The tomb of Maia, King Tutankhamun's nurse, was opened on Sunday 20 December after almost two decades of excavation. Located in Saqqara, 35km (22 miles) south of Cairo, in the Bubastis cemetery, the tomb was originally discovered in 1996 by French Egyptologist Alain Zivie.

Inscriptions inside Maia's tomb include images of the boy king sitting on her lap, among other images that include the two of them.

Egypt's Antiquities Minister Mamdouh al-Damaty said the tomb was reused over the different dynasties. "Bubastis are dated to two dynasties, 22nd and 23rd dynasties, and the worship of the divine cat, Bastet. For this reason the priests reused these tombs, but originally the tombs belonged to the 18th dynasty, some of them, and others to the 19th dynasty. But the most important tomb of them is the tomb of Maia, which includes beautiful scenes related to the lady nursing Tutankhamun as a child," he said.

Damaty added that extensive work is being carried out to solve the riddles related to King Tutankhamun's life and death. Many mysteries still remain with regard to this era, the antiquities minister said.

Tutankhamun's tomb was discovered in 1922 in Luxor's Valley of the Kings. He was a pharaoh who ruled Egypt during the 18th dynasty – the period in Egypt's history known as the New Kingdom. Son of Akhenaten, he became king at the age of nine and died at 19.

Alain Zivie, who attended Sunday's opening, said that Maia was the most important female during that era.

"Known for years as a witness, or nanny, some people say, okay, 'she's beautiful'. She was, and that is important, but it is secondary for the connection with that period and Akhenaten. It took years to excavate the tomb because it was transformed in cats' catacombs. We discovered no Maia inside, just a fragment of a canopic jar. You know these jars where they put the mummified organs outside, that's all. However it had the title so of 'great of the harim', meaning that she was the most important woman in the royal palace," he said.

Maia's coffin is yet to be found.