Egyptian archaeologists have uncovered burial chambers they say can shed light on the lives of middle-class ancients dating back more than 2,000 years.
The country’s Supreme Council of Antiquities said the tomb containing more than 40 mummies was discovered in Minya, a desert province 150 miles south of Cairo. About a dozen of the remains were those of children, said Mostafa Waziri, secretary-general of the council.
The discovery was one of the largest and most important in recent times because it helps detail the day-to-day lives of ordinary people in ancient times, Waziri told Al Jazeera. He added that the find was made by Egyptians; many such discoveries are made by Americans and Europeans.
Waziri said the mummies appeared to be in good condition and the mummification method sophisticated, indicating the deceased had held prestigious positions and were probably upper-middle class.
“We have not found names written in hieroglyphics,” he said, so the identities are not known. He estimated that the remains date back to the Ptolemaic era, a period of about 300 years that ended with the death of Cleopatra and Roman rule in 30 BC.
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The mummies were discovered inside four 30-foot-deep burial chambers in the Tuna el-Gebel archaeological site. Some were wrapped in linen or decorated with Demotic handwriting, a form of cursive hieroglyphic writing used by ordinary people in the region from the early seventh century BC until the fifth century AD.
A year ago, the antiquities ministry announced the discovery of eight tombs containing about 40 coffins of Pharaonic priests and more than 1,000 statues near the site. The tombs were full of jewelry, potteries and jars.
In December, Egyptian officials said they discovered a 4,400-year-old tomb linked to the fifth dynasty of pharoahs. That find was in Saqqara, west of Cairo.
Egypt has been widely promoting archaeological finds to energize a tourism industry that has struggled since the 2011 revolution. Minister of Tourism Rania al-Mashat said the discoveries were an important message to the whole world that Egypt “has it all.”