For thousands of years, a necropolis has been lurking under the desert near the village of Lisht in Egypt, just south of Al Ayyat. Located at the edge of the Sahara, the ancient cemetery is no secret; today, a pair of pyramids rises above the landscape in the north and south of the burial grounds.
But many of the site's ancient tombs have long been concealed under feet of sand—until now.
In just a single field season, a joint expedition between the University of Alabama-Birmingham and the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities mapped out a whopping 802 tombs at Lisht. These newly described tombs date back roughly 4,000 years and were previously unknown to Egyptologists, according to an announcement from Khaled El-Enany, Minister of Antiquities, and Mostafa Waziry, Secretary General of the Supreme Council of Antiquities.
“What we have at the site is one of the largest corpuses of Middle Kingdom tombs in the entire country of Egypt,” says archaeologist Sarah Parcak, a National Geographic Explorer and professor at the University of Alabama at Birmingham who co-led the expedition with Adel Okasha, Director of the Pyramids Region.
While the tombs were largely looted before the expedition started work, they still offer many insights into the lives of the people who once bustled in the ancient city nearby, believed to have been the Middle Kingdom capital of Itj-Tawy.
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