ARCHAEOLOGISTS were yesterday celebrating the discovery of 27 2,000-year-old tombs in Italy's "Valley of the Dead".
The tombs, some dating back to the 7th century BC, were found by chance while builders carried out work.
The whole area was sealed off yesterday and put under police guard to prevent anyone from trying to steal artefacts inside the burial chambers.
Grave robbers, or tombaroli as they are known in Italy, make a lucrative living from selling such objects to museums or private collectors.
Archaeologists say there is also a "good chance" that there may well be other tombs waiting to be discovered. The tombs were discovered at Tarquinia, 50 miles north of Rome in an area named a World Heritage Site by Unesco.
Covering more than 400 acres, the area was the burial ground for the Etruscan tribes who predated the Romans. Maria Tecla Castaldi, an archaeologist, said: "This is the most exciting discovery here in decades. There are frescoes of two figures on the walls, but we need to carry out a proper excavation and search.
"The problem we have is that grave robbers have plundered this area in the last few years, so sometimes we find tombs but they have been there before us. I hope that we have found tombs that are still intact."