An ancient necropolis containing 40 stone coffins, small statues and a necklace with an inscription "Happy New Year" has been discovered.

Khaled El-Enany, Egypt’s antiques minister, said the discovery near Tuna al-Gabal, south of Cairo, included a large number of burial shafts dating from the late Pharaonic period to the early Ptolomaic era of around 305BC.

The site is more than 2,000 years old and it is expected to take another five years to excavate.

Mr Enany said: It’s only the beginning, we are very soon going to add a new archaeological attraction to Middle Egypt.

Mostafa Waziri, secretary general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, said: Evacuation work is scheduled to last for five years in an attempt to uncover all the burials in the cemetery.

Mr Waziri said that during the last three months the excavation team had discovered a group of tombs and burials that belong to priests of the ancient Egyptian god Thoth.

The tomb also contains 13 burials, a thousand full statues and hundreds of other broken pieces.

Four canopic jars made of alabaster with lids that have the faces of the four sons of the god Horus have also been unearthed.

Mr Waziri said: They are in a very good state of conservation. They still contain the mummified inner organs of the deceased. The jars are decorated with hieroglyphic texts showing the name and titles of their owner.

Egypt’s relics are a magnet to tourists and authorities hope new finds can help attract more as a way to boost tourism hit by the unrest following the ousting of former President Hosni Mubarak in 2011.

The number of tourists visiting the country rose 54% to 8.3 million in 2017, still below the 14.7 million who came in 2010.

(c) Sky News 2018: Egyptian archaeologists discover ancient necropolis south of Cairo