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New Pyramid Discovered in Egypt
By TANALEE SMITH
Associated Press Writer

CAIRO, Egypt (AP) APRIL 02, 2000 — French archaeologists have discovered the remains of a 4,000-year-old queen's pyramid south of Cairo, complete with texts of special prayers previously found only with kings.

The finding was one of several announced at the Eighth International Congress of Egyptologists, a weeklong conference that ends Monday and has drawn some 1,500 archaeologists to Cairo.

The French team, led by Jean Leclant, uncovered the foundation stones March 25 in Sakkara, an ancient royal cemetery about 20 miles south of Cairo. The pyramid belonged to Queen Ankh-sn-Pepi, the wife of King Pepi I.

The archaeologists dug into the queen's burial chamber and found a stone bearing pyramid texts, or special prayers to protect the dead and ensure sustenance in the afterlife. Until this discovery, such texts had been located only in the pyramids of kings. It is not yet known why they were in the queen's burial chamber.

"Who knows what else they may find?'' said Gaballa Ali Gaballa, head of Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities. The team will work at the site, now one of the country's largest, until the end of May.

In another discovery, Egyptian archaeologists said they found a painted tomb in the Western Desert from a 600 B.C. culture that exported wine to the Nile valley.

Leading Egyptian archaeologist Zahi Hawass, who is chairing the congress, said that through a hole in a wall of the tomb, he saw a burial chamber containing a stone coffin. The coffin was roughly 13 feet by seven feet.

"It may be intact, and inside there is likely a wooden sarcophagus and maybe even a mummy,'' Hawass said Sunday. "We will start excavating next week.''

The tomb is in the so-called Valley of the Golden Mummies in the Bahariya oasis village of Bawiti, 215 miles southwest of Cairo.

Archeologists made the discovery while re-excavating three similar tombs that previously had been found in the village, Hawass said. Ten houses built above the fourth tomb were removed, and Hawass said the government will relocate the homes and compensate the families.

Bahariya oasis made headlines last year when 105 mummies were found during the excavation of a vast cemetery of Greco-Roman tombs.

In a third discovery announced at the conference, a joint expedition of Egyptian and French archaeologists said they found two additional chambers and a corridor in the collapsed pyramid of Maidum. Those ruins, some 56 miles south of Cairo, date to about 2600 B.C.

Antiquities chief Gaballa said the new rooms have so far been seen only through an endoscope, a 33-yard-long flexible tube that was inserted through the joints in the stones.

He said the purpose of the rooms is not yet known, but they may have been built to lessen the weight on the burial chambers below.

 
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