SOHAG (Egypt) • Dozens of mummified mice were among the animals found in an ancient but well-preserved and finely painted tomb near the Egyptian town of Sohag.
The tomb dating back more than 2,000 years was unearthed in the city of Akhmim and is believed to have belonged to a senior official.
"It's one of the most exciting discoveries ever in the area," said Mr Mostafa Waziri, secretary-general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities which sits within the Antiquities Ministry, last Friday.
The tomb was built for a man named Tutu and his wife, and is one of seven discovered in the area last October, when the authorities found smugglers digging illegally for artefacts, officials said.
Its painted walls depict funeral processions and images of the owner working in the fields, as well as his family genealogy written in hieroglyphics.
Mr Mostafa described the burial chamber as a "beautiful, colourful tomb".
"The tomb is made up of a central lobby, and a burial room with two stone coffins. The lobby is divided in two," he said. "It shows images of the owner of the burial room, Tutu, giving and receiving gifts before different gods and goddesses.
"We see the same thing for his wife, Ta-Shirit-Iziz, with the difference that (we see) verses from a book, the book of the afterlife," he added.
Two mummies, of a woman aged between 35 and 50 and a boy aged 12 to 14, were on display outside the shallow burial chamber, in a desert area near the Nile about 390km south of Cairo.
More than 50 mummified mice, cats and falcons, dating to the Ptolemaic era, were also recovered from the tomb.
Ptolemaic rule spanned about three centuries until the Roman conquest in 30 BC.
Egypt's tourism industry has been struggling in recent years and the Antiquities Ministry said last Friday's presentation was intended to "draw the world's attention to the civilisation and antiquities of Egypt".
The country's plethora of heritage sites is a major draw for tourists and the ministry described Sohag as "one of the most historically rich cities in Egypt", where a museum opened last year.
Political instability and deadly attacks since the 2011 revolution have led to a drop in visitor numbers, although there has been a slight recovery in recent years.
The authorities regularly celebrate new discoveries, but Egypt is often accused of negligence regarding its cultural heritage and a lack of scientific rigour.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS