Science & Tech

Archaeologists met with horrifying request after opening up 2000-year-old sarcophagus

Archaeologists met with horrifying request after opening up 2000-year-old sarcophagus
Mystery over contents of six foot tall ancient Egyptian sarcophagus discovered in …

Anyone who opens up a sarcophagus doesn’t expect to be greeted by the most palatable of sights.

And yet, members of the public were chomping at the bit to get a taste of what lurked inside one ancient coffin.

And no, this isn’t one of those cases where the dead were buried with pots of sweets and other delicacies.

It involves what you’d most likely expect to see in such a place: human remains.

This story begins in the Sidi Gaber district of Alexandria, Egypt, back in July 2018, where a mysterious black granite sarcophagus was found.

The two-metre (6.5 feet)-high coffin was discovered in a 27,000 kg (30 ton) tomb that was buried five metres (16 feet) beneath the city.

Hailed as the largest ever sarcophagus discovered in Alexandria, it was chanced upon by archaeologists from the Ministry of Antiquities who were inspecting a building site during the construction of an apartment block.

The ominous-looking box was dated back to around 323-30 BCE, just after Alexander the Great conquered the region and just before the Romans invaded.

The massive granite coffin weighed a staggering 30 tons(The Ministry of Antiquities/Handout via Reuters)

There were fears at the time the discovery was announced that the sarcophagus held the remains of Alexander himself, and that opening the sealed box would unleash a devastating curse.

Yet, despite the superstitious concerns, the sarcophagus was eventually prized open, revealing three skeletons and a stomach-churning amount of sewage.

Images released by Egypt’s Ministry of Antiquities showed the coffin full of red-tinted liquid waste, which likely seeped in from a nearby building through a small crack in the granite.

Think of the most disgusting drink in the world, and you’d be hard-pushed to trump a cocktail of corpses marinated in sewage juice.

Yet, news of the discovery prompted the creation of a petition online, created by people desperate to try the ancient soup.

“We need to drink the red liquid from the cursed dark sarcophagus in the form of some sort of carbonated energy drink so we can assume its powers and finally die,” the petition stated, according to The Independent.

Fortunately, the request fell on deaf ears, and experts focused on solving the mystery of the sarcophagus, rather than quench netizens’ creepy thirst.

The remains had disintegrated because sewage water from a nearby building had leaked into the sarcophagus(The Ministry of Antiquities/Handout via Reuters)

Initial analysis suggested that the box’s three occupants were all male soldiers, and that one of them had been pierced by an arrow.

However, later tests revealed that the skeletons belonged to a woman in her early 20s, a man in his late 30s and a man in his early 40s, the New Zealand Heraldreports.

And the suspected arrow wound in the back of one of the men’s heads was not caused by a weapon after all, experts concluded.

Rather, it was likely the result of a “surgical intervention” known as trepanation – an operation in which a hole is drilled into the human skull.

There are many reasons as to why ancient communities carried out this risky procedure, including to rid a person of evil spirits, expel “stagnant” blood, or cure them of mental health issues. But what’s perhaps most surprising is that many patients survived the surgery, as this Alexandrian man may well have done.

One of the male skeletons had a small hole in the back of his head, believed to be the result of trepanation(Ministry of Antiquities)

Mostafa Waziri, head of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, said the researchers also discovered small gold plates wrapped in elaborate artwork alongside the bones.

This artwork is understood to indicate military rank, thereby all but proving that the male occupants were, indeed, soldiers.

More studies are now being carried out on the bones, including DNA analysis and CT scans, to learn more about them and determine whether they were members of a single family.

The good news is, no one has been cursed by the sarcophagus nor contracted dysentery (or worse) from drinking its fluid.

“We’ve opened it and, thank God, the world has not fallen into darkness,” Waziri told reporters at the time of its unearthing.

“I was the first to put my whole head inside the sarcophagus... and here I stand before you ... I am fine.”

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