Archaeologists dig up an Egyptian mystery

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HER name was Nadjet-m-Pet. ``Teet'' to her friends.

Archaeologists discovered her small but superbly decorated tomb in the spring as they dug into a mountain of sand in Sakkara, one of ancient Egypt's greatest burial grounds.

They were shocked. The neighboring tombs belong to men, power brokers from the reign of Pharaoh Teti more than 4,300 years ago. She was the first woman found in the excavation with a tomb of her own.

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Who was Teet? Egyptologists are picking through her tomb in search of the answer.

``Many things about her tomb are unique, including the fact it belongs to a woman,'' said Zahi Hawass, the antiquities official in charge of the Sakkara cemetery.

There's no doubt she held an important position in the pharaoh's court because Teti allowed her to be buried near the entrance to his pyramid, Mr. Hawass said.

Teet's tomb, 13 feet long and 6 1/2 feet wide, is dominated by a large, expensive stone tablet covering the back wall. Hewn from the finest white limestone, it is covered with hieroglyphs.

On the tomb's right wall are portions of a colorful scene showing 17 male servants carrying baskets of food, wine jars, beef, geese, and other delicacies for Teet's afterlife. The artistry is first rate, archaeologists said.

``Teet could have been a lesser queen or could have held a high position in a queen's court,'' Hawass said.

Tomb descriptions call her a chantress, a title held by women who danced, sang, or shook magical rattles in front of the dead queen's tomb, an important and prestigious job.

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