A new necropolis has been discovered in the desert of Egypt

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More than 2000 years old, an ancient cemetery of Upper Egypt has been discovered, with inside a  treaaure trove of mummies and about forty imposing sarcophagi cut in limestones.

Its occupants will have known only two thousand years of eternity! A vast necropolis has just been discovered near the city of Al-Minya, south of Cairo. Studied since autumn 2017 by a German and Egyptian team led by Mr. Mostafa Waziri, Secretary General of the Supreme Council of Antiquities (CSA), the announcement of his discovery was made public Saturday, February 24, 2018 by Mr. Kaled El-Anany Minister of Egyptian Antiquities. 

The cemetery was used for more than 2000 years, from the end of the Pharaonic period (664-332 BC) to the Ptolemaic era (310 BC). C-30 AD).

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One of forty anthropomorphous limestone sarcophagi.

Located on the edge of the western desert 6 km from the archaeological site of Tounah el-Gebel and its famous catacombs, the underground cemetery would hide besides many mummies, the family graves of several religious dignitaries including that of Hersa-Essei, a high priest of the former Egyptian god Thot, the “lord of time”. Four Alabaster canopic vases with Horus faces, believed to contain its mummified internal organs, were nearby.

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The Minister of Egyptian Antiquities Facing the Canopic Vases of a High Priest of Thoth.

A thousand oushebti, funerary statuettes in blue faience also accompanied the deceased. Among these finds also is also the mummy,  adorned with necklaces and amulets, of another high priest named Dehuty-Irdy-Es, as well as forty massive limestone sarcophagi, some carriers of anthropoid-shaped lids engraved with names and titles of their owners. “Five years of work will be needed to complete the study of this necropolis,” said the minister of antiquities. The actual extension of this cemetery could indeed be much larger. 

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Regularly announced, these high-profile communiqu├ęs are intended to bring back tourists, increasing the offer of sites to visit. Several have been disclosed in recent months, including that of a previous necropolis found in the same region of Tounah el-Gebel in 2017. 

Since the “revolution of 2011”, Egypt has faced a sharp drop in tourism , a key sector of its economy. And its simmering recovery in recent months, must be constantly stimulated especially since Egypt has embarked on a pharaonic building endeavor with the construction of various museums among which, on the Giza plateau, the Egyptian Grand Museum (GEM), which is struggling to complete its budget. 

The attacks of Islamist militants against the Coptic Christian community, the conflict in the Sinai Peninsula, the attack on a Russian plane after taking off from Sharm el-Sheikh, and the attacks of 2015 against seaside resorts in the Red Sea have also affected Egyptian tourism according to USA Today. “Although tourism rebounded strongly in 2017, the 8.3 million arrivals recorded, are still only half the number of people having visited Egypt in 2010, before the uprising,” the newspaper reported. 

To replenish its coffers and attract new audiences, a traveling exhibition of 166 objects belonging to the treasure of Tutankhamun should even soon leave Egypt for the United States, and the Californian Science Center in Los Angeles, seat of its first stage. Information that triggered a heated debate among experts, some opposing the exit of the country of the artifacts. 

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The authorities had to step up to explain that the absence of the hundred plus pieces “would not affect the exposition of GEM because the objects involved were all duplicates.”

(The treasure of Tutankhamun contains more than 5200 pieces). For Zahi Hawass, former Minister of Antiquities who is actively involved in this international campaign of promotion, the message is to present everywhere a safe Egypt, able to welcome safely foreign tourists. 

Abbad Farid

Abbad holds a degree in Journalism from the University of Cumbria and covers mostly world news for The Talking Democrat