CAIRO -- An archaeological team in Egypt has unearthed a rare find: an ornately carved, 3,600-year-old sarcophagus with a well-preserved mummy inside, the country's minister of antiquities said Thursday.
The discovery came as welcome news for antiquities authorities, who have been struggling to protect and preserve Egypt's cultural treasures amid three years of nonstop political turmoil. Last month, Cairo's Museum of Islamic Art was badly damaged in a bombing, and poor security conditions have led to looting at sites across the country.
The sarcophagus, uncovered in the ancient city of Luxor by a Spanish team working in coordination with Egyptian authorities, dates back to 1600 BC, said the antiquities minister, Mohammed Ibrahim. That would place it at the time of the 17th dynasty of the Pharaonic era.
Unusually, the 6-foot-long sarcophagus is made of wood, and its significance is magnified by its hieroglyphic inscriptions and delicate, still-colorful carvings of feathers, the ministry said. Because of the elaborate design, the mummy inside is thought to be that of a high-ranking official, and scholars will now try to determine a precise identity.
Some nearby tombs had been looted in ancient times, but this one was preserved because the shaft leading to it was blocked with limestone, officials said.
Excavations had begun last month in the area, where the last such discovery had been that of another wooden sarcophagus, a child's, found 13 years ago.