Unprecedented: 17 non-royal mummies found at Egypt site

Archaeologists find 'unprecedented' discovery of 17 intact mummies at Minya site, expect to find more as excavations continue.

Chana Roberts ,

 number of mummies inside the newly discovered burial site in Minya
number of mummies inside the newly discovered burial site in Minya
Mohamed Abd El Ghany/ Reuters

Archaeologists have discovered 17 mummies in desert catacombs in Egypt's Minya province - and almost all of them are completely intact, Egypt's Antiquities Ministry announced Saturday.

The discovery was made in the village of Touna el-Gabal, an area which also hosts a large necropolis for thousands of mummified ibis, baboon birds, and other animals.

The site is located 135 miles (220 kilometers) south of Cairo.

The non-royal mummies, together with two papyri in Demotic, six limestone and clay sacrophogi, two animal and bird coffins, a number of vessels, and a golden sheet, were found in a series of corridors near the Touna-Gabal burial shafts, the ministry said in a statement.

Demotic is an ancient Egyptian script.

This is the first time non-royal mummies have been found in the area.

However, the archaeologists are not yet sure exactly when the mummies were buried. Currently, the Antiquities Ministry estimates that the mummies are from Egypt's 300-year Late Period, which ended when Alexander the Great conquered Egypt in 332 BCE.

However, the mummies may also date from the Ptolemaic Dynasty, which ruled Egypt from 305 BCE to 30 BCE, a spokesperson told AFP.

"This is the first human necropolis found in central Egypt with so many mummies," Egyptologist Salah al-Kholi said at a new conference, adding that the discovery may lead to other finds in the area.

"This discovery was important, unprecedented," Cairo University's Director of Excavations Mohamed Hamza said.

Antiquities Minister Khaled al-Enany told reporters, "The discovery is still at its beginning... The more we drill the more we find."

"It's the first human necropolis to be found here in Touna el-Gabal," he said, adding that the elaborately-preserved mummies probably belonged to priests and officials.

"I believe and trust that the most interesting things, which will bring the entire world’s attention to Egypt and improve its image is any news related to antiquities. Antiquities are the soft power that distinguishes Egypt. News of antiquities are the things that attract the world to Egypt.

"Let everyone talk about Egypt. This is what we need."

In April, Egypt's Antiquities Ministry announced the discovery of eight mummies interred in a 3,500-year-old tomb belonging to a nobleman.