Egypt - Egypt unveiled a well-preserved 4,400-year-old tomb decorated with hieroglyphs and statues south of Cairo on Saturday, and officials expect more discoveries when archaeologists excavate the site further in coming months.
The tomb was found in a buried ridge at the ancient necropolis of Saqqara. It was untouched and unlooted, Mostafa Waziri, secretary-general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, told reporters at the site. He described the find as "one of a kind in the last decades".
"It is exceptionally well preserved, coloured, with sculpture inside. It belongs to a high official priest (and) is more than 4,400 years old," he said.
The tomb dates from the rule of Neferirkare Kakai, the third king of the Fifth Dynasty of the Pharaohs, which ruled roughly from about 2,500 BC to 2,350 BC, not long after the great pyramid of Giza was built.
Archaeologists removed the last layer of debris from the tomb on Thursday and found five shafts inside, Waziri said. One of the shafts was unsealed with nothing inside, but the other four were sealed.
They are expecting to make discoveries when they excavate those shafts starting on Sunday, he said. He was hopeful about one shaft in particular.
"I can imagine that all of the objects can be found in this area," he said, pointing at one of the sealed shafts. "This shaft should lead to a coffin or a sarcophagus of the owner of the tomb."
The tomb is 10 metres long, three metres wide and just under three metres high, Waziri said.
Decorated with scenes showing the royal priest alongside his mother, wife and other members of his family, the ministry said in a statement.
It also contains more than a dozen niches and 24 colourful statues of the cleric and members of his family, it said.
In November archeology officials announced the discovery in Saqqara of seven sarcophagi, some dating back more than 6,000 years, during excavation work started in April by the same archaeological mission.
Three of those tombs contained mummified cats and scarabs.
"The colour is almost intact even though the tomb is almost 4,400 years old," Waziri said.
Saqqara served as the necropolis for Memphis, the capital of ancient Egypt for more than two millennia.
The Saqqara necropolis south of Cairo is home to the famous Djoser pyramid, a more than 4,600-year-old monument which dominates the site and the country's first.
Ancient Egyptians mummified humans to preserve their bodies for the afterlife, while animal mummies were used as religious offerings.