CNN  — 

Archeologists have uncovered an ancient “industrial area” once used to produce decorative items, furniture and pottery for royal tombs, Egypt’s Ministry of Antiquities announced Thursday.

Comprised of 30 workshops and a large kiln to fire ceramics, the sprawling site was discovered in Luxor’s Valley of the Monkeys, according to an official statement.

“Each workshop had a different purpose,” said archeologist Zahi Hawass, who led the excavation, in a phone interview. “Some were used to make pottery, others to produce gold artifacts and others still to manufacture furniture.”

At the site, which stretches around 75 meters (246 feet) down the valley, Hawass’ team found inlay beads, silver rings and golden foil – items that were commonly used to decorate the wooden coffins of Egypt’s ancient royalty, he said. Some of the artifacts depicted the wings of Horus, a deity associated with death and resurrection, according to the statement.

The excavation team uncovered 30 workshops used to produce items such as pottery, which were placed in the royal tombs dotting the surrounding valleys.

“This is unprecedented,” Hawass said of the finds. “Up until now, everything we knew about the (Luxor region) came from the tombs themselves, but this new discovery will allow us to shed a light on the tools and techniques used to produce the royal coffins and the furniture placed in the tombs.”

According to Hawass, the discovery marks the first time that workshops making funerary ornaments on an “industrial scale” have been uncovered in Egypt. He said the site will provide further insight into the lives of the laborers who worked there.

“We found storage rooms used to hold water and food, as well as a water tank from which the workers would drink,” he explained.

All the artifacts are believed to date back to Egypt’s Eighteenth Dynasty, which spanned from around 1539 B.C to 1292 B.C. The site has proven difficult to excavate until now, Hawass said, adding: “I had to have over 3,000 stones removed to be able to access it.”

Finding royal tombs

Hawass’ team has been researching areas around Luxor, in southern Egypt, since December 2017. As well as making discoveries in the Valley of the Monkeys, the archeologists have been exploring the neighboring Valley of the Kings – the largest expedition there since legendary British archeologist Howard Carter’s in the 1920s, according to the Ministry of Antiquities.

Rami Magdy works on the restoration of a chariot from Tutankhamun's tomb at the Wood Laboratory in the Grand Egyptian Museum's conservation center. The first phase of the GEM will open the end of this year and will feature a special display of thousands of treasures from Tutankhamun's tomb, many never  before on dislplay.
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There the researchers have thus far discovered one tomb, labeled KV 65, which was found to contain tools used for its construction. They are also looking for undiscovered royal tombs, including those of kings’ wives and children buried before the adjacent Valley of the Queens came into use in the Nineteenth Dynasty.

Among the specific tombs they hope to uncover are those of Egyptian queen Nefertiti and her daughter Ankhsenamun, the widow of Tutankhamun. The team is also looking to unearth the burial sites of King Amenhotep I, King Tuthmose II and Ramses VIII, three prominent pharaohs.

“I believe we are very close to finding an intact royal tomb,” said Hawass.