Teenage Girl’s Skeleton Discovered Beside Meidum, a Bizarrely Shaped Ancient Egyptian Pyramid
Archaeologists working with the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities have announced the discovery of a teenage girl’s skeleton in an ancient cemetery beside the Meidum pyramid, a 4,600-year-old partially collapsed super structure located in the Beni Suef area, around 62 miles (100 km) south of modern Cairo.
A report released by the Ministry on February 10 details the excavation at the Meidum pyramid which was led by archaeologist Omar Zaki. It also discusses the recovery of the child’s skeleton that was found in “a squatting position inside the tomb”, which unlike many treasure laden tombs in the region, was “empty of any grave goods or any other human remains.”
The girl’s skeleton was found in a squatting position inside the tomb. (Ministry of Antiquities)
A Live Science report says that archaeologists are unclear when the child was buried but they have been able to age the child’s bones, calculating that she died at around 13-years-old. Without hard data, the scientists are ‘assuming’ that she was buried around the time the Meidum pyramid was built, around 4,600 years ago.
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Bull Skulls Indicate the Child Had Pharaonic Connections
A report in the Daily Mail states that “much about the burial and the offerings are still unclear and researchers do not know the identity of the buried teenager.” However, while exploring the cemetery archaeologists not only found the surrounding brick wall but they excavated two bulls’ heads and “three small ceramic vessels” beside them. All of these artifacts are recorded in the scientists’ report as “funerary offerings.”
Looking a little closer at the use of bulls in funerary rituals, the ‘Apis papyrus’ is an ancient Egyptian papyrus record concerning the ‘Apis bull’ which tells that sometimes bull bodies were mummified and set in standing positions on wooden planks in tombs. By the New Kingdom period, the remains of the sacred Apis bulls were interred at the cemetery of Saqqara.
The heads of two bulls were found nearby. (Ministry of Antiquities)
Furthermore, as an aspect of Osiris, ruler of the underworld, Apis was believed to give a deceased person control over the four winds in the afterlife and it was thought of as a protector of the deceased pharaoh. Thus, Apis is often found in the tombs of ancient pharaohs, depicted on coffins as a soul protector. Does the presence of bulls’ heads buried with the teenager’s skeleton possibly indicate that she was in some way connected with a lineage of pharaohs?
Opposing Theories Regarding the Meidum Pyramid’s Collapse
According to TourEgypt.net, the locals of earlier this century called the Meidum Pyramid “el-haram el-kaddab” meaning “False pyramid” and its obscure shape attracted traveler attention as early as the Middle Ages. At the beginning of the 15th century, the famed Arab historian Taqi ad-Din al-Maqrizi wrote that it “looked like a huge, five stepped mountain” but it had eroded so badly by the time Frederik Ludwig Norden visited it in the 18th century, it appeared only to have three levels.
Meidum pyramid. (Public Domain)
Originally built as a stepped pyramid, Meidum was later converted into what is known as a ‘true pyramid’, defined with smoothed surfaces, just over 300 feet (92 meters) tall. Archaeologists agree that the stepped pyramid was built by pharaoh Huni who reigned about 2599 - 2575 BC and that Snefru who reigned about 2575 to 2551 BC converted it to a true pyramid.
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Some historians and archaeologists maintain the collapse occurred because of natural erosion and harsh environmental conditions, but the vast majority of experts believe design flaws caused the disaster. Those who believe the ‘design flaw theory’ also generally hold that the failure of this pyramid inspired Pharaoh Snefru to alter the design for his second pyramid at Dahshur, resulting in an odd looking pyramid known today as the Bent Pyramid. However, a report on Ancient-Egypt.org maintains that peasants robbing stones over the centuries led to the collapse, and this idea is beginning to take hold in the mainstream.
The excavation site near the Meidum pyramid. (Ministry of Antiquities)
Top image: The teenage girl’s skeleton that was uncovered near Meidum pyramid. Source: Ministry of Antiquities
By Ashley Cowie