During construction of a new residential project in Gaza, workers discovered dozens of Roman-era tombs, Hamas authorities announced last week.

Crews have been excavating the site since its discovery in January, while preparating for an Egyptian-funded housing project.

The most recent announcement reflects the uncovering of additional graves at the site. 

According to Hiyam al-Bitar, a researcher from the Hamas-run Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities, crews have identified 63 graves, including one with bones and artifacts from the Second Century. Al-Bitar said that the Palestinian authorities are excavating the site with a team of French experts. 

When the site was first discovered, looters managed to remove some artifacts. The site is now blocked off from the public, and work on the housing project continues around the excavation. 

Jamal Abu Rida, director-general of Gaza’s Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities, called the find “the most important archaeological discovery in the past 10 years.”  

Gaza has a rich history as an important intersection for trade for many civilizations, from the ancient Egyptians and the Philistines to the Roman Empire and even during the Crusades. 

Continuos conflict with Israel and the redirection of international funds to terror infrastructure in the Strip have crippled the local economy. 

Also, while Gazan authorities usually work with international groups to excavate, document and preserve archaeological findings, according to Abu Rida, international access to Gazan heritage sites has been restricted since Hamas seized control of Gaza in 2007. Furthermore, frequent fighting makes tourism to such sites almost impossible. 

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