Egypt has unearthed an ancient burial site replete with at least 17 mostly intact mummies.
It is the latest in a string of discoveries that the country’s antiquities minister described as a helping hand for its struggling tourism sector.
The necropolis, uncovered eight metres below ground in Minya, a province about 250km 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 technology.
The mummies have not yet been dated but are believed from 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, dean of archaeology at Cairo University in charge of the excavations.
Salah el-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.
“The discovery is still at its beginning,” Khaled el-Enany, the antiquities minister, told reporters on Saturday.
Egypt is hoping recent discoveries will brighten its image abroad and revive interest among travellers who 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. It’s as if it’s a message from our ancestors who are lending us a hand to help bring tourists back,” el-Enany said.
|The mummies are believed to be from Egypt’s Greco-Roman period that followed the country’s conquest by Alexander the Great [Mohamed Abd El Ghany/Reuters]|
Archaeologists across the country have excavated a slew of relics in recent months.
On Wednesday, the Ministry of Antiquities announced it had uncovered what is believed to be the 3,700-year-old burial chamber of a pharaoh’s daughter.
In March, pharaonic statues, dating back 3,700 years, were discovered in a muddy pit in a suburb of Cairo.
Archaeologists have also found 12 cemeteries that are believed to be about 3,500 years old.
Yehia Rashed, Egypt’s tourism minister, said last month that 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. Figures from 2016 are not yet available.
The tourism sector, a crucial source of hard currency for Egypt, has struggled to regain ground amid a growing number of attacks in recent years.