At least 125 ancient Roman tombs discovered in Gaza

by Nidal Al-Mughrabi

GAZA (Reuters) – Archaeologists working at a newly discovered cemetery dating back to ancient Rome in Gaza have unearthed at least 125 graves with partially intact skeletons and two rare lead sarcophagi, the Palestinian Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities said.

The present-day Palestinian territories have been an important commercial center for many civilizations, from ancient Egypt to the time of the Roman Empire and the Crusades.

In the past, local archaeologists have lacked resources, but French organizations have helped excavate the 2,000-year-old site, which was discovered last February by a construction team working on an Egypt-funded housing project.

“This is the first time in Palestine that we have found a cemetery with 125 graves, and it is the first time that we have discovered two sarcophagi made of lead in Gaza,” Fadel al-Utol, an expert at the French Biblical and Archaeological School, told Reuters.

According to the expert, one of the two coffins was decorated with paintings of grapes and the other with pictures of dolphins.

“We need money to preserve this archaeological site so that history doesn’t fade away,” he said.

“This is unprecedented,” commented Jamal Abu Reda, head of antiquities at the Ministry of Tourism.

“It deepens Palestinian roots in this land and shows they go back thousands of years,” he said.

The Gaza Strip has been under an Israeli and Egyptian economic blockade since 2007 and the takeover of the territory by Hamas.

US-brokered peace talks aimed at establishing a Palestinian state in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem failed in 2014 and show no signs of recovery.

(French edition edited by Zifan Liu, Kate Enstringer)

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