4,600-year-old step pyramid uncovered in Egypt; older than Giza pyramid by a few decades
At one time 43 feet high, now stands about 16 feet after pillages
A step pyramid that dates back about 4,600 years has been unearthed by archaeologists working near the ancient settlement of Edfu in southern Egypt. The pyramid predates the Great Pyramid of Giza by at least a few decades.
The pyramids may have been used as symbolic monuments dedicated to the royal cult that affirmed the power of the king in the southern provinces.
Scattered throughout central and southern Egypt, the provincial pyramids are located near major settlements. They have no internal chambers and were not intended for burial. Six of the seven pyramids have almost identical dimensions, including the newly uncovered one at Edfu, which is about 60 x 61 feet.
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The seven pyramids remain mysterious, as there seems to be no known accounts for their overall purpose. The pyramids may have been used as symbolic monuments dedicated to the royal cult that affirmed the power of the king in the southern provinces.
\"The similarities from one pyramid to the other are really amazing, and there is definitely a common plan,\" Gregory Marouard, a research associate at the University of Chicago\'s Oriental Institute says. On the east side of the newly uncovered pyramid, his team found the remains of an installation where food offerings appear to have been made. This is a significant discovery, as it is important for understanding this kind of pyramid since it provides clues as to what they were used for.
Hieroglyphic graffiti incised on the outer faces of the pyramid were also found. Located beside the remains of babies and children who were buried at the foot of the pyramid, researchers think the inscriptions and burials date to long after the pyramid was built. Researchers are confident that the structure was not originally intended as a burial place.
While scholars knew of the existence of the pyramid at Edfu, the structure had never been excavated before Marouard\'s team started work in 2010. His team found that the pyramid was covered by a thick layer of sand, modern waste and remains from the pillaging of its blocks.
People in a nearby village reportedly thought the structure was the tomb of a sheikh, a local Muslim saint. As the team went to work cleaning the monument, the ancient pyramid was revealed.
\"The construction itself reflects a certain care and a real expertise in the mastery of stone construction, especially for the adjustment of the most important blocks,\" Marouard said in his paper. He also noted that the pyramid was built directly on the bedrock and was constructed entirely with local raw materials.
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