Surprise find has archaeologists smiling

Cairo - French archaeologists have discovered 19 mummies as well as wood and limestone sarcophagi in an ancient Egyptian burial ground south of the capital, antiquities officials said Sunday.

The secretary general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, Zahi Hawwas, said in a statement that a mission from the Louvre Museum in Paris found the antiquities in the Saqqara region, about 20 kilometers (12 miles) south of Cairo.

Also found were statuettes and pieces of fabric, he added.

These items date to the Late Dynastic Period, or about 1 000 years Before Christ, and the Ptolomaic era, 323 to 30 BC, Hawwas said.

The French mission was examining deep shafts in Saqqara when they discovered the mummies and sarcophagi, according to the statement from the antiquities council.

Twelve of the mummies, found in one of the shafts, are "in good condition," the statement said. - Sapa-AFP

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