Image: Relief featuring a woman
A photo released on June 13 shows a relief featuring a woman seated in front of an offering table that was found after Australian archaeologists unearthed a necropolis dated to the first and fourth dynasties.
updated 6/14/2004 3:24:08 PM ET 2004-06-14T19:24:08

Archaeologists have unearthed a 5,000-year-old necropolis with 20 well-preserved tombs in a poor neighborhood just outside Cairo, Egyptian authorities announced Sunday.

The site in the suburb of Helwan is a mixture of small, plain tombs with larger ones meant for the middle and upper classes, with containing alabaster, limestone, clay and copper pots and pans, the statement said.

The necropolis also contains a limestone relief with early uses of hieroglyphic texts, according to Christian Kohler, head of the Australian team of archaeologists.

"It is a duty to protect this magnificent archaeological site from the urban expansion which represent a major threat to (Helwan's) monuments," she said, quoted in a statement from Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities.

Image: Alabaster pot
An alabaster pot discovered by Australian archaeologists who unearthed a 5,000-year-old necropolis in a town outside of Cairo.
Two large limestone tombs found at the site date to the Old Kingdom, 2575-2134 B.C. and contain a collection of small chapels and niches.

Helwan, some 15 miles south of Cairo, is a heavily populated industrial area located across the Nile river from the pyramids of Saqqara, also a cemetery site.

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