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French Team May Have Found Uncharted Tomb

March 4, 1987

CAIRO, Egypt (AP) _ French experts working with technology they used on the Giza Plateau near Cairo may have found an uncharted ancient tomb in southern Egypt’s Valley of the Queens, archaeological authorities report.

A statement signed by Ahmed Kadry, president of the Egyptian Antiquities Organization, said a microgravimeter used by the French had located ″an anomaly of density″ in the earth ″comparable with that created by known tombs.″

The microgravimeter, a metal box the size and shape of an automobile battery, measures variations in underground densities by recording minute changes in the gravitational pull on a suspended weight.

Jacques Montlucon, technical adviser of the French team, said in a telephone interview from Paris that results of the Valley of the Queens effort, which began in January, are ″already remarkable,″ but added:

″We need more detailed topographic work in order to pinpoint the abnormalities by archaeological means.″

The Valley of the Queens is across the Nile from Luxor, 450 miles south of Cairo. It contains remains of almost 80 known tombs of queens, princes and princesses of the 18th through 20th dynasties of ancient Egypt - roughly 3,600-3,050 years ago.

Financed by the state-owned electric company Electricite de France, the project was an offshoot of the French team’s microgravimeter study of the Great Pyramid of Cheops and other monuments on Giza. Cheops and Egypt’s other two most famous pyramids, Chephren and Mycerinus, are on the plateau.

The initial study, sponsored by the state company and the French Foreign Ministry, lasted almost a year and found indications of previously unknown chambers inside the pyramid and in the Sphinx, at the foot of the plateau.

A team from Tokyo’s Waseda University subsequently found indications of additional chambers at Giza.

Kadry’s statement was issued Monday in Paris and Cairo, and also signed by Electricite de France’s research director, Marc Albouy. It said more than 600 microgravimeter readings from Giza were being analyzed by computer.

It described the find in the Valley of the Queens as an ″unknown cavity″ and agreed that further analysis is necessary.

″Topographic analysis of the known tombs and local geological accidents must ... be deepened before allowing archeologists to determine if the detected anomaly can really correspond to a new tomb,″ the statement said.

Archaeologists in Cairo believe there undiscovered tombs may remain in the Valley of the Queens area of the vast necropolis that also includes the Valley of the Kings on the other side of the Theban Hills.

They point out that grave robbers focused most attention on the treasures buried with the pharaohs in the Valley of the Kings.

The limestone in the Valley of the Queens end of the pockmarked hills opposite Thebes, an ancient capital of Egypt near modern Luxor, was not as hard as that in the Valley of the Kings. Walls usually were painted instead of carved, some tombs were left unfinished and others have the appearance of caves.

Queens of pharaonic Egypt had their own powers. Many were sisters of ruling pharaohs as well as their wives, commanding vast authority and respect because of their royal birth.

Inscriptions usually depict queens as smaller than the pharaohs, however, and their tombs were not built on the same scale. A chief wife normally had more power than those married for political or personal reasons.

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