"We found catacombs containing a number of mummies", said Salah al-Kholi, a Cairo University professor of Egyptology who headed the mission that made the discovery.
What makes this pioneering finding crucial is that it's the first human necropolis found in the region, explained Mohamed Hamza, director of excavations for Cairo University.
The mummies have been elaborately preserved and are thought to have been officials and priests.
The necropolis, uncovered eight metres below ground in Minya, a province about 250km south of Cairo, contained limestone and clay sarcophagi, animal coffins and papyrus inscribed with Demotic script.
The ministry said in a statement that the non-royal mummies were found in a series of corridors after following the trail of burial shafts in the Touna-Gabal district of the central Egyptian province.
Egypt's antiquities ministry says it has found a necropolis with at least 17 mummies near the southern city of Minya, the first such find in the area.
Egypt is trying to send message that it its heritage sites are safe, despite terrorist attacks elsewhere in the country. Most recently, a mission from the antiquities ministry stumbled upon the nearly intact funerary collection of Userhat, the chancellor of Thebes during the 18th dynasty, in the Draa Abul Naga necropolis on Luxor's west bank.
"This feather could be decoration on the hair dress of one of the deceased", El- Kholi said.
"Antiquities are the soft power that distinguishes Egypt", Enany said. It also includes tombs and a funerary building.
In recent months, Egypt has announced a string of ancient discoveries.