Egypt unveils 3,000-year-old wooden coffins in Luxor

HATEM MAHER

Egypt unveils 3,000-year-old wooden coffins in Luxor originally appeared on abcnews.go.com

Egypt unveiled 30 ancient wooden coffins on Saturday that were discovered in the southern city of Luxor, in what the country's antiquities ministry described as one of the largest discoveries in years.

The announcement was made in a makeshift tent just opposite to the famed Temple of Hatshepsut, which is situated beneath a cliff in Deir al-Bahari on Luxor's West Bank.

The 3,000-year-old coffins, which appeared to be well preserved, were unearthed during excavations at the nearby Asasif necropolis last week. They belonged to priests, with 23 sarcophagi containing the mummies of men, five of women and two smaller coffins that held mummies of children, according to antiquities minister Khaled El-Anany.

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The colorful coffins were adorned with inscriptions, with one official saying he was surprised to find out that they were "completely sealed." They date back to the 22nd Dynasty in the 10th century BC.

PHOTO: Egypt unveiled 30 ancient wooden coffins on Saturday that were discovered in the southern city of Luxor, in what the country's antiquities ministry described as one of the largest discoveries in years. (Hatem Maher/ABC News)

"We can look at the wooden coffins; still sealed and in a perfect shape of preservation," Mostafa Waziri, the secretary-general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, told reporters.

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He also said it was only the fourth major discovery of a "cachette" following two for royals and one for priests, which were all discovered in the 19th century. It was called a cachette because the coffins were hidden from grave robbers, Waziri added.

PHOTO: Egypt unveiled 30 ancient wooden coffins on Saturday that were discovered in the southern city of Luxor, in what the country's antiquities ministry described as one of the largest discoveries in years. (Hatem Maher/ABC News)

A team of Egyptian restorers then unsealed two of the displayed coffins for the first time, with journalists and photographers jostling to take a glimpse of the ancient mummies.

"The coffins were in the mountain, they were not inside a tomb. And that's really very interesting to know why they were buried in a cliff," El-Anany told reporters.

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Renowned Egyptologist Zahi Hawass said the discovery will "capture the hearts of people everywhere."

PHOTO: Egypt unveiled 30 ancient wooden coffins on Saturday that were discovered in the southern city of Luxor, in what the country's antiquities ministry described as one of the largest discoveries in years. (Hatem Maher/ABC News)

"The mummies and coffins are all made from one workshop, and have been sealed for all those years," he added.

El-Anany said Egypt will reveal more major discoveries soon as the country hopes to revive its vital tourism industry, which has been battered by years of turmoil in th country.