CAIRO, Egypt - Archaeologists have unearthed 57 ancient Egyptian tombs, most of which hold an ornately painted wooden sarcophagus with a mummy inside, Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities said Sunday.

The oldest tombs date to about 2750 B.C., during the period of Egypt's first and second dynasties, the council said in a statement. Twelve of the tombs belong to the 18th dynasty, which ruled during the second millennium B.C.

The discovery throws new light on Egypt's ancient religions, the council said.

Egypt's archaeology chief, Zahi Hawass, said the mummies dating to the 18th dynasty were covered in linen decorated with religious texts from the Book of the Dead and scenes featuring ancient Egyptian deities.

Abdel Rahman El-Aydi, head of the archaeological mission that made the discovery, said some of the tombs were decorated with religious texts that ancient Egyptians believed would help the deceased to cross through the underworld.

El-Aydi said one of the oldest tombs was almost completely intact, with all of its funerary equipment and a wooden sarcophagus containing a mummy wrapped in linen.

In 31 tombs dating to about 2030-1840 B.C., archaeologists discovered scenes of different ancient Egyptian deities, such as the falcon-headed Horus, Hathor, Khnum, and Amun, decorating some of the tombs.

The council said the findings were unearthed at Lahoun, in Fayoum, about 70 miles south of Cairo.

Last year, 53 stone tombs dating to various ancient periods were found in the area.