"Dressed" in Roman robes, a 2,000-year-old coffin stares back from a rare Egyptian grave in the Bahariya Oasis, about 225 miles (362 kilometers) southwest of Cairo (Egypt map).
The as yet unopened plaster sarcophagus, believed to contain a mummy, is among the ancient treasures uncovered at a newfound cemetery, Egyptian officials announced on April 12.
The site contains at least 14 tombs from the era when ancient Rome controlled Egypt, from 30 B.C. to A.D. 395. Jewelry, funerary masks, and pottery were also found, though the sand-covered tombs have been damaged by humidity and seeping groundwater.
Measuring just 3.2 feet (97 centimeters) long and carved with the finery of an influential woman, the sarcophagus remains something of a mystery.
"When I saw it for the first time, I thought it was a dwarf. ... ," said Mahmoud Affifi, director of Cairo and Giza antiquities for Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities. "Maybe she was a small girl, but [even] now we don't know," he said.
(See pictures of more tomb finds in Egypt's Bahariya Oasis.)
—Andrew Bossone in Cairo