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17 mummies discovered in Minya, Egypt


Egyptian archaeologists have discovered 17 mummies in desert catacombs in Minya province, an "unprecedented" find for the area south of Cairo, the antiquities ministry announced Saturday.

17 mummies discovered in Minya, Egypt
"2017 has been a historic year for archaeological discoveries," Egyptian Antiquities Minister Khaled al-Anani (center) 
said Saturday [Credit: Khaled Desouki/AFP/Getty Images]
Archaeologists found the non-royal mummies in a series of corridors after following the trail of burial shafts in the Touna-Gabal district of the central Egyptian province, the ministry said in a statement.

Along with the mummies, they found a golden sheet and two papyri in Demotic—an ancient Egyptian script—as well as a number of sarcophogi made of limestone and clay.

17 mummies discovered in Minya, Egypt
Salah al-Kholi, an Egyptology professor who led the mission, said up to 32 mummies could be in the chamber,
including mummies of women, children and infants [Credit: Khaled Desouki/AFP/Getty Images]
There were also animal and bird coffins, the ministry said. But the mummies have not yet been dated.

The ministry said they belonged to the Late Period, which spanned almost 300 years up to Alexander the Great's conquest of Egypt in 332 BC.

17 mummies discovered in Minya, Egypt
The mummies were well-preserved, which means they likely were priests or officials 
[Credit: Khaled Desouki/AFP/Getty Images]
But a spokeswoman told AFP they could also date from the Ptolemaic Dynasty, founded by Alexander the Great's general Ptolemy.

The discovery of the non-royal mummies is considered unprecedented because it is the first such find in the area, officials said at the site.

17 mummies discovered in Minya, Egypt
Archaeologists found sarcophagi made of limestone and clay [Credit: Khaled Desouki/AFP/Getty Images]
Egyptologist Salah al-Kholi told a news conference held near the desert site that the discovery was "the first human necropolis found in central Egypt with so many mummies".

It could herald even more discoveries in the area, he said.

17 mummies discovered in Minya, Egypt
Limestone coffins and mummies inside burial site [Credit: Reuters/Mohamed Abd El Ghany]
The discovery was "important, unprecedented," Mohamed Hamza, director of excavations for Cairo University said.

The site is close to an ancient animal cemetery.

17 mummies discovered in Minya, Egypt
Detail of mummy inside limestone coffin [Credit: Reuters/Mohamed Abd El Ghany]
"The discovery is still at its beginning," Antiquities Minister Khaled al-Enany told reporters.

It was the second discovery of mummies announced with much fanfare by the government in less than a month.

17 mummies discovered in Minya, Egypt
Minya mummies in the catacomb [Credit: Khaled Desouki/AFP/Getty Images]
In April, the ministry invited reporters to the southern city of Luxor to unveil eight mummies discovered in a 3,500-year-old tomb belonging to a nobleman.

For the cash-strapped Egyptian government, the discoveries are a boon from the country's glorious past as it struggles to attract tourists scared off by a series of Islamist militant attacks.

17 mummies discovered in Minya, Egypt
Skulls buried in the sand inside a newly discovered burial site in Minya [Credit: Reuters/Mohamed Abd El Ghany]
"Antiquities are the soft power that distinguishes Egypt," Enany said. "News of antiquities are the things that attract the world to Egypt."

Millions of tourists visited Egypt every year to see its Giza Pyramids—the only surviving monument of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World—and its ancient pharaonic temples and relics.

17 mummies discovered in Minya, Egypt
The site includes two papyri in Demotic script, two clay coffins and six sarcophagi, the antiquities minister said 
[Credit: Khaled Desouki/AFP/Getty Images]
But a popular uprising in 2011 that overthrew veteran strongman Hosni Mubarak ushered in years of unrest that battered the economy and drove away tourists.

Author: Haitham El-Tabei | Source: AFP [May 13, 2017]
TANN

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