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Swiss archaeologists unearth pyramid

Egypt's top archaeologist, Zahi Hawass, at the site of the pyramid

(Keystone)

A team of Swiss archaeologists has discovered the remains of a 4,500-year-old pyramid in the desert outside the Egyptian capital, Cairo.

The pyramid, made of stone blocks, is believed to have been built for the wife of the fourth dynasty pharaoh, Djedefre, whose father Cheops built the Great Pyramid at Giza, around 15 kilometres south of the excavation site.

"When we discover in Egypt a tomb or a statue, it's something important," said Zahi Hawass, director of Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities. "But when we discover a pyramid, it's the most important thing."

Hawass added that the pyramid, which was discovered "completely by accident", was the 110th to be discovered in Egypt and the first for four years.

The latest discovery was made by a Swiss team excavating the tomb of Djedefre. Hawass said the team was clearing sand around the pharaoh's unfinished pyramid when they found an unmistakable shape: sharply cut blocks rising just a few feet above a square base of just five-by-five yards.

"What is found is [the base of] the pyramid that is only maybe two or three feet high," said Hawass. "This discovery is very important. It shows that this pyramid is for one of the queens of Djedefre."

Swiss excavation

The Swiss archaeologists, who completed a two-month excavation of the queen's pyramid last week, found it contained three chambers as well as the tomb located about 15 feet underground.

The team found part of a limestone sarcophagus, some pottery and one alabaster jar of the type used to store human organs following mummification. Hieroglyphics found in the tomb spelled out the word Cheops.

There was no sign of a mummy, which Hawass suggested had been taken by ancient grave robbers.

Hawass added that the size and location of the pyramid indicated that it was the tomb of a woman. "All this evidence proves that once a queen was buried in this pyramid," he said.

swissinfo with agencies

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