March 4, 2010

Egyptian Queen’s Burial Chamber Located In Saqqara

Archaeologists have discovered an intact sarcophagus of an Egyptian queen inside a 4,000-year-old burial chamber in Saqqara, chief archaeologist Zahi Hawass announced Wednesday.

Queen Behenu's chamber, located inside her pyramid, was badly damaged except for two inner walls covered with spells meant to help her travel to the afterlife, Hawass said in a statement.

Ancient Egyptians believed that carving religious spells on their royal burial chambers helped them get to heaven by granting special passages such as ladders, ramps, stairs, or even letting them fly there when they die.

These engraved spells, known as Pyramid Texts, were most commonly used in royal tombs during the 5th and 6th dynasties, said Hawass. "Pyramid Texts were first discovered inside the burial chamber of King Unas's pyramid at Saqqara, the last king of the 5th Dynasty," he added.

The 5th Dynasty lasted from 2465 to 2323 BC, while the 6th Dynasty lasted from 2323 to 2150 BC. Sometime soon after that, the Old Kingdom fell due to famine, social upheaval and a breakdown in centralized power. The necropolis of Saqqara, 20 miles south of Cairo, was scoured by thieves in ancient times.

Behenu's remains was found in a sarcophagus within the expansive necropolis of Pepi I at Saqqara. "It is a well-preserved granite sarcophagus engraved with the queen's different titles, but says nothing about the identity of her husband," said Philippe Collombert, who lead the French mission that excavated the remains.

Behenu's 80-foot-long pyramid was found in 2007 along with seven other queen pyramids -- belonging to Inenek, Nubunet, Meretites II, Ankhespepy III, Miha, and an unidentified queen. Archaeologists are not sure if Behenu was the wife of Pepi I or Pepi II, both from the 6th Dynasty.


Image Caption: Pyramid Texts found in Queen Behenu's place of burial. Credit: Supreme Council of Antiquities


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