Excavation work in Minya has uncovered an ancient settlement that might be a monks’ complex, the antiquities ministry have said.
Ayman Ashmawi, the head of the Ancient Egyptian Antiquities Department at the ministry, said that the settlement in the area besides the Al-Nassara necropolis in Al-Bahnasa includes a collection of rock-hewn tombs and a residential area, dating from the 5th century AD.
Gamal El-Semestawi, director-general of Antiquities of Middle Egypt, explains that the rock-hewn tombs are composed of a collection of burial chambers that are 50x70 metres in total.
The residential area is 100x130 metres in size and include the remains of houses, among them the remains of a mud-brick house of a monk.
"This fact suggests that the archaeological site beside Al-Nassara necropolis was a monks’ complex," El-Semestawi told Ahram Online.
He added that the antiquities' ministry archaeological mission has also found a collection of monks' cells and a water well.
Excavations started in the area in 2008 when the mission uncovered the remains of a fifth-century church built of mud-brick, as well as a shrine; a prayer hall and a number of chambers with walls covered with plaster and decorated with coloured decorative elements and hymns written in the Coptic language.
Regretfully, said El-Semestawi, these remains were subjected to destruction during the lack of security in the aftermath of the 2011 revolution.
Gamal Mohamed, director of Maghagha antiquities, said that in 2013 the excavation work resumed and the mission discovered the remains of a monk’s chamber, a prayer hall, a kitchen and a grain store with walls decorated with red crosses.
The lower part of a monk's tomb stone was unearthed as well as a collection of metal coins and clay pots. The coins and pots are now under restoration and study.
The town of Al-Bahnasa is located on the West Bank of the Nile, near Beni Mazzar.
During the Hellenistic era Al-Bahnasa was called "Oxirenkhos" and in the Islamic period it was known as Al-Bahnasa referring to the daughter of the town's ruler at that time.
A part of tomb stone of a monk
Remains of the residential area