"With the discovery of these four tombs, the total number of tombs in this Roman cemetery, dating from the period between the first century BC and the second century AD, now stands at 134," said Fadel Al-Otol, lamenting a lack of financial means to continue the work.

It is, according to him, "the first complete Roman necropolis" unearthed in Gaza.

"Fragments of pottery and metal pieces used in funeral rituals" were also discovered, he added.

The cemetery houses tombs with pyramidal structures. Inside, a team of technicians working under Mr. Al-Otol's direction is working on restoration operations with rudimentary tools.

"Two lead coffins with bunches of grapes and the other with dolphins swimming in the water were recently discovered at the site," the Palestinian archaeologist notes.

Funding for excavation and restoration work comes from the British Council's Cultural Protection Fund.

A team of archaeologists works at the site of a Roman-era cemetery, discovered in Beit Lahia in the northern Gaza Strip, September 23, 2023 © Mahmud HAMS / AFP

The Gaza Strip, a cramped and impoverished territory, is bordered by Israel, Egypt and the Mediterranean. Controlled by the Palestinian Islamist movement Hama, it has been under an Israeli blockade for more than 15 years.

© 2023 AFP