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New corridors might lead to Ramses' sons

November 30, 1995
Web posted at: 11:15 a.m. EST (1615 GMT)

From Correspondent Mary Ann McRae


NEW YORK (CNN) -- Some further digging in what is believed to be Egypt's largest tomb has uncovered dozens of new rooms and some new corridors that could lead to the burial chambers of the sons of a powerful pharaoh who ruled from 1279 to 1212 B.C.

wall carving

Ramses II spared no expense in decorating the family mausoleum. "Every wall of every chamber in tomb five originally was decorated, and where that decoration is preserved, we have some of the finest examples of relief and painting to be found in any tomb of the Egyptian new kingdom," said Francis Dzikowski with the Theban Mapping Project.

Kent Weeks

Earlier this year, professor Kent Weeks uncovered parts of what may be the largest tomb ever found in Egypt's Valley of the Kings. Now, he's discovered two new corridors. "These corridors, the two of them at the front of the tomb, descend in parallel downward, very steeply, at about a 35-degree angle, heading toward what we think are the burial chambers where the sons of Ramses II may have been originally interred," Weeks said. (297K AIFF sound or 297K WAV sound)

Weeks cannot say how far the corridors will extend until the tombs are discovered. "But I can tell you that off to the right, about 100 feet from where we stopped our excavation last Sunday, lies the tomb of Ramses II himself," he said.

Arnold Tovell with the American University in Cairo says the discovery of the corridors will provide a lot of excitement for some time to come. "It's an extraordinary adventure which isn't anywhere ended yet," he said.

It hasn't ended yet, to be sure, because Weeks hasn't found the actual burial chambers of the pharaoh's sons. He had 52 of them and they might all be buried in the tomb. map of tomb "That's one of the reasons we have to go so slowly and so meticulously in our work," Weeks said. "Because there may be one tiny little scrap of evidence in one tiny little chamber in the back of the tomb that will provide the clue that will make everything else fit together."

There have been blind alleys. Take, for example, the sloping hallway with a special staircase. "It was because of this staircase with this peculiar ramp design that we thought obviously we would walk down this ramp and we would find the burial chambers at the end, " Weeks said. "That was not the case."

corridor in tomb

But the search has turned up lots of pottery fragments. "Some of the pots held wine, some beer, some animal products, some vegetables, and so on. It gives us a very good idea of what the Egyptians wanted to take with them into the afterlife and a good idea of where these things came from in this one," Weeks said. (176K AIFF sound or 176K WAV sound)

Weeks has paused in his digging and is lecturing on his discoveries, so it won't be known until next June, or maybe years later, if those new corridors lead to the graves of the sons of Ramses II.

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