So, hey remember that mysterious sarcophagus that was unearthed in Alexandria, Egypt recently? On Thursday, a team assigned by the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities actually opened the sarcophagus — and as far as we know, we have not unwittingly unleashed a plague upon the world by doing so. In fact, in Egypt Today’s live coverage of the opening of the sarcophagus, Secretary-General of the Supreme Council of Antiquities Mostafa Waziri made sure that basically the first official statement made about it was, per Egypt Today, “The sarcophagus has been opened, but we have not been hit by a curse.” This may come as a disappointment for the more nihilistic among us, but hey, at least what was found inside the sarcophagus is still pretty fascinating, right? If also kind of gross. And not just regular dead body gross, either.
In case you need a refresher, a massive, black sarcophagus initially thought to date back to the Ptolemaic period was found on July 1 in Alexandria (yes, that Alexandria). About six feet tall, nine feet long, and five and a half feet wide, it bears the distinction of being the largest sarcophagus ever found in Alexandria. An alabaster head was found nearby, but it wasn’t clear who it was meant to represent; as such, there was no indication of who or what might be inside the sarcophagus. All we knew at the time was that it hadn’t been opened since it had initially been sealed about 2,000 years ago.
It took about a week and a half for the news to spread, but once it hit the English language internet — specifically English language Twitter — folks had a field day with it… primarily because, as many commented, this is exactly how every mummy movie that’s ever been made begins. Accordingly, there was a spirited debate about whether or not the sarcophagus should be opened; what if there was a curse inside? Or a plague of frogs or locusts or something? What if it’s actually Imhotep and he's really, really mad at us? Has anyone called Brendan Fraser and Rachel Weisz?
Now, though, the sarcophagus has been opened. We remain blissfully curse-free (for now, at least) — but what they did find is not one, not two, but three decomposed mummies, reports Egypt Today. Who the mummies were in life haven’t been identified specifically but according to Secretary-General Waziri, we have a pretty good idea of what positions they held in society: They were likely soldiers or warriors.
We don’t think the mummies, which have all been determined to be male, belonged to any Ptolemaic or Roman royal families; their names weren’t inscribed anywhere on the coffins or on a cartouche, nor were there any of the trappings — masks made of precious metals, small statues, amulets, or inscriptions — that would have indicated wealthy or royal lineage. However, according to a Facebook post from the Ministry of Antiquities, one specialist confirmed that the bone structure of the remains suggested that they were members of the military. In fact, one of the skulls had multiple fractures — meaning its owner had been hit in the head with something heavy and/or sharp.
The mummies weren’t the only things in the sarcophagus, though; there was also a red liquid which testing revealed to be… sewage. A crack in the sarcophagus’ eastern side had allowed the sewage to infiltrate the coffin, which in turn accounted for the level of decay in which the mummies were found. Remember when I said that the gross factor was higher than just regular dead person grossness? That’s what I meant.
In any event, the mummies will be moved to the Alexandria National Museum, reports Egypt Today, while the coffin will go to the Military Museum; tests will continue to be performed on the mummies to figure out exactly which era they’re from.
And in the meantime, Twitter is having a blast with the whole thing all over again. Honestly, the Twitter reactions to Sarcophagusgate 2018 have been the best part of the story every step of the way, so let’s take a look at what folks are saying this time, shall we? Sometimes, the internet is not a terrible place, and today appears to be one of those days — at least in part.