Ancient statues discovered near an ancient necropolis in Minya, Egypt.
Ancient statues discovered near an ancient necropolis in Minya, Egypt.REUTERS/Mohamed Abd El Ghany

Archaeologists have discovered an ancient cemetery filled with mummies and relics near the Nile Valley city of Minya, south of Cairo, Egypt's Antiquities Ministry has announced. The burial site, which is around 2000-year old, is close to Tuna el-Gebel -- a vast archaeological site on the edge of the western desert.

They have found 40 mummies in stone coffins, about 1,000 small statues and a necklace charm bearing the hieroglyphic inscription "happy new year". Mostafa Waziri, head of the archaeological mission said the necklace charm's unique New Year greeting had been unearthed last New Year's Eve in a "wonderful coincidence".

Archaeologists started the excavation work on the site last year and found tombs belonging to priests of Thoth -- the ancient god of the moon and wisdom. The large necropolis also has the tombs of their family members with their names in hieroglyphics.

They have also four well-preserved alabaster canopic jars with hieroglyphics. They're designed to hold the mummified internal organs of their owner -- a high priest of the god Thoth, Daily Mirror reported. The mummy of the priest was also found and it was decorated with blue and red beads and bronze gilded sheets.

The archaeological fortune could revive the country's tourism. The excavation is expected to take another five years and the authorities believe that it would be a new beginning for Egypt's tourism sector.  

"We will need at least five years to work on the necropolis," antiquities minister Khaled al-Anani said. "It's only the beginning."

The site is believed to be more than 2,000 years old, holding relics that date from the late Pharaonic period to the early Ptolemaic era.

Mostafa Waziri, head of the archaeological mission informed that eight tombs have been uncovered so far and they are expecting that more will be discovered soon. Waziri added: "This is a message sent to us from the afterlife."