Tombs Found in Egypt's Nile Valley Date Back More Than 2,000 Years

One tomb from Ptolemaic-era burial shaft carved into the bedrock, another a child's grave: This was not an army camp

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A sarcophagus in one of three tombs discovered at cemetery dating back about 2,000 years in the al-Kamin al-Sahrawi area in Minya province, south of Cairo.
Sarcophagus from Ptolemaic era, found in Kamin al-SahrawiCredit: AFP Photo, Egyptian Antiquities Ministry

Three tombs dated to the Ptolemaic Period, more than 2,000 years ago, have been discovered in the Nile Valley, the Egyptian antiquities ministry said on Wednesday. The discovery was made in an area called al-Kamin al-Sahrawi, south of Cairo.

The discovery of sarcophagi and clay fragments suggests that the archaeologists found a major necropolis used over generations. It was evidently used sometime between the 27th Dynasty (when ancient Egypt was under Persian control, from 525 B.C.E. to 404 B.C.E.) and the subsequent Ptolemaic period.

A burial shaft carved out of the bedrock in one of the tombs leads to a chamber where four sarcophagi with anthropoid lids, containing two women and two men, were found.

Another tomb contains two chambers, one with six burial holes, including one for a child. Excavation on a third tomb is still underway, the ministry stated.

Since women and children were buried there, the necropolis is unlikely to be part of an ancient military site, as had been previously suggested, postulate the archaeologists.

Sarcophagi in cemetery dating back about 2,000 years in the al-Kamin al-Sahrawi area in Minya province, south of Cairo.Credit: AFP Photo / Egyptian Antiquities Ministry

The 27th Dynasty had been founded by the Persian emperor Cambyses II, son of Cyrus the Great. Cambyses II conquered Egypt in 525 B.C.E., wresting control from the unfortunate and short-lived pharaoh Psamtik III. He tried to continue onto Libya, to no avail. The Greco-Roman Ptolemaic period began in 305 B.C.E. when the Roman general Ptolemy assumed the title of King, dubbing himself Ptolemy I Soter, i.e., the Savior. His dynasty would rule Egypt for over three centuries: male rulers took the soubriquet Ptolemy, while the queens tended to be named Arsinoe, Berenice and, famously, Cleopatra.