Egyptian police have arrested a group of men who discovered a Graeco-Roman city in Minya while excavating illegally, Egypt’s interior ministry said in a statement on Tuesday.
The group of seven people, aged between 18 and 51, were arrested at the excavation site, where they had dug a five-metre-deep hole.
A collection of ancient items were found with them, including 483 copper and bronze coins from the second and third centuries, and a pottery vessel from the Greek era, the statement said.
The ministry said the group has also discovered an ancient city dating back to the Graeco-Roman era extending about two kilometres across, and featuring many tombs carved in rock, a number of columns, a Graeco-Roman church, and a cross.
The ministry said the unearthed items and the site are genuine.
Excavating without a permit is illegal in Egypt; antiquities from illegal sites often find their way onto the black market.
In some cases, illegal excavations have turned up important finds such as the October 2014 discovery of a temple from the reign of New Kingdom King Thutmose III.
In a different incident, seven residents of the Giza district were arrested after they discovered huge limestone blocks engraved with hieroglyph in the course of illegally excavating beneath their home.