A team of Japanese and Egyptian researchers discovered the first catacombs along the Nile River, a finding that dates back 2,000 years when Egypt was under the control of the Roman Empire.

The communal cemetery, unearthed in the Saqqara ancient burial ground in suburban Cairo, contains mummies and six goddess statues that show both Greek and Egyptian features, the team said on Nov. 13.

Likely built in the first or second century under Roman rule, the catacombs show no signs of having been looted by robbers.

“The latest finding is expected to contribute to the advancement of research on Egypt under Roman control, which is characterized by the fusion of various cultures,” said Nozomu Kawai, 51, an Egyptology professor at Japan’s Kanazawa University.

Kawai and other members of the Japan-Egypt team excavated a slope on the northeastern part of the Saqqara remains in August and September.

During the survey, the team identified a stairway measuring 9 meters long and 1.5 meters wide and covered by a semi-cylindrical ceiling made of bricks.

Behind the staircase, they found a 15-meter-long, 2.5-meter-wide passageway with five rooms on both sides.

Among the items found in the cemetery was a 57.5-centimeter terra-cotta statue bearing characteristics of both Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love, and an ancient Egyptian female deity known as Isis, who is said to offer protection for the deceased in their next life.

The Aphrodite-Isis statue wears Greek-Roman-style clothing as well as an Egyptian crown on her head.

The team also unearthed a stone monument showing an image of Demeter, a goddess who appears in Greek mythology. Greek characters are engraved below the deity.

Although a similar burial facility dating to the era of Roman rule has been found in Alexandria in Egypt on the Mediterranean Sea, the catacombs in Saqqara are the first discovered along the Nile, the team said.

(This article was written by Kazuaki Hagi and Akira Hatano.)