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Egyptian archaeologists discover an ancient cemetery south of Cairo.

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Egyptian archaeologists discover an ancient cemetery south of Cairo.

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Egyptian archaeologists have discovered an ancient cemetery near the Nile Valley city of Minya, south of Cairo.

The site, which hosts a range of family tombs and graves of more than 2,000 years old, is expected to take another five years to excavate.

Antiquities minister Khaled El-Enany said on Saturday the discovery near Tuna al-Gabal, south of Cairo, consisted of a large number of burial shafts dating from the late Pharaonic period to the early Ptolomaic era.

In 2017, the ministry found a necropolis holding at least 17 mummies in the area of Tuna al-Gabal. a vast archaeological site on the edge of the western desert.

The area is also known to include tombs, a funerary building and a large necropolis for thousands of mummified ibis and baboon birds, as well as other animals.

"It's only the beginning," said Enany. "We are very soon going to add a new archaeological attraction to Middle Egypt."

Egypt hopes the new finds can help revive tourism which was hit hard by political turmoil following the 2011 uprising.

The number of tourists visiting the country rose 54 percent to 8.3 million last year, still below the 14.7 million who came in 2010.

Archaeologists started excavation work in the area late last year and found tombs belonging to priests of Thoth, the ancient god of the moon and wisdom.

One tomb includes more than 1,000 statues and four well preserved alabaster canopic jars inscribed with hieroglyphics and designed to hold the mummified internal organs of their owner - Thoth.

The priest's mummy was also found decorated with blue and red beads and bronze gilded sheets.

Another tomb includes several coffins, statues depicting ancient priests and other funerary artefacts.

Mostafa Waziri, head of the archaeological mission, says eight tombs have been uncovered so far and he expects more will be discovered soon.

40 stone coffins, believed to belong to the priest's family members and a necklace charm bearing the hieroglyphic inscription "happy new year" have also been found.

Mostafa Waziri said the scarab charm had been unearthed last New Year's Eve in a "wonderful coincidence".