Discovery at Tell al-Deir is one of Egypt’s many exciting archaeological finds this year

Egyptian archaeologists working at the Tell al-Deir (“Hill of the Monastery”) archaeological site, located in the Nile Delta in northern Egypt, found 20 tombs dating to between 664 B.C. and 332 B.C., Egypt’s Ministry of Tourism announced on Monday.

The Tell al-Deir site is a large necropolis in the modern city of Damietta, which was used to bury the dead during parts of Egyptian history, beginning with the 26th Dynasty of ancient Egypt – the last native ruling family before the Persians conquered the area in 525 B.C. – and continuing throughout the Greek, Roman and Byzantine eras.

Some of the discovered tombs were built from limestone, probably reserved for richer Egyptians, while others were simple pits or tombs built from mud bricks, likely for non-wealthy Egyptians.

Excavators discovered a number of gilded chips,  used for decorationin the shape of various ancient Egyptian gods, such as Isis, Heqat, Bastet and Horus.

Also found among the tombs were funerary amulets of different shapes and sizes, many in the form of scarabs or others relating to ancient Egyptian gods.

According to a statement from Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities, the find was highly significant for the city of Damietta.

“It is a very important scientific and archaeological discovery as it will rewrite the history of Damietta,” said the council’s Sec.-Gen. Mostafa Waziri, who dated the tombs to the Saite Period, or the 26th Dynasty.

Previous finds at Tell al-Deir include various remains from the Greek, Roman and Byzantine civilizations. In 2019, for instance, archaeologists found seven gold coins from the Byzantine period, depicting Byzantine emperors Focas and Heraclius. They also found limestone coffins with depictions of human faces.

The discovery of the 20 tombs at Tell al-Deir is one of Egypt’s many exciting archaeological finds this year.

One of the most exciting discoveries was made in November, when researchers from the University of Santo Domingo believed that they uncovered a tunnel – located 13 meters under an Egyptian temple – that could lead to the tomb of the ancient Egyptian Queen Cleopatra, for which they had been searching for nearly 20 years.

“The excavation revealed a huge religious center with three sanctuaries, a sacred lake, more than 1,500 objects, busts, statues, golden pieces, a huge collection of coins portraying Alexander the Great, Queen Cleopatra and the Ptolemies,” Kathleen Martinez, an archaeologist from the University of Santo Domingo, said at the time. “The most interesting discovery is the complex of tunnels leading to the Mediterranean Sea and sunken structures.”

The team is now exploring those underwater structures to locate Cleopatra’s tomb.

“If the tunnels lead to Cleopatra, it will be the most important discovery of the century,” she said.

Such a discovery would likely result in an even greater revival of Egypt’s tourism industry, which took a bad hit during the COVID-19 pandemic. While visitors are beginning to return, the tourism industry has yet to capture the same numbers as before the pandemic.

According to Egyptian Tourism and Antiquities Minister Ahmed Issa, Egypt experienced a 30% increase in visitors this year.

Eight million tourists visited Egypt in 2021, up from just 3.7 million visitors in  2020. Eastern European countries provided the most tourists, 50.6%, whereas visitors from the Middle East were just at 18.9%. Western Europe came in at 16.4% and African tourists made up 7.1%.

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