GAZA STRIP — Authorities in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip announced on Sunday the discovery of over 60 tombs in an ancient burial site dating back to the Roman era.
Work crews have been excavating the site since it was discovered in January during preparations for an Egyptian-funded housing project.
Hiyam al-Bitar, a researcher from the Hamas-run Ministry of Antiquities and Tourism, said a total of 63 graves have been identified and that a set of bones and artifacts from one tomb was dated back to the 2nd century CE.
She said the ministry is working with a team of French experts to learn more about the site. On Sunday, workers sifted through the soil and removed piles of dirt in wheelbarrows.
Although the ancient cemetery is now blocked off from the public, construction on 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-drawn carts to haul away items like a covered casket and inscribed bricks.
The discovery was first made by construction workers in Jabaliya, in the northern part of the coastal enclave, as part of a reconstruction project carried out by Egypt following the 2021 May conflict between Israel and Hamas.
Gaza, a coastal enclave home to more than 2 million people, is known for its rich history stemming from its location on ancient trade routes between Egypt and the Levant.
While Israel has many archaeologists reporting on an impressive number of ancient treasures, the sector is largely neglected in Gaza.
Authorities periodically announce discoveries in the territory, but tourism at archaeological sites is limited.
Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.