CAIRO — Archaeologists in Egypt have unearthed an ancient burial site with at least 17 mummies, most fully intact, antiquities officials said Saturday, in the latest in a series of historical discoveries.
The country’s Antiquities Minister, Khaled al-Enany, has described this findings as a helping hand for its struggling tourism sector.
The non-royal mummies were found inside a catacomb by a Cairo University expedition in the village of Tuna al-Gabal.
Stone and clay sarcophagi, inscriptions and animal coffins as well as papyrus pieces written in the ancient Demotic language were also discovered in the 3-kilometre-long site.
The funerary site, uncovered eight metres below ground in Minya, a province about 250 kilometres south of Cairo, contained limestone and clay sarcophagi, animal coffins, and papyrus inscribed with Demotic script.
The burial chamber was first detected last year by a team of Cairo University students using radar.
The mummies have not yet been dated but are believed to date to Egypt’s Greco-Roman period, a roughly 600-year span that followed the country’s conquest by Alexander the Great in 332 BC, according to Mohamed Hamza, a Cairo University archaeology dean in charge of the excavations.
Egypt is hoping the recent discoveries will brighten its image abroad and revive interest among travellers that once flocked to its iconic pharaonic temples and pyramids but have shunned the country since its 2011 political uprising.
“2017 has been a historic year for archaeological discoveries,” Minister Khaled Al-Anani told a news conference in announcing the find on Saturday.
“It’s as if it’s a message from our ancestors who are lending us a hand to help bring tourists back.”
Salah Al-Kholi, a Cairo University Egyptology professor who led the mission, said as many as 32 mummies, including mummies of women, children and infants, may be in the chamber.Follow @gorkhapost