The Step Pyramid of King Djoser, does it include a path to the afterlife? Source: WitR / Adobe Stock.

A Quarry Is Actually A 3D Map Of The Ancient Egyptian Underworld, Suggests Polish Scientist


Ancient Egyptians are well known for their creation of vast architectural structures which penetrate the skies and each one required a thorough understanding of the universal dynamics of breadth, width, and height. But now, a scientist suggests that a huge trench dug around the nation’s oldest step pyramid means the architects were also 3D modeling the afterlife.

Twentieth century archaeologists discovered tunnels and stone tombs of dignitaries of the 6th dynasty, several hundred years younger than the building of the Pyramid of Djoser which was erected between 2667 and 2648 BC during the rule of the third dynasty pharaoh ‘Djoser’.

Excavation at the Pyramid of Djoser

Science in Poland (PAP), is a website run by the Polish Ministry of Science and Higher Education, and it reported the findings of Kamil O. Kuraszkiewicz, an Egyptologist from the University of Warsaw, Poland, who has been leading an excavation at the Pyramid of Djoser. Based on the results “of nearly 20 years of excavations” the scientist proposes a “new concept concerning the significance of this object”.

Excavations at the Pyramid of Djoser led to the discovery of a room. (www555www / Adobe Stock)

Excavations at the Pyramid of Djoser led to the discovery of a room. ( www555www / Adobe Stock)

“Unusual, horizontal, low corridors” first drew Kuraszkiewicz's attention and at the end of one horizontal corridor a room was discovered dating to when the pyramid was first built , and it contained “a ritual harpoon with images of snakes carved into it”. A report in News Week quotes Kuraszkiewicz discussing the harpoon possibly being a weapon: “either one of the threats awaiting the king, or a weapon prepared for the ruler to be used against them”.

A Quarry? Or An Ancient 3D Map Of The Underworld?

The trench surrounding the pyramid, known as the 'Dry Moat’, measures 2,500 feet (762 meters) by 2,000 feet (610 meters) and was previously believed to have been a quarry and others have suggested it might have served as a sacred boundary for the royal tomb. However, Kuraszkiewicz thinks it’s much more significant.

In 2018, a rectangular hole was discovered in the bank beside the previously identified corridor and Kuraszkiewicz believes it “will lead to even more tunnels” which he believes will all terminate at the giant Dry Moat. This intriguing hole will determine if the new theory is correct and although it is currently blocked by rock fragments it will be excavated later this year.

A dry moat surrounds the Pyramid of Djoser. (ALFIO FERLITO / Adobe Stock)

A dry moat surrounds the Pyramid of Djoser. ( ALFIO FERLITO / Adobe Stock)

The Dry Moat itself has “unusual crossings and deep recesses" and Kuraszkiewicz told PAP it could have been “a model of the way that the dead king had to travel to achieve eternal life, a road with obstacles such as walls with high crossings, guarded by dangerous creatures”. And if this was the case, “there should be more corridors at the site” he added.

Paths To Knowledge, Paths To Death, And Then Some…

Ancient Egyptians were obsessed with ‘paths’, but not only in the way you might think of a ‘path’. Firstly, in material terms, Egyptian farmers, traders, and merchants used thousands of miles of crude trading paths from towns and villages to docks along the Nile. Then on a slightly deeper and more spiritual level, this Live Science article details the extensive ‘royal paths’ and processional routes leading to and from temples, tombs, and pyramids, most of which were lined with royal chapels.

Egyptian bas reliefs line the path to the afterlife. (Zai Aragon / Adobe Stock)

Egyptian bas reliefs line the path to the afterlife. ( Zai Aragon / Adobe Stock)

But following Egyptian paths deeper still, all systems of cosmology, cosmogony, religion, magic, and astrology were systemized with conceptual ‘paths’ which later emanated in the semi-occultic paths of Platonic geometry, the paths of the Jewish Kabbalistic tree of life, the paths of the Tarot system of late Medieval Europe, which all claim their origins in ancient Egyptian ‘paths of initiation’.

And this brings us right back to Kuraszkiewicz’s findings as the ancient Egyptians also perceived the journey to the afterlife as a series of paths. Starting with the tomb as a vessel in which to enter the underworld, awaking after death, they would travel the first path which was a corridor lined with images and texts offering guidance in the afterlife where they would ultimately be judged by the god Osiris.

Kuraszkiewicz told PAP, “This path to the afterlife would have been different for different people, and it was thought to be difficult and dangerous, with the deceased having to overcome obstacles and dangerous creatures before reaching the afterlife”.

Top image: The Step Pyramid of King Djoser, does it include a path to the afterlife? Source: WitR / Adobe Stock.

By Ashley Cowie



Paul Davies's picture

The Key to understanding Saqqara is knowing who Imhotep was – the foreign-born Grand Vizier of Djoser, who “taught the Egyptians to build in stone”, and was later deified as the god of Medicine. It helps to know that there is a stele linking Djoser’s reign to a 7 – year famine, and that the TITLE (not always name) Imhotep = “Servant of the god IM” (or “I AM”). There are many reasons to connect this person with te Biblical Joseph, including the 11 giant grain silos near the entrance to the Saqqara complex, 10 at ground level connected with chutes to one deep below, which has a lift-up chute to fill a sack with grain. the exit would have been at this lower level.

We MUST remember that archaeology and history have a MUCH lower standard of proof than Science, and often what we are told (even at University level) is simply what people have chosen to believe. Another interesting fact – Imhotep’s tomb, deep below Saqqara, littered with Ibis statues (his symbol), has NO MUMMY. The Bible records that during the Exodus, they took Joseph’s bones back with them to the Promised Land.

Keep Digging….

ashley cowie's picture


Ashley is a Scottish historian, author, and documentary filmmaker presenting original perspectives on historical problems in accessible and exciting ways.

He was raised in Wick, a small fishing village in the county of Caithness on the north east coast of... Read More

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