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Builders find 2,000-year-old Roman cemetery in Gaza

Builders find 2,000-year-old Roman cemetery in Gaza

A 2,000-year-old Roman cemetery containing at least 20 ornate graves has been discovered near the northern coast of the Gaza Strip, with the Ministry of Antiquities ranking it as the most important local find of the last decade.

Gaza is rich in antiquities, having been an important trading point for many civilizations, from the ancient Egyptians and Philistines described in the Bible to the Roman Empire and the Crusades.

The ruins discovered there include the remains of a siege by Alexander the Great, as well as a Mongol invasion.

Twenty Roman graves have been located so far and the team hopes to unearth 80 in total within the 50 square meter cemetery. Only two tombs were opened, one contained skeletal remains and a few clay jars.

Because of the tombs’ shape and relatively ornate decorations, they likely belonged to “high-ranking people” in the Roman Empire during the first century, said Jamal Abu Rida, director general of Gaza’s Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities.

Unlike Muslim graves of later periods that face north to south, Roman graves face east to west, he said.

“We have made several discoveries in the past, this is the most important archaeological discovery of the last 10 years,” said Abu Rida.

The area is closed to journalists and the public while the site is organized and safe for visitors, the ministry said.

The cemetery, which is being overseen by a French team of experts, was found by a construction team working on an Egyptian-funded housing project. When they found some of the big old bricks in the cemetery, they stopped work and called in the archaeologists.

Gaza is administered by the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, which has fought four wars with Israel since 2008.

The conflict has damaged the local economy and authorities often involve international groups to help excavate and preserve archaeological finds, Abu Rida said.

Source: CNN Brasil