4,600-year-old step pyramid uncovered in Egypt and its purpose is a mystery
In an incredible new discovery in Edfu, southern Egypt, archaeologists have uncovered a step pyramid that they believe dates back 4,600 years. The pyramid has no internal chambers and was not intended for burial so the purpose of the pyramid remains a mystery.
Though scholars knew of the existence of the pyramid, the structure had never been excavated before. The structure was found buried under a thick layer of sand, modern waste and remains from the pillaging of its blocks. Built of sandstone blocks and clay mortar, which were extracted from a quarry just 800 metres north of the pyramid, it had been constructed in the form of a three-step pyramid. A core of blocks rises up vertically, with two layers of blocks beside it, on top of each other.
The step pyramid is one of seven so-called ‘provincial’ pyramids scattered through central and southern Egypt. The provincial pyramids are located near major settlements, but show no signs of being used as tombs. Six of the seven pyramids have almost identical dimensions, including the newly discovered pyramid, which would have stood as high as 13 metres. However, due to weathering over time and the fact that some of the stone blocks were pillaged, the monument is now only about 5 metres tall.
"The similarities from one pyramid to the other are really amazing, and there is definitely a common plan," said Gregory Marouard, a research associate at the University of Chicago's Oriental Institute.
Egyptologists believe that 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. Evidence comes from the discovery of an installation where food offerings appear to have been made.
The researchers suggest that the provincial pyramids were built either by the pharaoh Huni (2635-2610 BC) or Snefru (2610-2590 BC). According to conventional perspectives, this would mean that they predate the Great Pyramid of Giza by at least a few decades. However, this is debatable, and there are many archaeologists who now challenge the mainstream perspective relating to the age of the pyramids, believing them to be much older.
The team also found hieroglyphic graffiti incised on the outer faces of the pyramid, including depictions of a book roll, a seated man, a four-legged animal, a reed leaf and a bird. The inscriptions are located beside the remains of babies and children who were buried at the foot of the pyramid. The researchers think the inscriptions and burials date to long after the pyramid was built and that the structure was not originally intended as a burial place.