“Tuna Al-Gabal archaeological site, near Upper Egypt’s El-Minya, buzzed Saturday with journalists who flocked in to catch a glimpse of a newly discovered cachette of mummies, dating from the Late Period.
During excavation work in the area, which neighbours the birds and animals necropolis, a mission from Cairo University stumbled this week upon the cachette — a term that describes an unmarked burial site used to house multiple mummies and protect them from looting.
Mission head Salah El-Kholi told Ahram Online that the cachette includes 17 non-royal mummies wrapped in linen and very well preserved. It was found by chance through a radar survey carried out in collaboration with experts from the university’s faculty of science in early 2016 that revealed hollow ground.
El-Kholi said the mummies were found in burial shafts along with a collection of eight limestone sarcophagi, two of which were carved in clay. A number of baboon coffins were also found.
Minister of Antiquities Khaled El-Enany described the discovery as important because it is the first made in the area since the discovery of the birds and animals necropolis by Egyptologist Sami Gabra between 1931 to 1954.
The discovery adds to a spate of recent finds at sites across Egypt. Most recently, a mission from the antiquities ministry stumbled upon the almost intact funerary collection of Userhat, the chancellor of Thebes during the 18th dynasty, in the Draa Abul Naga necropolis on Luxor’s west bank.
El-Enany told reporters about this week’s cachette discovery at a gala ceremony attended by El-Minya governor Essam Al Bedewi, the ambassadors of Belgium, Hungary and Serbia and a number of top officials from the ministry and Cairo University.
El-Kholi said that both clay sarcophagi are anthropoid coffins, one of which is in good condition while the other is partly damaged. Two papyri written in Demotic and a gold decoration with the shape of a feather were also found.
“This feather could be decoration on the hair dress of one of the deceased,” El- Kholi said.
He said the papyri would be transferred to the Grand Egyptian Museum for restoration.
At a neighbouring site, the mission has also uncovered a number of Roman funerary houses made of clay. Inside they found a collection of different coins, lamps and other domestic items”