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Tuesday, November 11, 2008

4,300-year-old pyramid discovered in Egypt

Tomb thought to house remains of Queen Sesheshet, mother of King Teti

Image: Egyptian archaeologists work at an ancient burial ground

Khaled Desouki / AFP - Getty Images
Egyptian archaeologists work at an ancient burial ground in Saqqara which dates back to 2,700 BC, about 22 miles south of Cairo.

By Will Rasmussen

SAQQARA, Egypt - Egyptian archaeologists have discovered a pyramid buried in the desert and thought to belong to the mother of a pharaoh who ruled more than 4,000 years ago, Egypt's antiquities chief said on Tuesday.

The pyramid, found about two months ago in the sand south of Cairo, probably housed the remains of Queen Sesheshet, the mother of King Teti, who ruled from 2323 to 2291 B.C. and founded Egypt's Sixth Dynasty, Zahi Hawass told reporters.

"The only queen whose pyramid is missing is Shesheshet, which is why I am sure it belonged to her," Hawass said. "This will enrich our knowledge about the Old Kingdom."

The Sixth Dynasty, a time of conflict in Egypt's royal family and erosion of centralized power, is considered to be the last dynasty of the Old Kingdom, after which Egypt descended into famine and social upheaval.

Archaeologists had previously discovered pyramids belonging to two of the king's wives nearby, but had never found a tomb belonging to Sesheshet.

The headless, 6-foot high pyramid originally reached about 46 feet, with sides 72 feet long, Hawass said.

The pyramid, which Hawass said was the 118th found in Egypt, was uncovered near the world's oldest pyramid at Saqqara, a burial ground for the rulers of ancient Egypt.

"This may be the most complete subsidiary pyramid ever found at Saqqara," Hawass said.

The monument was originally covered in a casing of white limestone brought from quarries at nearby Tura, Hawass said.

Archaeologists plan to enter the pyramid's burial chamber within two weeks, although most of its contents are likely to have been taken by thieves, Hawass said.

Artifacts including a wooden statue of the ancient Egyptian god Anubis and funerary figurines dating from a later period indicate that the cemetery had been reused through Roman times, Hawass said.

4,300-year-old pyramid found in Egypt
Nov. 11: Egyptian archaeologists discover pyramid buried in the desert south of Cairo.'s Dara Brown reports.