4,600-Year-Old Pyramid Uncovered in Southern Egypt

By Carl Engelking | February 4, 2014 11:29 am
edfu pyramid

Researchers work near the 4,600-year-old pyramid uncovered at Tell Edfu in Egypt (Courtesy Tell Edfu Project at The University of Chicago’s Oriental Institute).

Archaeologists working near Edfu, a city in southern Egypt, fought back the rolling tide of modern development to preserve a rare archaeological site. And the effort has paid off: Beneath this heap of sand, at a site called Tell Edfu, researchers have uncovered a 4,600-year-old step pyramid — one of the earliest pyramids yet found.

The new find predates the more massive Great Pyramid of Giza by decades. It stands just 16 feet tall today, but it probably towered more than 40 feet before weathering and pillaging diminished its stature.

The structure is one of seven nearly identical “provincial” pyramids constructed by either the pharaoh Huni (reign ca. 2635-2610 B.C.) or Sneferu (reign ca. 2610-2590 B.C.). The provincial pyramids don’t contain burial chambers, and researchers think they may have been symbols reinforcing the power of the king in southern provinces.

Results of the excavation were recently presented at a symposium held in Toronto by the Society for the Study of Egyptian Antiquities, LiveScience reports.

Pyramid Purpose

Despite its advanced stage of wear, the pyramid contains some fascinating features. Archaeologists discovered remnants of an installation where offerings were made, and ancient graffiti carved on the outer walls. The inscriptions were located near remains of babies and children buried at the foot of the pyramid. However the hieroglyphics are thought to have appeared long after the pyramid’s construction, indicating that these burials weren’t the structure’s initial purpose.

“These are mostly private and rough inscriptions, and certainly dedicated to the child/babies’ burials located right under these inscriptions at the foot of the pyramid,” lead archaeologist Gregory Marouard told LiveScience.

Preserving History

Whatever the pyramid’s purpose, it wasn’t in use long. Researchers believe the site was abandoned just 50 years after its construction, during the reign of Khufu. Rather than allocate resources to the seven smaller pyramids, researcher believe, Khufu focused attention on construction of the Great Pyramid of Giza.

Archaeologists have long known about the pyramid’s existence, but excavation didn’t begin until 2010. The first reference to the Edfu pyramid dates back to 1894 when Egyptologist Georges Lengrain identified a “false” pyramid near the entrance of the Edfu-Kharga caravan road.

Archaeologists say their next step is to focus on conserving the historically significant site — and, they promise, to publish the results of their ongoing analysis of Tell Edfu.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Living World, top posts
MORE ABOUT: archaeology
  • NameNotGiven

    Having worked on digs in Egypt and on Crete, I think the real shame is the humid and shifting environment of the Nile Delt,a as well as the availability of wood and other organic matter there which leave virtually no trace, really skews our idea of what was going on in the north vs the south of Egypt.

    The north was probably an order of magnitude richer, more cosmopolitan and more connected to the Mediterranean world

  • Anne Murray

    wow how wonderful

  • Danny Cota

    Why do people never factor in the Sumerian tablets when discussing the age of these structures? If, when we read them, we find the the old testament stories in them…..then why not use all of their stories? The pyramids appear to be much older than archaeology would lead itself to believe. I watch numerous things related to this subject and not one person (who wishes to remain in the bracket ‘serious archaeologist’) will even comment using references from these tablets. I think it’s about time we stood up here and begun to admit the truth to ourselves: the world is lies from top to bottom because the information is falsified from beginning to end. Ignore those who would slate you for speaking truth and sense, and do it anyway.
    C.O.T.A.

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