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Ancient Egypt

Queen's Pyramid Discovered

Edired from BBC News, 3 April 2000

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 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 fifteen hundred archaeologists to Cairo.

Mummy hope

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 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 2000).

The tomb is in the Valley of the Golden Mummies, 344km 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.

Mysterious chambers

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 ninety kilometres south of Cairo, was dated to 2600 BC.

Dr Gaballa, leader of the team, said the new chambers had only been viewed through an endoscope, a thirty metre-long 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.



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