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Egypt discovers 17 mummies in archaeological dig

15 May 2017

Egypt has unearthed an ancient burial site replete with at least 17 mostly intact mummies.

The remarkable find is the first of its kind in the area, the antiquities ministry said on Saturday.

Khaled al-Anani, the Antiques Minister, said the because of the way that the mummies have been preserved, it most likely means that they are officials or priests.

The new discovery was unearthed in Touna el-Gabal district, which is a desert area in Minya province, 234 km far from Cairo.

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The mummies, which are not of royal personages, have not yet been dated but the ministry said they belonged to the Late Period, which spanned nearly 300 years up to Alexander the Great's conquest of Egypt in 332BC.

The tourism sector, a vital source of hard currency, has struggled to recover since the country's populist revolts of 2011 ousted President Hosni Mubarak, triggering political turmoil.

As many as 32 mummies may be in the chamber, including mummies of women, children and infants, said Salah al Kholi, a Cairo University Egyptology professor who led the mission. A number of baboon coffins were also found.

The burial site is about eight yards below ground and dates back to 332 BC, when the last native rulers reigned in Egypt. Tourism accounted for almost 12 percent of Egypt's economy in 2015 and even more in the preceding years.

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The discovery follows on the heels of the uncovering of several mummies, colourful wooden sarcophagi and more than 1,000 funerary statues in a 3,500-year-old tomb near the city of Luxor in April.

"Antiquities are the soft power that distinguishes Egypt", antiquities minister Khaled Al Enany said.

"2017 - historic in terms of 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 declared. Figures for a year ago are not yet available.

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Egypt discovers 17 mummies in archaeological dig