Archaeologists have discovered 30 mummies in a 2,000-year-old family tomb within a fire-scorched structure in Egypt.
The mummies varied in ages and included children, arthritis-ridden elderly people, as well as a newborn.
Researchers have not yet been able to put an exact date to the tomb but suspect the mummies were a single family buried dead in it over generations.
They have estimated that the dead could have been buried back to the Protlemaic and Roman periods.
The new tomb has been found among 300 others surrounding the Mausoleum of the Aga Khan, a 20th century structure sitting at the top of a hill on the Nile River.
While most of the other tombs were found dug into the hill or underground, this newest discovery was found in an above-ground structure.
Archaeologists believe it could have been used as a place of sacrifice.
Speaking to Live Science, Patrizia Piacentini, co-director of the excavation, said: “It seems that, due to its position along a valley of access to the necropolis, this building was used as a sacred enclosure where sacrifices were offered to the god Khnum in the form of aries, creator god and protector of the fertile floods of the Nile, particularly revered in Aswan.
“Who better than him could have propitiated the eternal life of those who rested in this necropolis?”
The theory that the structure was used as a place of sacrifice was backed up by the discovery of fire damage to the structure’s walls – potentially from offering ceremonies.
A copper necklace engraved with the name “Nikostratos” was also retrieved next to a mummy.
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Some of the mummies had been found very well preserved, while others had had their bandages cut by robbers.
The large-scale excavation was carried out by the Aswan and Nibian Antiques Zone in Egypt by the University of Milan in Italy.
“The study of the new discovered structure is just beginning,” Piacentini said.