It’s a find worthy of Indiana Jones: the tomb of an Egyptian royal priest and his family, left untouched for thousands of years in the ancient necropolis of Saqqara, south of Cairo. Egyptian authorities announced the rare discovery on Saturday (Dec. 15), according to the New York Times (paywall). Excavation has been underway since November.
Despite a flurry of archaeological discoveries in the past year—a pristine sarcophagus; a trove of cat mummies, and the world’s oldest cheese—this was “one of a kind in the last decade” authorities said, due to the tomb’s excellent condition. At nearly nine feet (2.7 meters) tall and 32 feet (9.6 meters) wide, its walls are richly decorated with colorful hieroglyphs, guarded by an army of some 45 statues, depicting various pharaohs, the priest, and his family.
Saqqara, home to a sprawling and ancient burial ground, has been a popular tourist attraction for decades, offering visitors a rare glimpse into the staggering accomplishments of people who lived thousands of years ago. It is a UNESCO World Heritage site and home to many other tombs, including the famous Step Pyramid, which stands more than 60 meters (200 feet) high.
But the snap-happy crowds of yesteryear have faded of late, amid fears of violence triggered by 2011’s uprising against former Egyptian president, Hosni Mubarak. Ongoing political tensions, as well as a spate of terrorist attacks targeting tourist areas, have dissuaded international visitors from making the trip.
Whether this new discovery can allay those concerns, and bring back Egyptian’s foreign vacationers, remains to be seen—though cash-strapped authorities are keeping their fingers crossed.