Over 500 miles south of Cairo, far down the Nile River, is a place called Gebel el-Silsila, the site of ancient stone quarries that supplied a huge amount of building blocks for Egypt’s temples.
Archeologists have long known about the site, and began surveying it in 2012. Last year they uncovered the remains of the Temple of Kheny, which had been found circa 1905, then forgotten.
On Wednesday, the group, known as the Gebel el-Silsila Survey Project, announced its latest discovery: a 3,400-year-old necropolis, home to dozens of tombs and a shrine.
These tombs were not the burial places of pharaohs, but they were lavish enough that archaeologists think the Egyptians buried there were of some notable rank.
“The higher officials, viziers and such that were active at Silsila were buried in Thebes, so it is likely that the people entombed in the rock-cut graves belong to the level just below the officials,” the director of the project, Maria Nilsson, told Discovery News.
Archeological work on the site—done in cooperation with the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities—is ongoing, since many of the tombs are heavily eroded. But John Ward, an associate director of the group, told Discovery News that the findings were important in one aspect: proving that Gebel el-Silsila may have been a lot more than just a stone quarry.
“Preliminary analysis of the bones suggests burials of men, women and children of all ages,” Ward said. “Importantly, this indicates a more permanent habitation at Gebel el Silsila than previously thought.”