Archaeologists have discovered an ancient necropolis holding the mummified remains of a high priest of the Egyptian god Thoth.
The large cemetery was unearthed on a vast site on the edge of the desert near the Nile Valley city of Minya, south of the capital Cairo.
It is the latest find to be announced by the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities and excavation work is expected to take at least five years.
“This is only the beginning of a new discovery,” said Antiquities Minister Khaled al-Anani.
One tomb contained more than 1,000 statues and four alabaster jars designed to hold the internal organs of a high priest of Thoth, the ancient god of the moon and wisdom who was depicted as a man with the head of an ibis.
The priest’s mummy, decorated with blue and red beads and bronze gilded sheets, was also recovered.
Forty sarcohagi – some bearing the names of their owners in hieroglyphics – are believed to belong to the priest’s family members.
Archaeologists started excavation work in the area late last year on a quest to find the remainder of the cemetery of Upper Egypt’s 15th district, or nome, during ancient times.
Mostafa Waziri, head of the archaeological mission, said eight tombs had been uncovered so far and that he expects more will be discovered soon.
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The area north of Tuna al-Gabal is known to house ancient catacombs from the Pharaonic Late Period and the Ptolemaic dynasty, including a large necropolis for thousands of mummified ibis and baboon birds.
Last year, the Ministry announced the discovery of a necropolis holding at least 17 mummies in the area of Tuna al-Gabal.
Egypt hopes the finds will reinvigorate the tourism industry after it suffered following political turmoil in the wake of the 2011 Revolution.