CAIRO -- Archaeologists in Egypt have discovered a 4,400-year-old tomb near the country's famed pyramids at the Giza Plateau just outside Cairo, the Antiquities Ministry said Saturday, the latest discovery that authorities hope will help revive the country's staggering tourism sector.
The tomb was found in a wider area of Giza's western necropolis, which is known to be home to tombs from the Old Kingdom.
It likely belonged to a woman known as Hetpet, who archaeologists believe was close to ancient Egyptian royals of the Fifth Dynasty.
The tomb, unveiled to the media Saturday, is made of mud brick and includes wall paintings in good condition, depicting Hetpet observing different hunting and fishing scenes.
Other scenes depict a monkey -- in pharaonic times, monkeys were commonly kept as domestic animals -- picking fruit. Similar scenes have been found in other tombs belonging to the later 12th Dynasty, according to the ministry's statement. Another scene shows a monkey dancing before an orchestra.
According to the ministry, the archaeological mission behind the discovery started excavation work in October. Archaeologists have been making discoveries near the site since the 19th century, and Mostafa al-Waziri, who led the mission, believes there is still more to be found.
"This is a very promising area. We expect to find more," al-Waziri told reporters at the site. "We have removed between 250-300 cubic meters [327-392 cubic yards] of layers of earth to find the tomb."
"What we see above the earth's surface in Egypt doesn't exceed 40 percent of what the core holds," he added.
Al-Waziri said he believes that Hetpet had another tomb in Giza's western necropolis, adding that excavation work is underway to find that one, too.
Hetpet is a previously known figure in Egyptian antiquity, though her mummy has not been discovered yet. Fragments of artifacts belonging to Hetpet were found in the same area in 1909 and were moved to a museum in Berlin at the time, Antiquities Minister Khaled al-Anani said Saturday, speaking at the site to reporters and Western diplomats.
Despite all the discoveries already made about ancient Egypt, experts say they hope to find much more -- in part thanks to modern technology.
The area of the latest discovery is close to a museum under construction that will house some of Egypt's unique and most precious artifacts, including many belonging to the famed boy king Tutankhamun.
The first phase of the Grand Egyptian Museum is expected to open later this year, and the grand opening is planned for 2022.
In January, Egypt placed the ancient statue of one of its most famous pharaohs, Ramses II, at the museum's atrium, which will include 43 large statues.
Throughout 2017, the Antiquities Ministry made a string of discoveries across Egypt -- including some in the southern city of Luxor, known for its spectacular temples and tombs spanning different dynasties of ancient Egyptian history.
Egypt hopes the inauguration of the new museum, along with the recent discoveries, will draw visitors back to the country. Tourism has been hit hard by political turmoil after the 2011 popular uprising that toppled longtime autocrat Hosni Mubarak, and authorities have struggled to rein in an insurgency by Islamic militants.
The government has tightened security around archaeological and tourist sites and spent millions of dollars to upgrade airport security, especially after the 2015 downing of a Russian airliner over the restive Sinai Peninsula by the Islamic State militant group, killing 224 people on board.
The bombing dealt Egypt's vital tourism sector a hard blow after Russia suspended flights to and from the country.
In December, Cairo and Moscow signed a security protocol and announced plans to resume Russian flights to the Egyptian capital, due to start this month.
Camels rest between rides near the pyramids at Giza in 2015. Egyptian officials are hoping to reinvigorate tourism with a string of new discoveries of antiquities along with tightened security at popular sites and airports.
A Section on 02/04/2018
Print Headline: Tomb unearthed after 4,400 years