Egyptian archeologists discovered at least 17 mummies buried near the Nile Valley city of Minya, about 135 miles south of Cairo. The necropolis, which also contains thousands of mummified animals, contains the most mummified human bodies found at a single ancient Egyptian site to date.
The mummies are thought to be more than 1,500 years old and date back to when the Roman empire controlled portions of Egypt. And, given how elaborately they’ve been preserved, they may belong to officials and priests.
The site—which is about 25 feet below the village of Tuna al-Gabal—was initially discovered in 2016 by Cairo University students using ground-penetrating radar. The burial ground could contain as many as 32 mummies, but so far archaeologists have found sarcophagi made of limestone and clay, animal coffins, and papyrus with Demotic script—a form of writing that may have evolved from hieroglyphics.
The discovery comes as Egypt’s tourism sector has been struggling since the 2011 political uprising. Here’s Eli Rosenburg reporting for The New York Times:
The country’s antiquities minister, Khaled Al-Anani, called 2017 a “historic year” for archaeological discoveries. “It’s as if it’s a message from our ancestors who are lending us a hand to help bring tourists back,” he said at a news conference on Saturday.