A team of scientists has survived the opening of an allegedly cursed sarcophagus in Alexandria, Egypt, to find the deteriorating remains of three skeletons.
Weighing an incredible 30 tonnes, the black granite tomb was exhumed two weeks ago from its burial place, five meters below a construction site in the northern part of the city. Its unusual size and weight led many to believe the inhabitant was someone of considerable importance.
A group of scientists attempted to open the lid, only to raise it 5cm before a horrible smell emerged from the depths of the tomb. So bad was the stench that it brought the investigation to a temporary halt and forced the team to retreat.
Media outlets and even the Ministry of Antiquities warned the archaeologists that opening the tomb would be "a risky business or so history tells us." The scientists opted to take the risk.
Measuring roughly 265 meters in length and 185 cm high, the 15-tonne lid was eventually raised by a team of mummification and restoration professionals with the assistance of Egyptian military engineers.
"The sarcophagus has been opened, but we have not been hit by a curse," Mostafa Waziry, the head of Egypt's Supreme Council for Antiquities, told reporters.
"We found the bones of three people, in what looks like a family burial... Unfortunately, the mummies inside were not in the best condition and only the bones remain."
A crack in the side of the sarcophagus caused a flood of red-colored sewage to enter the tomb, triggering the decomposition process.
Despite the presence of an alabaster head guarding the 2,000-year-old tomb, the astounding lack of silver and gold designs and trinkets has ruled out theories that the remains could be those of Alexander the Great.
Due to the tomb's meager decor, scientists believe the mummies could have been soldiers from the Ptolemaic period, post 323 BC: one of the skulls showed marks consistent with arrow wounds. The remaining skeletons are now being analyzed at the National Museum of Alexandria.