Egyptian archaeologists unearth 2,300-year-old necropolis

Egyptian archeologists have unearthed a necropolis containing at least 17 mummies near the Nile Valley city of Minya.

The remarkable find is the first of its kind in the area, the antiquities ministry said on Saturday.

The discovery was made in the village of Tuna el-Gabal, a vast archaeological site on the edge of the western desert.

The area hosts a large necropolis for thousands of mummified ibis and baboon birds as well as other animals. It also includes tombs and a funerary building.

Mummies lying in catacombs following their discovery in the Tuna el-Gabal district. A total of 17 mummies were discovered in the 2,300-year-old necropolis 

Mummies lying in catacombs following their discovery in the Tuna el-Gabal district. A total of 17 mummies were discovered in the 2,300-year-old necropolis

‘It’s the first human necropolis to be found here in Tuna al-Gabal,’ Antiquities Minister Khaled al-Anani told reporters at the site, some 220 kilometers (135 miles) south of Cairo.

The mummies were elaborately preserved therefore likely belong to officials and priests, he said.

The funerary site, uncovered eight metres below ground in Minya, a province about 250 km (150 miles) 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.

Pointing to the edges of the necropolis where legs and feet of other mummies could be seen, the minister said that the find ‘will be much bigger,’ as work is currently in only a preliminary stage.

Mummies pictured in the catacombs. 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 B

Mummies pictured in the catacombs. 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 B

The Egyptian Minister of Antiquities Khaled Al-Anani investigates the newly discovered burial site. Pointing to the edges of the necropolis where legs and feet of other mummies could be seen, the minister said that the find 'will be much bigger,' as work is currently in only a preliminary stage

The Egyptian Minister of Antiquities Khaled Al-Anani investigates the newly discovered burial site. Pointing to the edges of the necropolis where legs and feet of other mummies could be seen, the minister said that the find ‘will be much bigger,’ as work is currently in only a preliminary stage

One of the mummies discovered inside the necropolis, with its skull still in tact. It's the first human necropolis to be found in Tuna al-Gabal

One of the mummies discovered inside the necropolis, with its skull still in tact. It’s the first human necropolis to be found in Tuna al-Gabal

A number of mummies are pictured inside the burial site. The mummies were elaborately preserved therefore likely belong to officials and priest, the Egyptian Minister of Antiquities said

A number of mummies are pictured inside the burial site. The mummies were elaborately preserved therefore likely belong to officials and priest, the Egyptian Minister of Antiquities said

Egypt is hoping recent discoveries will brighten its image abroad and revive interest among travellers that once flocked to its iconic pharaonic temples and pyramids but which have shunned the country since its 2011 political uprising.

‘2017 has been a historic year for archaeological discoveries. It’s as if it’s a message from our ancestors who are lending us a hand to help bring tourists back,’ Antiquities Minister Khaled Al-Anani told a news conference announcing the find on Saturday.

Salah Al-Kholi, a Cairo University Egyptology professor who led the mission, said as many as 32 mummies may be in the chamber, including mummies of women, children and infants.

Pictured: several mummies lying in one of the burial site's many passageways. Egypt is hoping recent discoveries will brighten its image abroad and revive interest among travellers that once flocked to its iconic pharaonic temples and pyramids but which have shunned the country since its 2011 political uprising

Pictured: several mummies lying in one of the burial site’s many passageways. Egypt is hoping recent discoveries will brighten its image abroad and revive interest among travellers that once flocked to its iconic pharaonic temples and pyramids but which have shunned the country since its 2011 political uprising

Pictured: Two of the mummies are pictured next to a tomb inside the burial site. Speaking at a news conference, Mr Al-Anani said: '2017 has been a historic year for archaeological discoveries. It's as if it's a message from our ancestors who are lending us a hand to help bring tourists back'

Pictured: Two of the mummies are pictured next to a tomb inside the burial site. Speaking at a news conference, Mr Al-Anani said: ‘2017 has been a historic year for archaeological discoveries. It’s as if it’s a message from our ancestors who are lending us a hand to help bring tourists back’

Pictured: Mummified human remains in the necropolis. The funerary site, uncovered eight metres below ground in Minya, a province about 250 km (150 miles) south of Cairo, contained limestone and clay sarcophagi, animal coffins, and papyrus inscribed with Demotic script 

Pictured: Mummified human remains in the necropolis. The funerary site, uncovered eight metres below ground in Minya, a province about 250 km (150 miles) south of Cairo, contained limestone and clay sarcophagi, animal coffins, and papyrus inscribed with Demotic script

Archaeologists have excavated a slew of relics in recent months that include a nobleman’s tomb from more than 3,000 years ago, 12 cemeteries that date back about 3,500 years, and a giant colossus believed to depict King Psammetich I, who ruled from 664 to 610 BC.

Tourism Minister Yehia Rashed said last month the new finds could boost tourist arrivals this year to about 10 million, an improvement from the 9.3 million visitors that came in 2015 but still far below the 14.7 million from 2010. No 2016 figure is yet available.

The tourism sector, a crucial source of hard currency, has struggled to regain ground amid a growing number of militant attacks, including two Islamic State church bombings last month.

Pictured: the skull of a mummy bound in linen. Salah Al-Kholi, a Cairo University Egyptology professor who led the mission, said as many as 32 mummies may be in the chamber, including mummies of women, children and infants

Pictured: the skull of a mummy bound in linen. Salah Al-Kholi, a Cairo University Egyptology professor who led the mission, said as many as 32 mummies may be in the chamber, including mummies of women, children and infants

Light shines into one of the burial site's many tunnels, where two mummies can be seen. The burial chamber was first detected last year by a team of Cairo University students using radar

Light shines into one of the burial site’s many tunnels, where two mummies can be seen. The burial chamber was first detected last year by a team of Cairo University students using radar

Pictured: One of the mummies with its linen bindings still in tact. Archaeologists have excavated a slew of relics in recent months that include a nobleman's tomb from more than 3,000 years ago, 12 cemeteries that date back about 3,500 years, and a giant colossus believed to depict King Psammetich I, who ruled from 664 to 610 BC

Pictured: One of the mummies with its linen bindings still in tact. Archaeologists have excavated a slew of relics in recent months that include a nobleman’s tomb from more than 3,000 years ago, 12 cemeteries that date back about 3,500 years, and a giant colossus believed to depict King Psammetich I, who ruled from 664 to 610 BC

Two partially intact mummies inside the burial site. Tourism Minister Yehia Rashed said last month the new finds could boost tourist arrivals this year to about 10 million, an improvement from the 9.3 million visitors that came in 2015 but still far below the 14.7 million from 2010. No 2016 figure is yet available

Two partially intact mummies inside the burial site. Tourism Minister Yehia Rashed said last month the new finds could boost tourist arrivals this year to about 10 million, an improvement from the 9.3 million visitors that came in 2015 but still far below the 14.7 million from 2010. No 2016 figure is yet available

Two mummies in a passageway of the burial site. The tourism sector, a crucial source of hard currency, has struggled to regain ground amid a growing number of militant attacks, including two Islamic State church bombings last month

Two mummies in a passageway of the burial site. The tourism sector, a crucial source of hard currency, has struggled to regain ground amid a growing number of militant attacks, including two Islamic State church bombings last month

A mummy pictured with what appear to be animal remains inside the catacombs. The area hosts a large necropolis for thousands of mummified ibis and baboon birds as well as other animals. It also includes tombs and a funerary building

A mummy pictured with what appear to be animal remains inside the catacombs. The area hosts a large necropolis for thousands of mummified ibis and baboon birds as well as other animals. It also includes tombs and a funerary building

Two mummies, mostly intact, inside the burial site

Two mummies, mostly intact, inside the burial site

Mummies are pictured next to open coffins in one of the tomb's passageways

Mummies are pictured next to open coffins in one of the tomb’s passageways

Pictured: artifacts inside the necropolis 

Pictured: artifacts inside the necropolis

Pictured: Camera crews travel down a red carpets to the burial site

Pictured: Camera crews travel down a red carpets to the burial site

Camera crews, journalists and officials are pictured outside the opening to the burial site

Camera crews, journalists and officials are pictured outside the opening to the burial site

Officials and archeologists observe some of the mummies in the necropolis. Researchers hope to find more as they excavate the area further

Officials and archeologists observe some of the mummies in the necropolis. Researchers hope to find more as they excavate the area further

Archeologists pictured working inside the necropolis

Archeologists pictured working inside the necropolis

Mummies line one of the passageways in the necropolis

Mummies line one of the passageways in the necropolis

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