Egyptian archaeologists unveil ancient tombs, artefacts

TUNA AL-GABAL, EGYPT (AP) — Archaeologists unveiled 16 ancient Egyptian tombs filled with sarcophagi and other artefacts from a vast burial ground.

Egypt’s Antiquities Ministry announced the discoveries in the village of Tuna al-Gabal, near the Nile Valley city of Minya in central Egypt. The site boasts an array of previously excavated finds, including funerary buildings and catacombs filled with thousands of mummified ibis and baboon birds.

The long-abandoned tombs date back to three dynasties, from 664-399 BCE, in the Pharaonic Late Period.

Among the new treasures presented were 20 sarcophagi made from limestone and etched with hieroglyphic texts, five wooden coffins, hundreds of amulets and 10,000 blue funerary statues, known as ushabti figurines, which are fixtures in the ancient tombs of the area. The sarcophagus lids are moulded into mummy-like figures of men.

While such contents can be looted or decay over time, Secretary-General of Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities Mostafa Waziri described the tombs as “in good condition” and the sarcophagi stone as “well-polished”.

Waziri said the tombs likely belonged to the high priests of Thoth among other senior officials.

The Ministry of Antiquities invited journalists to tour the site, shepherding film crews down ladders into dark, narrow shafts full of skeletons and sarcophagi.

The Egyptian government frequently promotes archaeological finds to boost its vital tourism sector. The industry was hard hit by political turmoil following the 2011 popular uprising that toppled longtime dictator Hosni Mubarak.

One of the sarcophagi discovered in the village of Tuna al-Gabal, near the Nile Valley city of Minya. PHOTO: AP