Archaeologists Uncover a Prehistoric Step Pyramid in the Steppes of Kazakhstan
A team of archaeologists has been excavating a mausoleum step pyramid in Kazakhstan whose age they are trying to determine. The tomb had been looted, but they found clues, including pottery nearby, that may help them narrow down a time frame.
The step pyramid may date back about 3,000 years and was a tomb for a high-status person, perhaps a king. The first Egyptian pyramids, in contrast, are believed to have been built 4,700 years ago in Egypt.
Archaeologist Victor Novozhenov of the Kazakh National University is on the team that is excavating the pyramid, and he told Ancient Origins they are nearly finished the work.
Some online reports said the pyramid may be the oldest known one in the world, but Dr. Novozhenov denied that. The pyramid, for example, is not as old as the step pyramid of Djoser in Egypt, which was built around 2,700 BC. The pyramid of Djoser is much larger and has six steps, not five.
Dr. Novozhenov is from Kazakh National University and is working under Igor Kukushkin of the Saryankinsky Archaeology Institute in Karganda, a city that the pyramid is near.
“It's made from stone, earth and fortified by slabs in the outer side,” Dr. Novozhenov told Live Science.
The pyramid or mausoleum is much smaller than Djoser’s, standing 6.6 feet (2 meters) tall with a base measuring about 49 feet (15 meters) by 46 feet (14 meters). Step pyramids, which are among the oldest structures made by man, are made of cut stone and become progressively smaller in stages toward the top.
Archaeologists found ancient pottery near the mausoleum, which they are studying to help determine its age. ( Photo copyright Viktor Novozhenov)
Someone looted the burial chamber of the mausoleum. But nearby graves contained pottery, bronze artifacts and knives, according to Live Science.
The pyramid of Djoser in Egypt dates to the 27 th century BC and is older and larger than the one in Kazakhstan. (Wikimedia Commons photo/Olaf Tausch)
Dr. Novozhenov told Live Science it’s possible the tomb contained the remains of a clan leader.
The pyramid is in the Saryarka area and resembles ones built by the Begazy-Dandybai culture from 1200 to 800 BC.
That Bronze Age culture was in a region encompassing Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan from around 4,000 to 2,200 years ago. The culture is known for its megalithic mausoleums or tombs.
The people of Begazy-Dandybai mined tin, copper and gold. They lived in oases on the steppes and farmed and herded animals. The culture was in an area of 2 million square kilometers (1.243 million square miles) that include pastures and numerous ore deposits.
The people had 60-plus settlements and 200 cemeteries. The cemeteries included mausoleums for the upper echelons of society and kurgans for the people.
Dr. Novozhenov said it is not yet known if this newly discovered step pyramid was associated with the people of Begazy-Dandybai.
Top image: The pyramid being excavated in Kazakhstan may date to around 3,000 years old. (Photo copyright by Viktor Novozhenov)
By Mark Miller