New pharaonic tomb reveals flowers, not mummies

The first tomb discovered in Egypt's Valley of the Kings in 80 years doesn't have any mummies, but archaeologists opened the last of eight sarcophagi inside Wednesday and found something they say is even more valuable: embalming materials and a rare collar of ancient, woven flowers. Hushed researchers craned their necks and media scuffled inside a stiflingly hot stone chamber 6 meters (yards) underground to watch Egyptian antiquities chief Zahi Hawass slowly crack open the last coffin's lid, with his bare hands, for the first time in what scientists believe is more than 3,000 years. But instead of a mummy as archaeologists had hoped, the coffin revealed a tangle of fabric and rusty-colored dehydrated flowers woven together in laurels that looked likely to crumble to dust if touched. "I prayed to find a mummy, but when I saw this I said it's better, it's really beautiful," said Nadia Lokma, chief curator of the Egyptian Museum in Cairo. The flowers were likely the remains of garlands, often entwined with gold strips, which ancient Egyptian royals wore around their shoulders in both life and death, she said. "It's very rare, there's nothing like it in any museum. We've seen things like it in drawings, but we've never seen this before in real life, it's magnificent," Lokma said.