3,700-Year-Old Pyramid May Yield Clues to Tomb Evolution

AFRICAN HISTORY

The remains of a pyramid, believed to have been 3,700 years ago, have been found in Egypt.

The pyramid was discovered by an Egyptian archaeological mission working approximately 25 miles south of Cairo, near the location of King Sneferu’s Bent Pyramid. Adel Okasha, the head of the Dahshur necropolis site, confirmed that the team uncovered an interior corridor leading to the inside of the pyramid, a hall leading to a southern ramp and a room at the western end. Inside the corridor, they also discovered an alabaster block measuring 15-by-17 centimeters (roughly 6-by-6 inches), engraved with 10 vertical hieroglyphic lines.

The head of the Ancient Egyptian Antiquities Sector, Mahmoud Afifi, confirmed in a statement that a granite lintel (likely used to support a door or entrance) and a collection of stone blocks showing the interior design of the pyramid were also found. Luckily, the pyramid remains are reported to be in good condition.

The block found within the 13th dynasty pyramid in Egypt. (Credit: Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities)
The block found within the 13th dynasty pyramid in Egypt. (Credit: Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities)

This forgotten pyramid at Dahshur is already unique. While the vast majority of Egypt’s pyramids were constructed during the Old and Middle Kingdoms (from the 3rd to the 12th dynasties). This newly found pyramid is believed to date to the 13th dynasty, when only a few pyramids were constructed. The last structure built during this dynasty was the pyramid of Ahmose, an 18th dynasty king, but historians believe it was used as a cenotaph (or monument) rather than a tomb.

Dahshur is a royal necropolis on the west bank of the Nile. It’s home to numerous pyramids, including two of the oldest, largest and best preserved examples, both built by King Senferu during Egypt’s 4th Dynasty, a golden age that lasted from 2613 to 2494 B.C. The first, known as the “Bent Pyramid,” was constructed with slopes that change angles from 54 degrees to 43 degrees about halfway up. The second, known as the “Red Pyramid” for its limestone hue, is the third-largest pyramid ever constructed, and has been seen by many (at least until now) as Egypt’s first success at constructing a true smooth-sided pyramid.

Pyramid remains— the inner structure survives today. (Credit: Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities)
Pyramid remains— the inner structure survives today. (Credit: Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities)

While King Sneferu’s Bent Pyramid is seen by some as the first attempt to build a smooth-sided pyramid, other researchers have argued that it was the transitional form between step-sided and smooth-sided pyramids. The bent slope sides of this newly discovered pyramid begs the question, could this forgotten pyramid actually be ancient Egypt’s first successful smooth-sided pyramid?

The Dashur necropolis was used as a burial site for courtiers and high-ranking officials, as well as royals, and authorities have not yet confirmed the identity of who was buried there. Further excavations are planned to continue to unearth more of the pyramid and identify who may have been buried within.BY BRYNN HOLLAND

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