A 2000-year-old sarcophagus has been opened in Egypt – revealing what appears to be the remains of a family of three.
Egyptian archaeologists dashed local hopes that the 30-ton black granite coffin – the largest yet found in Alexandria – may contain the remains of Alexander the Great.
“We found the bones of three people, in what looks like a family burial,” Mostafa Waziri, secretary general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, told reporters at the site.
“Unfortunately the mummies inside were not in the best condition and only the bones remain.”
Some of the remains had disintegrated because sewage water from a nearby building had leaked into the sarcophagus through a small crack in one of the sides.
The sarcophagus was accidentally discovered after an ancient tomb dating back to the Ptolemaic period was uncovered during construction work last week.
It is the latest of a series of intriguing recent archaeological finds in Egypt – including a 4,400-year-old tomb in Giza and an ancient necropolis in Minya, south of Cairo.
The prospect of opening the long-sealed sarcophagus in Alexandria had prompted fears in Egyptian media that it could unleash a 1,000-year curse.
“We’ve opened it and, thank God, the world has not fallen into darkness”, Mr Waziri said.
“I was the first to put my whole head inside the sarcophagus…and here I stand before you. I am fine.”
Egypt’s antiquities ministry had previously dismissed the chances of finding Alexander’s remains in the sarcophagus.
The location of the Greek ruler’s remains, who died in 323 BC in Babylon, remains a mystery.
The unmarked tomb did not likely belong to any other notable ruler in the Ptolemaic period (332 BC-30 BC) or the subsequent Roman era, Mr Waziri said.
The find is considered to be extraordinarily rare as many older tombs have been plundered by criminals and thieves over the centuries.
In February, archaeologists discovered a necropolis containing 40 stone coffins, small statues and a necklace with an inscription “Happy New Year”.