Parts of a house built for a wealthy family during the era of the Mamluk
Sultanate (1250 to 1517) were discovered in the Old City of Gaza last
A few months before that finding, the Palestinian Authority’s
Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities discovered about 1,300 gold coins on the
Egyptian- Palestinian border in the southern Gaza Strip. The oldest piece dates
back to around 330 BCE Jars, pots, gold and silver items and household
appliances were also discovered.
More Bronze historical coins were
recently discovered at a different site, Tel Rafah, set to be revealed by the
ministry in the coming weeks.
The number of archeological findings has
increased recently in the Gaza Strip, once a transit point for many ancient
trade caravans on the way between Asia and Africa, or various civilizations
across the Levant.
Beneath Gaza’s streets, the earth is so full of relics
that in the past workers fixing water pipes have struck ancient ruins with their
shovels while digging.
But when laborers rush to inform the authorities,
so that they can preserve the valuable findings, they are shocked and saddened
to find that authorities do not seem to care much for the
“Unfortunately, some contractors and citizens simply don’t care
about such findings and choose to completely ignore them as if they are a
disgrace, or something that wasn’t found,” explained one worker.
they advance their own interests and fear having their own interests disrupted
by these findings.”
One contractor, Sa’eed Mukheymar said that he had
discovered many important archeological findings through his work, but that he
decided to cover them up and keep them hidden to avoid any interference in his
projects. He stressed that once the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities is aware
of any archeological site, they immediately send a team of experts to inspect
the site, coordinating with the local municipalities and the police to ensure
the site is protected.
Mohammed Khella, directorgeneral of the ministry
in the Gaza Strip, says that every square meter of Gaza holds an archeological
site or an ancient artifact.
“The archeological sites that are discovered
– if they hold any historic importance – the Palestinian government in Gaza
allocates a financial budget to cover the drilling and exploration,” said
Khella. “But the staff that work at the ministry is small and not enough to
cover more than 40 archeological sites in Gaza, in addition to sites that are
detected every little while by either normal people or construction
The ministry currently has 20 people on staff, including
technical and managerial personnel.
The minister points out that there
were over 370 employees allocated to the ministry under previous
Khella claimed that foreign institutions which entered the
Gaza Strip under previous governments stole many valuable antiquities,
them away to be sold for millions of dollars and depriving Palestinians
history and heritage.
On the Palestinian street, locals express their
resentment at seeing the ministry cover up archeological findings,
ministry of taking the easy road instead of paying compensation to those
would incur damages if the ministry turned such sites into public
“People suffer from lack of awareness,” said Hayam al- Bitar,
chief of the Museums and Exhibitions Department of the Hamas government
“They don’t know how hard we work with such little resources to make
archeological findings are taken care of. We always face a challenge to
make people understand that they need to come forward and give anything
find to the ministry, instead of selling them or covering them out of
suffering damages or being arrested.
“We manage to overcome every
obstacle to make the required studies and maintenance, so we can show
findings in local exhibitions and museums,” she added. “I also want to
that the chemical materials needed for this process are prevented [by
from entering Gaza,” Bitar said.