Mass mummy discovery 'help from the crypt' for Egypt's economy, minister says
Egypt has unearthed an ancient burial site replete with at least 17 mummies, the latest in a string of discoveries the country's antiquities minister describes as a helping hand from the crypt for its struggling tourism sector.
The funerary site, uncovered eight metres below ground in Minya, a province about 250 kilometres south of Cairo, contained limestone and clay sarcophagi, animal coffins and papyrus inscribed with Demotic script.
The burial chamber was first detected last year by a team of Cairo University students using radar.
The mummies have not yet been dated, but are believed to come from Egypt's Greco-Roman period, a roughly 600-year span that followed the country's conquest by Alexander the Great in 332BC, according to Mohamed Hamza, a Cairo University archaeology dean in charge of the excavations.
Egypt is hoping recent discoveries will brighten its image abroad and revive interest among travellers who once flocked to its iconic pharaonic temples and pyramids but have shunned the country since its 2011 political uprising.
"2017 has been an 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," Antiquities Minister Khaled Al-Anani said on Saturday.
Salah Al-Kholi, a Cairo University Egyptology professor who led the mission, said as many as 32 mummies may be in the chamber, including those of women, children and infants.
Archaeologists have excavated a slew of relics in recent months, including a nobleman's tomb from more than 3000 years ago, 12 cemeteries that date back about 3500 years and a giant colossus believed to depict King Psammetich I, who ruled from 664 to 610BC.
Tourism Minister Yehia Rashed said last month the new finds could boost tourist arrivals this year to about 10 million, an improvement from the 9.3 million visitors that came in 2015 but still far below the 14.7 million in 2010.