French archaeologists in 2000 announced the discovery
of the remains of an ancient queen's pyramid near Cairo. The pyramid
of Queen Ankh-sn-Pepi, wife of Pheops (Pepi) I (2332-2283 BC), lies in
Saqqara (Sakkara), an ancient royal cemetery just thirty-two kilometres
(twenty miles) south of Cairo.
Archaeologists, led by Jean Leclant, found a stone in
the queen's burial chamber bearing special prayers to protect the dead
and ensure sustenance in the afterlife. Until this discovery, such
texts had only been found in the pyramids of pharaohs. Why they were
placed in the queen's chamber remains a mystery.
The finding was one of several announced at the Eighth
International Congress of Egyptologists which drew some 1,500
archaeologists to Cairo.
In another discovery, Egyptian archaeologists said they
had found a painted tomb in the Western Desert. It was built by people
from a culture of about 600 BC which exported wine to the Nile valley.
Leading Egyptian archaeologist Zahi Hawass related that
he saw a burial chamber containing a four metre-long (thirteen feet) stone
coffin through a hole in a wall of the tomb. It may have been intact, and
inside there was probably a wooden sarcophagus and perhaps even a mummy.
Dr Hawass' team was due to start excavating the following week week (April
The tomb is in the Valley of the Golden Mummies, 344km
(215 miles) to the south-west of Cairo. The area made headlines in 1999
when a total of one hundred and five mummies were found in a vast cemetery
of Greco-Roman tombs.
Archaeologists made this latest discovery while re-excavating
three other similar tombs. Ten houses which had been built above the
newly-discovered tomb were removed and Dr Hawass provided assurance that
the government would relocate the homes and compensate the families.
In a third discovery announced at the conference, a joint
expedition of Egyptian and French archaeologists announced the discovery
of two additional chambers and a corridor in the collapsed pyramid of Maidum.
The pyramid, which lies 90km (56 miles) south of Cairo, was dated to 2600
Dr Gaballa, leader of the team, said the new chambers had
only been viewed through an endoscope, a 30m-long (99ft) flexible tube
inserted through joints in the stones. He said the purpose of the hidden
chambers was not yet known, but they may have been built to lessen the
weight on the burial chambers below.