Wooden box contain canopic jars
© Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities
This wooden box was discovered inside the burial chamber of a 3,800-year-old pyramid and is inscribed with hieroglyphs that may mention the name of the daughter of pharaoh Ameny Qemau.
Inside a 3,800-year-old pyramid at the site of Dahshur in Egypt, archaeologists have discovered a burial chamber that may have held the mummy of a princess named Hatshepset. A wooden box inscribed with hieroglyphs was also found within the chamber. The discoveries provide clues that may help archaeologists determine why a pharaoh named Ameny Qemau has two pyramids at Dahshur.

The wooden box is inscribed with "Hatshepset," which likely does not refer to the pharaoh Hatshepsut but rather someone else with a similar name, the researchers said. Last month, another inscription, written on an alabaster block, was also found in the pyramid. That inscription bears the name of pharaoh Ameny Qemau (also spelled Qemaw), who ruled Egypt for a brief period around 1790 B.C.

It's the second pyramid that has an inscription bearing the name Ameny Qemau that is known from Dahshur. The other Ameny Qemau pyramid was discovered in 1957 and is located nearly 2,000 feet (about 600 meters) away from the recently discovered pyramid.

People at the time would have used the newly discovered wooden box to hold canopic jars, which would have stored the inner organs of a mummy, officials with the Egyptian antiquities ministry said in a statement. The jars are now gone, and the archaeologists found only a few mummy wrappings inside the box, the ministry said. The ministry also noted that the box has three lines of hieroglyphic inscriptions that may refer to a daughter of Ameny Qemau.

Live Science showed a photo of the inscriptions to James Allen, an Egyptology professor at Brown University, and he deciphered them. "It's a box for canopic jars. The inscriptions are typical for such boxes in the Second Intermediate Period [which lasted from about 1640 B.C. to 1540 B.C.] and belong on the side [of the box] facing east," Allen wrote in an email. The top line reads, "Neith, extend your arms over the Duamutef who is in you," according to Allen.

"Duamutef is the god associated with the canopic jar for the stomach," while "Neith is the goddess charged with protecting it [the jar]," Allen noted.

To the left of the top inscription, there is another inscription that runs vertically down the box. It reads, "Venerated with Neith, King's daughter Hatshepset," Allen said. To the right of the top inscription there is another inscription that runs vertically down the box that reads "Venerated with Duamutef, King's daughter Hatshepset," Allen said, adding that, "I presume Hatshepset was a daughter of Ameny Qemau," and that she was buried in her father's pyramid.

The name Hatshepset "is similar to that of the later royal wife Hatshepsut, who served as co-pharaoh with Thutmose III," Allen said. The royal wife Hatshepsut reigned around 3,500 years ago, about three centuries after Ameny Qemau's reign.

Aidan Dodson, a research fellow at the University of Bristol in the United Kingdom, also examined a photo of the wooden box for Live Science. Dodson co-authored a 1998 paper on the artifacts from the Ameny Qemau pyramid discovered in 1957. "The canopic box definitely belongs to a king's daughter, but I'm having difficulty reading the name. It gives no indication of her parentage," he said. "The pyramid is not of a type appropriate to a princess. It must therefore have been built for a king, but then usurped for her burial."

The "presence of the Ameny Qemau text suggests that he may have usurped the pyramid built for his predecessor for the interment of one of his daughters, as there is no reason why he should have built two pyramids of his own."

A team with the Egyptian antiquities ministry is excavating the pyramid. In addition to the wooden box, the researchers announced that they had discovered the remains of a poorly preserved sarcophagus in the burial chamber. Excavations are ongoing, and new discoveries possibly await, the ministry said.