Archeologists in Egypt have unearthed an ancient cemetery estimated to be more than 2,000 years old near Tuna al-Gabal, south of Cairo. The discovery consists of a large number of burial shafts that have been dated as coming from the late Pharaonic period to the early Ptolomaic era. The Tuna al-Gabal area is a vast archaeological site on the edge of the western desert. A range of family tombs and graves are located there.
The previously unknown ancient burial ground is believed to contain over 40 mummies in sarcophagi and 1,000 small statues, as well as jewelry, pottery, a gold mask, and a “message from the afterlife”. Mostafa Waziri, leader of the archaeological mission, claims that eight tombs have already been found and expects more to be unearthed over time. Excavation work in the area started late last year. The site is expected to take five years to fully excavate.
Waziri believes that the site holds tombs and artifacts belonging to priests of the ancient Egyptian god Thoth. Thoth is the ancient god of the moon and wisdom and was responsible for judging the dead and maintaining the universe. Thoth was also revered as the god of writing, science and magic. The god was generally depicted as having the head of an Ibis or a baboon.
The priest’s mummy was found decorated with blue and red beads and bronze gilded sheets. Other sarcophagi are believed to belong to the priest’s family members. Four mummies uncovered had well-preserved jars containing lids that appear to have been worked in the likenesses of the four sons of the god Horus. According to Waziri, the name and titles of their owner are on the jars in hieroglyphic texts and the mummified inner organs of the deceased are contained within. One necklace charm read “Happy New Year” in hieroglyphics.
The authorities hope new finds of Egyptian relics can help attract more foreign visitors to the country and help revive tourism. The country’s tourism industry is still struggling to recover after being hammered during the unrest that followed the overthrow of former President Hosni Mubarak in 2011. The number of tourists visiting the country rose 54 percent year-over-year to 8.3 million last year. However, the number is still far behind the 14.7 million visitors to the country reported in 2010.