Vienna's Jewish community says a historically important trove of hundreds of ancient Jewish tombstones have been recently unearthed, including some dating back to the 16th century.

Senior Jewish community official Raimund Fastenbauer said Wednesday that the headstones have "high historical value." He describes their significance as comparable to that of the ancient Jewish cemetery in Prague, the oldest known graveyard of its kind and one of the Czech capital's most visited tourist sites.

He says the gravestones were buried by the few Jews remaining in Vienna in 1943 to hide them from the Nazis and were recently found during renovation of the small cemetery where they originally stood.

Vienna city officials said they expect excavations to yield up to 800 headstones.