Page last updated at 15:40 GMT, Monday, 9 February 2009

Chamber of mummies found in Egypt


The burial chamber was found near Cairo

Egyptian archaeologists have found more than 20 mummies in a burial chamber dating back at least 2,600 years.

Eight wooden and stone sarcophagi were also discovered during the excavations at the Saqqara site, said Zahi Hawass, Egypt's chief archaeologist.

One limestone sarcophagus sealed with plaster is thought to be more than 4,000 years old.

Despite decades of excavations at the Saqqara necropolis south of Cairo, new finds are frequently made.

Correspondents say it is rare for such an intact burial site to be unearthed.

The mummies, 22 of which were found in niches along a wall, were in a tomb dating to 640BC, Mr Hawass said.

One wooden sarcophagus had not been opened since ancient times, though one official said ancient grave robbers had probably reached it first, according to a government statement.

A mummy was found in the only sarcophagus to have been opened so far, and archaeologists said they were expecting to find more mummies in the others.

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

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