Archaeologists in Luxor have found an exquisitely decorated, millennia-old sarcophagus near the pharaonic temple of Thutmose III that still contains the remains of its ancient owner. The discovery is the most recent to emerge from the Spanish Thutmosis III Temple Project excavation, which since 2008 has explored the 18th Dynasty pharaoh’s funerary complex, situated along the west bank of the Nile. But the sarcophagus likely dates to the early dynasties of the Third Intermediate Period (1070–712 BCE) and has no immediate connection to Thutmose III, who reigned between 1479 and 1425 BCE.
Archaeologists are now starting to piece together the history of the coffin’s permanent resident. Although termites had eaten away at parts of the slim, wooden container, as the team’s head, Myriam Seco Alvarez, told El Mundo, the surface still retains a rich array of hieroglyphs that offer clues. Sarcophagi are much more than simple containers for the departed, and the pictorial script on this one records that it belonged to a man named Amenrenef, who once served as a royal court advisor. The images, whose bright pigments have been preserved after all this time, also depict religious figures such as the ancient goddesses Isis and Nephtys and the four sons of Horus.
The archeologists have since removed the sarcophagus from its tomb and brought it to a lab, where it will undergo restoration. The team also plans to carry out X-ray examinations to determine the exact state of the remains inside.