GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — Hamas authorities in Gaza announced on Sunday the discovery of more than 60 graves in an ancient burial site dating back to Roman times.
Work crews have been excavating the site since it was discovered last January during preparations for an Egyptian-funded housing project.
Hiyam al-Bitar, a researcher with the Hamas-run Ministry of Antiquities and Tourism, said a total of 63 tombs had been identified and a set of bones and artifacts from one tomb dated back to the 2nd century. century.
She said the ministry was working with a team of French experts to learn more about the site. On Sunday, workers excavated the ground and removed piles of soil in wheelbarrows.
Although the old cemetery is now closed to the public, construction of the housing project has continued and the site is surrounded by apartment buildings. Local media reported looting when the site was first discovered, with people using donkey carts to transport items like a covered coffin and carved bricks.
Gaza, a coastal enclave home to over 2 million people, is known for its rich history stemming from its location on ancient trade routes between Egypt and the Levant. But the Israeli occupation, a blockade, conflict and rapid urban growth in the cramped and crowded territory are among the reasons why most of Gaza’s archaeological treasures have gone unprotected.