Chamber of Egyptian Queen Found

A sarcophagus is seen inside the well-known Saqqara Serapium, a tunnel of underground tombs, discovered by French archeologist August Mariette in 1850, that has been closed to the public for repairs for the last ten years at Saqqara, south of Cairo, Egypt Thursday, June 5, 2008. AP Photo/Nasser Nasser

French archaeologists announced Wednesday the discovery outside Cairo of the burial chamber of a mysterious queen from Egypt's Old Kingdom more than 4,000 years ago.

The necropolis of Saqqara outside Cairo has yielded a string of new discoveries as 10 different teams excavate a previously untouched area of these burial grounds were used continuously for more than 2,000 years until Roman times.

French mission head Philippe Collombert said the mummy of Queen Behenu was destroyed, but the chamber contained green hieroglyphics picked out on white stone known as the "Pyramid Texts."

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"We are excited because the texts are well conserved," he told The Associated Press, adding that the queen's titles were written on the walls of the 33 by 16 foot burial chamber inside her small pyramid.

The text is primarily concerned with protecting the queen's remains and her transition to afterlife.

Collombert called the queen "mysterious," and said it was not clear whether she was the wife of King Pepi I or II, two long-ruling pharaohs of the Sixth Dynasty.

Under that dynasty, Egypt's Old Kingdom period ended as centralized rule broke down and ushered in a period of competing dynasties and powerful nobles vying for power across the country.

Pyramids from this time were mainly concentrated in Saqqara and were shoddily built, compared to their more famous cousins in Giza, and have largely fallen apart.

Collombert said the mission has worked in the area since 1988 and has unearthed seven pyramids belonging to queens from the dynasty, but this is only the second pyramid with religious texts on the walls
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