An Egyptian archaeological mission has found a necropolis holding at least 17 mummies near the Nile Valley city of Minya, in the first such find in the area, the antiquities ministry said on Saturday. The discovery was made in the village of Tuna al-Gabal, reports the AP, a vast archaeological site on the edge of the western desert. The area hosts a large necropolis for thousands of mummified birds and animals. It also includes tombs and a funerary building. "It's the first human necropolis to be found here in Tuna al-Gabal," Antiquities Minister Khaled al-Anani told reporters at the site, some 135 miles south of Cairo. The mummies were elaborately preserved, therefore likely belong to officials and priests, he said.
The new discovery also includes six sarcophagi, two clay coffins, two papyri written in demotic script as well as a number of vessels, he said. The necropolis, which is eight yards below ground level, dates back to the Late Period of Ancient Egypt and the Greco-Roman period, the minister noted. Pointing to the edges of the necropolis where legs and feet of other mummies could be seen, the minister said that the find "will be much bigger," as work is currently in only a preliminary stage. Egypt is taking a recent spate of discoveries as something of a blessing for its lagging tourism industry, notes the Washington Post, which has been hit hard by recent political unrest. (Egypt just discovered a tomb believed to belong to a pharaoh's daughter.)