Two eyes painted on a newly discovered Egyptian coffin seem to stare out from across millennia, conveying the secrets of the ancient Egyptian elite.
The coffin, discovered this year in the necropolis at Qubbet el-Hawa across the Nile River from Aswan, belonged to an important local woman, Sattjeni, daughter of one governor, wife of another and mother of two more, said excavation leader Alejandro Jiménez-Serrano, an Egyptologist at the University of Jaén in Spain.
Sattjeni’s mummified body was buried in two cedar coffins made of wood imported from Lebanon. Though the outer coffin had degraded over the nearly 4,000 years since Sattjeni’s death, her inner coffin was in excellent condition, according to Egypt’s antiquities ministry, which announced the discovery May 24. [See Photos of Sattjeni’s Elaborate Burial]
Sattjeni was not a royal, but her family practiced royal strategies to hold on to their governing power: She married her sister’s widower, and the family also associated itself with the ram-headed deity Khnum, much as pharaohs intermarried to keep power in the family and claimed to be descended from the gods.
In an email interview with Live Science, Jiménez-Serrano revealed more about the excavations at Qubbet el-Hawa and the life of Sattjeni.