A Giant Ancient Sarcophagus Was Just Found In Egypt – And No One Knows Who’s Inside

Published July 11, 2018
Updated July 24, 2018

This huge mysterious tomb hasn't been opened since it was sealed around 2,000 years ago.

Egypt Black Tomb

Egypt Ministry of AntiquitiesThe unopened sarcophagus.

For millennia, archaeologists have found extraordinary finds from the trove of ancient tombs, burials, and artifacts in Egypt.

And still, people continue to be captivated by new discoveries. The latest is a black granite sarcophagus, uncovered in the Sidi Gaber district of Alexandria.

This particular sarcophagus stands out for two reasons. The first is that it’s massive. The biggest ever found in the city, the dark coffin is about six feet tall, eight and a half feet long, and five feet wide.

The second is that a layer of mortar was found between the lid and the rest of the coffin. This indicates that it hasn’t been opened in at least 2,000 years, which is about when it was first sealed. It’s a rare find at a site that has been picked through for centuries. Alexandria specifically has grown into a bustling city, and many of its residents past and present who’ve lived among the ancient ruins have plundered much of the site.

To make things even more interesting, a large alabaster head was discovered in the same underground tomb. Experts haven’t yet confirmed it, but they believe the head is meant to represent whoever is buried in the sarcophagus.

Alabaster Head

Egypt Ministry of AntiquitiesAlabaster head found with the sarcophagus.

That touches on the next allure of the discovery: the mysteriousness nature of it. Experts are trying to figure out if they’ll be able to identify the person buried inside. They have no leads, but the giant size could indicate someone of high status. In the meantime, the tomb is under careful guard.

This most recent discovery was found by local authorities during the standard archaeological excavations that are conducted before the construction of a new building.

The site itself dates back to the Ptolemaic period, when the Greek royal family dynasty called the Ptolemies ruled between 305 B.C.E. and 30 B.C.E. The large, intact sarcophagus was uncovered 16.4 feet below the ground.

Because the Egyptian climate is so dry and rain is rare, perishable items like papyrus scrolls that are thousands of years are uniquely able to remain preserved. The sandy terrain has also preserved many ancient monuments, like the Sphinx, that would be in much worse condition if they hadn’t been buried.

Archaeologists have been examining the city of Alexandria layer by layer over the past few decades. They’ve uncovered the remains of the University of Alexandria and the Lighthouse of Alexandria built by the Ptolemies that was considered one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. They’ve also found columns, statues, and ceramics.

Additionally, rising sea levels in conjunction with changes to the flow of the Nile River mean that a large portion of the ancient city is essentially submerged in an underwater time capsule, ready to be explored.

Next take a look at these ancient Egypt facts that separate myth from truth. Then read more on the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.

Kara Goldfarb
Kara Goldfarb is a writer living in New York City who holds a Bachelor's degree in journalism from Ithaca College and hosts a podcast for Puna Press.
John Kuroski
John Kuroski is the editorial director of All That's Interesting. He graduated from New York University with a degree in history, earning a place in the Phi Alpha Theta honor society for history students. An editor at All That's Interesting since 2015, his areas of interest include modern history and true crime.
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Goldfarb, Kara. "A Giant Ancient Sarcophagus Was Just Found In Egypt – And No One Knows Who’s Inside." AllThatsInteresting.com, July 11, 2018, https://allthatsinteresting.com/egypt-sarcophagus. Accessed May 28, 2024.