Gaza City, Palestine – Construction workers at a building site in northern Gaza have uncovered old tombs dating back to the first century AD.
The Roman-era tombs were discovered as construction work began on an Egyptian-funded residential area, part of the $500m reconstruction Egypt pledged following the 11-day offensive on the Gaza Strip last May.
Naji Sarhan, a spokesperson of Gaza’s Ministry of Public Works, confirmed graves were discovered, with evidence there are other graves at the site.
The construction work at the area was halted with experts and technicians from Gaza’s Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities sent there to inspect gravestones and artefacts, Sarhan said.
Jamal Abu Rida, the ministry’s director-general told Al Jazeera from the site that the number of discovered tombs had reached 34 by Wednesday morning.
Abu Rida said that technicians from the ministry and experts from the French School for Antiques unveiled belongings and pottery artefacts dating back to the Roman era.
The remains of the 2,000-year-old cemetery were discovered at the start of this month when construction workers found a Roman tomb while working on the new project.
The area has been made off-limits to the public until excavation work is completed.
“Gaza is rich with uncovered antiquities, as it has been vital trading passage for many civilisations due to the seaport that attracted Roman and Canaanite civilisations, in addition to its gate with the ancient Egyptians,” said Abu Rida.
He pointed out that due to the deteriorating conditions on the occupied Gaza Strip, there is a lack of funding for projects related to restoration and excavation for historical monuments located in several areas.