Ancient Graves Found in Gaza Strip

Adel Hana

 NEWSLINE PAPER,- In what experts refer to be the biggest cemetery ever found in Gaza, Palestinian laborers in the Gaza Strip have unearthed dozens of old tombs, including two lead sarcophagi. About 2,000 years old, the site shows the rich historical legacy of the area.

Last year, workmen came found the site while building a housing project near Jabaliya, in the northern Gaza Strip, which was sponsored by Egypt. On the 2,700-square-meter site, major excavations have been going on since then, with the help of French specialists.

For archaeologists trying to learn more about the early history of Gaza, the finding represents a major breakthrough. Even with all of the obstacles—Israeli occupation, Hamas' protracted rule of the area, and fast urbanization—the discovery of this historic cemetery offers a window into the past of the area.

Gaza has a lengthy history because of its advantageous position along old commercial routes between Egypt and the Levant. But because of the several threats to the preservation of its archeological riches, such finds are even more precious.

Adel Hana

Though the number of burials discovered in January was already regarded as a significant find, the number has now increased to 135, underscoring the importance of the location. Leading French archaeologist Rene Elter said that over 100 of the burials had been examined, offering important new information about the health and cultural characteristics of the ancient people.

Especially remarkable is the finding of two lead sarcophagi. Dolphins are painted on one sarcophagus, which has elaborate grape leaves. Elter speculates that lead sarcophagi were probably only found in Gaza since they are so rare. The cemetery may have been a part of an old urban settlement because Romans historically frequently erected cemeteries close to city centers.

Apart from the tombs, the dig has turned up several corpses and pieces of clay jars. The remains will be examined further outside of Gaza to learn more about the health and way of life of the ancient people. The results will eventually be passed back to the Ministry of Antiquities and Tourism, which is headed by Hamas, for conservation and exhibition.

Palestinian archaeologist Fadel Al-Otul stresses the need of having a specialized group in charge of directing archeological work in Gaza. The area is developing quickly, hence maintaining and recording archeological sites is a difficult undertaking. Al-Otul says Gaza has enormous archeological potential and that protecting these riches for next generations is essential.

Experts are still optimistic that more findings will deepen our knowledge of Gaza's rich past as the dig goes on. Every found relic narrates a tale and provides an insight into the lives of the ancient civilizations that formerly flourished in this area.

Finally, the finding of prehistoric tombs in the Gaza Strip marks a major turning point in archeological study. These results emphasize the need of protecting and recording Gaza's cultural legacy in spite of the difficulties brought about by political instability and urbanization. Excavations are still running strong, and more discoveries about the intriguing past of the area are expected.

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