Egyptian archaeologists reveal contents of mysterious giant sarcophagus in Alexandria

Raf Sanchez
The ancient tomb dating back to the Ptolemaic period was found in the Sidi Gaber district of Alexandria - AFP

Egyptian archaeologists have opened a mysterious 30-ton black sarcophagus to find the skeletons of what are thought to be three ancient warriors floating in red sewage water. 

The world has been transfixed by the unopened 2,000-year-old sarcophagus since it was discovered in Alexandria several weeks ago, with some internet users warning Egypt not to open it for fear of unleashing an ancient curse.

Experts removed its granite cover on Thursday to find the shuffled bones of three skeletons inside.

One of the skulls appeared to have an arrow wound in it, leading the Ministry of Antiquity to conclude the bodies were likely soldiers. 

“Preliminary examination of the skeletons indicates that it is most likely they belong to three warriors or military officers as it was found on one of the skeletons bore a wound resulting from an arrow,” the ministry said in a statement. 

The unopened 2,000-year-old sarcophagus was discovered in Alexandria several weeks ago Credit: Egyptian Ministry of Antiques

The sarcophagus is from the Ptolemaic period, which had led to speculation that it could contain the body of Alexander the Great, who died in 323 BC and after whom the city of Alexandria is named. 

But Dr Mostafa Waziri, secretary general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, dismissed that claim.

“What has been circulated about the sarcophagus belonging to Alexander the Great is wrong,” he said. 

No curse, just sewage water Credit: Egyptian Ministry of Antiques

He also scoffed at suggestions that opening the coffin would release a pharaoh’s curse plunge the world into a thousand years of darkness.

“There is no so-called curse and the world as you can see did not suffer darkness. These are superstitions,” he said.

The skeletons were found to be swimming in a pool of brackish red water. The ministry said it was likely that sewage water had seeped through a fracture in the coffin. 

The sarcophagus contained what is believed to be three ancient warriors floating in red sewage water Credit: Egyptian Ministry of Antiques

The skeletons will be transferred to Alexandria National Museum for further study. The sarcophagus will be transported with the help of the military to a warehouse, where it will be restored. 

The sarcophagus was discovered in a tomb during construction work in Alexandria three-metre long by two-metre high. A white alabaster bust, its features eroded over the centuries, was also found in the tomb.