A 2,000-year-old Roman cemetery has been discovered in northern Gaza containing some 100 ornate Roman graves, 20 of which have been opened so far in a 50-square-meter burial site. Two graves that have been opened have revealed skeletal remains and several clay jars.
In a statement, Jamal Abu Rida, director-general of Gaza’s Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities, said, “We have made several discoveries in the past, this is the most important archaeological discovery in the past 10 years.”
According to Abu Rida, the shape of the graves, their intricate decorations, and the direction in which they face—east to west—suggest they belonged to “senior ranking people” in the Roman Empire during the first century.
As an important crossroads for ancient Levantines, North Africans, and Europeans, present-day Gaza is rich with antiquities. Its archeological sites contain the ruins of Alexander the Great’s siege of the area, Roman crusades, and Islamic campaigns. However, international access to heritage sites has been restricted since Hamas seized control of Gaza in 2007. The Israeli blockade, combined with frequent skirmishes, makes tourism near-impossible.
The Roman burial site was discovered by a construction crew building an Egyptian-funded housing project, The team contacted the culture minister soon after stumbling upon the ruins. The site is currently closed off to the public while being accessed by a French team of experts.