Page last updated at 00:41 GMT, Tuesday, 23 December 2008

Pair of tombs discovered in Egypt

The two tombs date back more than 4,000 years

Egyptian archaeologists say they have discovered a pair of 4,300-year-old tombs that indicate a burial site south of Cairo is bigger than expected.

The tombs at the Saqqara necropolis belong to two officials from the court of the Pharaoh Unas, Egypt's antiquities chief said.

One was for the official in charge of quarries used for building pyramids, the other for the head of music.

Hieroglyphics decorate the entrances of both the newly discovered tombs.

Zahi Hawass, Egypt's top archaeologist, told reporters that the tombs represented a "major" find.

"The discovery of the two tombs are the beginning of a big, large cemetery," he said.

New discoveries are frequently made at Saqqara, including the unearthing of the remains of a pyramid in November.

Mr Hawass said 70% of Egypt's ancient monuments remain buried.

"We are continuing our excavation and we are going to uncover more tombs in the area to explain the period of dynasty five and dynasty six," he added, referring to a period more than 4,000 years ago.

The contents of the newly found tombs have long since been stolen, Mr Hawass said.

The entrance of the tomb of the official in charge of music, Thanah, shows carved images of her smelling lotus flowers.

The other official whose tomb was discovered, Iya Maat, oversaw the extraction of granite and limestone from Aswan and other materials from the Western Desert for the construction of nearby pyramids.

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