sarcophagus are being transferred to the Alexandria National Museum, where experts will try to determine the cause of death and the approximate age of the skeletons.

Egypt’s Ministry of Antiquities has excavated 10 other sealed sarcophagi in Minya, south of Cairo, this year.