Archaeological workers in Egypt unearthed an ancient human burial site with at least 17 intact mummies near the Nile Valley city of Minya, according to news agency reports.
The mummies, discovered at a depth of about 25 feet, are believed to be the bodies of priests and officials, The Associated Press reported.
The burial ground included sarcophagi made of limestone and clay, animal coffins, and papyrus with Demotic script, not the hieroglyphs found in earlier Egyptian tombs.
The site was discovered near the village of Tuna al-Gabal, the site of a previously excavated necropolis for thousands of mummified animals.
It was found last year by some Cairo University students using radar, Reuters reported.
The mummies are believed to be more than 1,500 years old, and date to Egypt’s Greco-Roman period, a 600-year epoch that began in 332 B.C. after the region was conquered by Alexander the Great, said Mohamed Hamza, the dean of archaeology at Cairo University, who helped lead the excavations.
The burial site may hold as many as 32 mummies. It is “the first human necropolis found in central Egypt with so many mummies,” Salah al-Kholi, an Egyptologist, said, according to The Telegraph.
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.
Egypt’s tourism industry has struggled in recent years. About 5.4 million visitors came to the country in 2016, down from 14.7 million in 2010.
The country has had some significant finds this year, including a large statue of an Egyptian ruler found in Cairo in March.