Palestinian archaeologists have unearthed four more tombs dating back two millennia at a Roman-era cemetery located in the Gaza Strip, Al-Jazeera has reported. At least 125 tombs were discovered in the cemetery in July.
“Field research efforts are still ongoing within the Roman cemetery, with the involvement of Palestinian experts and the participation of French archaeologists,” explained Jamal Abu Reida, the Director-General of Antiquities at the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities in Gaza. “The ongoing work is part of the long journey to uncover historical and archaeological treasures, which have been found in various parts of the Gaza Strip in recent years.”
According to the ministry, these four tombs has increased to 134 the number of excavated graves at the archaeological site, which covers nearly 4,000 square metres. Currently recognised as the largest ancient cemetery ever found in Gaza, Palestinian archaeologist Fadel Al-Otol reported that it is currently undergoing a comprehensive process involving examination, restoration and maintenance.
He also confirmed the discovery of two lead coffins, one adorned with motifs depicting grape harvesting, while the other showcases dolphins and pyramid designs. Among the other findings are fragments of pottery and metal artefacts associated with Roman funeral customs.
“These archaeological findings show the historical roots and Palestinian heritage, which extend over thousands of years, debunking all narratives propagated by the Israeli occupation that portray Palestine as a land without a people and a people without a land,” Al-Otol told Al-Jazeera. “Gaza holds a place of historical significance as one of the world’s oldest cities for its strategic geographical location at the intersection of the Asian and African continents.”
He also expressed concerns about the shortage of finance for the work of the ministry. This has hindered the excavation efforts at other archaeological sites within the besieged Palestinian enclave.
Gaza, which has been under a strict Israeli-led siege for more than 17 years, is rich in antiquities. It has been an important trading post for many civilisations, from as far back as the ancient Egyptians and the Philistines depicted in the Bible, through to the Roman Empire and the Crusades.